Nigella sativa has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, both as a herb and pressed into oil, in Asia, Middle East, and Africa. It has been traditionally used for a variety of conditions and treatments related to respiratory health, stomach and intestinal health, kidney and liver function, circulatory and immune system support, and for general well-being.
In Islam, it is regarded as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine available. The prophet Muhammad once stated that the black seed can heal every disease—except death—as recounted in the following hadith:
Narrated Khalid bin Sa'd R.A:
We went out and Ghalib bin Abjar R.A was accompanying us. He fell ill on the way and when we arrived at Medina he was still sick. Ibn Abi 'Atiq came to visit him and said to us,
"Treat him with black cumin. Take five or seven seeds and crush them (mix the powder with oil) and drop the resulting mixture into both nostrils, for 'Aisha has narrated to me that she heard the Prophet saying, 'This black cumin is healing for all diseases except As-Sam.'
'Aisha said, 'What is As-Sam?' He said, 'Death.' "
Avicenna, most famous for his volumes called The Canon of Medicine, refers to nigella as the seed that stimulates the body's energy and helps recovery from fatigue and dispiritedness. It is also included in the list of natural drugs of 'Tibb-e-Nabavi', or "Medicine of the Prophet (Muhammad)", according to the tradition "hold onto the use of the black seeds for in it is healing for all diseases except death" (Sahih Bukhari vol. 7 book 71 # 592).
In the Unani Tibb system of medicine, N. sativa is regarded as a valuable remedy for a number of diseases.
The seeds have been traditionally used in the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries to treat ailments including asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism and related inflammatory diseases, to increase milk production in nursing mothers, to promote digestion and to fight parasitic infections. Its oil has been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and boils and to treat cold symptoms. Its many uses have earned nigella the Arabic approbation 'Habbatul barakah', meaning the seed of blessing.
In English, Nigella sativa seed is variously called fennel flower, nutmeg flower, Roman coriander, blackseed, black caraway, or black onion seed. Other names used, sometimes misleadingly, are onion seed and black sesame, both of which are similar-looking but unrelated. The seeds are frequently referred to as black cumin (as in Bengali: kalo jira, kalo jeera, kali jeera), but this is also used for a different spice, Bunium persicum. The scientific name is a derivative of Latin niger "black". An older English name gith is now used for the corncockle. In English-speaking countries with large immigrant populations, it is also variously known as kalonji (Hindi
kalauṃjī or कलोंजी
קצח), chernushka (Russian), çörek otu (Turkish), habbat albarakah (Arabic
ḥabbatu l-barakah "seed of blessing") or siyah daneh (Persian
siyâh dâne)or كلونجى in urdu.
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