For thousands of years, black cumin seeds and black seed oil have been used for medicinal purposes across the Middle East. In recent years, their use has expanded to the realm of hair care.
So what’s the big idea behind this little seed, what has it historically been used for, and what can it do for the health of your hair and scalp?
This article discusses how to use black seed oil for hair growth, thinning, damaged hair, and much more.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Origin of Black Seed Oil
- 2 What Does Black Seed Oil Do for You?
- 3 How Does Black Seed Oil Help Your Hair?
- 4 How to Use Black Seed Oil for Hair and Scalp Care
The Origin of Black Seed Oil
This plant, also known as Nigella sativa or black cumin, is native to Southeast Asia and spread throughout the ancient world to Egypt and other parts of Africa, Greece, and the Middle East.
Evidence of black cumin usage dates back thousands of years, with seeds found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb. The seed was known to Hippocrates and Dioscorides as “melanthion” and as “gith” by Pliny, the Elder.
Arab settlers and doctors gave this seed another name when it spread throughout the Islamic world, “Habbat al Barakah,” meaning “the blessed seed.”
Cumin seed appears in Isaiah 28 25-27, while a hadith claims Muhammad said black cumin contains “healing for every disease except death.”
Nigella sativa remained popular throughout Islam’s rise in the Arabic world, being used to treat a wide range of conditions, including asthma, back pain, chronic headaches, diabetes, digestion, fever, infections, and rheumatism.
The Persian physician Ibn Sina included it in his medical textbooks, which were used from the 11th through 18th centuries, writing that black cumin “stimulates the body’s energy and helps recovery from fatigue or dispiritedness.”
The seed has also come to be used in various foods, from Bengali stir-fries and naan bread to Jewish rye bread.
What Does Black Seed Oil Do for You?
With thousands of years of medical usage and testimonials to its credit, many claims have been made about black seed oil, but how well do they stand up to the rigors of modern science?
Surprisingly well, in fact.
For example, there is evidence to suggest that black seed oil can indeed help with rheumatoid arthritis.
A study published in Immunological Investigations in 2016 examined 43 women suffering from mild to moderate arthritis and were given either black seed oil capsules or placebos to take every day for a month.
Those who were treated with black seed oil capsules saw a reduction in their symptoms, including blood levels, which are markers of inflammation and easing of swelling in their joints.
Also, a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology found that black seed oil was able to reduce nasal congestion and ease itchiness, runny nose, and even sneezing over the course of two weeks.
This is further corroborated by another report released in 2018 that suggested that black seed oil could be used to treat sinusitis.
The authors of the study determined that black seed oil can be therapeutic in treating this condition for a wide range of reasons.
It contains antioxidants, a natural anti-inflammatory, antihistaminic, and immune-modulator, and an antimicrobial agent.
Furthermore, black seed oil may also be able to help those with diabetes. A 2015 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, analyzed previous studies of Nigella Sativa’s efficacy in treating diabetes and found that there is indeed some merit to those claims.
In particular, the study noted that black seed oil could be used to improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels. However, it also said that more clinical trials would be necessary to make the full extent of these effects clear.
Since then, another review published in 2017 has upheld those findings.
In addition, there is evidence to suggest that black seed oil may also be helpful for those struggling with asthma.
One example of this comes from a study released in Phytotherapy Research in 2017, which found that asthma patients who took cumin capsules saw improvement in their ability to control their asthma symptoms compared to those in the control group.
There is also some evidence to suggest that black seed oil may be able to help with obesity.
One study found that women who consumed cumin oil over an eight-week period saw their waistlines and triglyceride levels decrease more than those in the control group.
A similar study that took place over an eight-week period combined black seed oil with some good old-fashioned aerobic exercise, with the obese women who took part in the trial seeing marked improvement, including lower levels of cholesterol.
In addition, a systemic review in 2013 of black seed oil’s efficacy in this regard further backed up the idea that it could be used to help manage obesity.
There is some anecdotal evidence for black seed oil being effective in other capacities, including treating headaches, high blood pressure, digestive disorders, and allergies.
A 2012 study conducted on mice showed that black seed oil had potential in treating psoriasis.
Also, black seed oil contains thymoquinone. This is an antioxidant that can influence cancer cells in such a way as to combat cancer cells, including those for brain cancer, breast cancer, and leukemia.
While these results are promising, tests have mainly been done on cells rather than humans, so it is unknown how black seed oil’s influence on the micro-level may translate to the macro-level.
There is also the problem of some of these studies having been done on animals rather than humans.
A 2013 study found that black seed oil may be able to combat certain liver and kidney issues, but this study was conducted on rats, and so its efficacy with regard to humans is unknown.
Of course, most pertinent for our purposes, there is a long tradition of black seed oil being used for various skin and hair care reasons, including treating acne, helping with dry hair and skin, and even hair growth.
For example, a small study conducted in 2013 and published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology compared the efficacy of black seed oil in treating eczema against medicines and found that the oil effectively reduced the severity of eczema.
On the acne front, a study published in a 2015 edition of the Journal of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery found that the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory nature of black seed oil could help in eliminating acne.
Finally, whatever you choose to call it, black seed and oil extracts taken from them contain linoleic and oleic acid, stimulating hair growth and helping your hair retain water, thus keeping it soft and pliable.
How Does Black Seed Oil Help Your Hair?
1. Antioxidant Properties
If you have attempted a diet in the last 20 years or so, chances are you have been told that one of the keys to weight loss and feeling great again is consuming plenty of antioxidants.
The truth is far more complex than that, but there is no denying that antioxidants have great potential in the health sphere, and one proof of that is how they can help your hair.
One of the most commonly overlooked threats to your hair is free radicals, which are unstable molecules in your skin and hair and can be exacerbated by UV rays, cigarette smoke, and other triggers.
When free radicals are agitated, they can cause your skin or hair to start to age prematurely. This is one reason why too much UV radiation or cigarette smoke can cause people to start to develop wrinkles and appear older sooner.
Of course, you’d prefer to put the kibosh on that and look younger longer, which is where black seed oil comes in.
As alluded to above, cumin contains thymoquinone, a type of antioxidant that can help relieve oxidative stress and the kind of problems that free radicals can pose.
In doing so, thymoquinone in black seed oil can help prevent your skin and hair from aging prematurely.
2. Antimicrobial Properties
One of the biggest dangers to your hair is the looming specter of a bacterial infection. All it takes is a certain bacterial strain taking up residence in your scalp to wreak havoc on your hair.
One of the most obvious ways in which this is true is dandruff. While we often think of dandruff as being more associated with dry skin, it can also arise due to a bacterial infection.
By adding an antimicrobial agent to your skin and hair care regimen, you can keep them cleaner and add an extra layer of defense against dandruff and similar issues.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
As mentioned, dry skin can be the main way in which dandruff can arise.
Just as bad as embarrassing dry flakes fluttering down in the form of dandruff, however, is the fact that dry skin can leave your hair without the moisture or nutrients necessary to grow.
Just as you cannot grow flowers in a soil bed that has gone completely dry, you cannot expect to grow a healthy head of hair if your scalp begins to dry out.
That’s why the anti-inflammatory properties inherent in black seed oil mentioned above are such a positive force for your hair care regimen.
It can soothe rough skin and smooth it out, providing a good foundation for growing a healthy head of hair.
4. Hydrating Your Hair
On that same note, as mentioned above, black seed oil doesn’t just lend your scalp some much-needed moisturizing but can also help hydrate your hair.
Dry, rough hair can appear scraggly and become unmanageable. It can even lead to hair follicles breaking off more easily.
5. Hair Growth
This is the big one – there is evidence that black seed oil can help stimulate hair growth. A 2014 study that tested black seed oil in conjunction with coconut oil found the pairing positive enough to warrant further study.
Another 2017 study, published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, found that herbal hair oils that contained black seed oil could drastically reduce hair loss.
Combine that with the aforementioned qualities that can produce the right scalp conditions for growth to occur, and it’s fair to say that hair growth with black seed oil is a definite possibility.
How to Use Black Seed Oil for Hair and Scalp Care
While you can use black seed oil on its own properly diluted to get the most out of the oil, you’ll want to follow that 2014 study and mix it with coconut oil if possible.
Mix a tablespoon of both oils together and rub it into your scalp, taking care to target any areas where your hair may be thinning. Allow it to sit in your hair and seep into your scalp for about 30 minutes before washing it out.
Another hair care concoction involving black seed oil involves mixing two handfuls of black seeds with five cups of water and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
Drop the seeds into the water and bring them to a boil for 10 minutes before letting them cool off for five minutes. Strain the seeds out of the mixture and into a cup or jar of water, and add the olive oil.
Once this mixture has cooled and is ready to use, apply it to your scalp and let it sit before washing it out after 30 minutes. Do this twice per week for the best results.
Call it cumin, black seeds, Nigella sativa, or “the blessed seed” – this seed has a long history of being used for many medicinal purposes. When used properly and with the right expectations, it can be a beneficial addition to your hair care regimen.