Black Seed Oil for Allergies: Promising Research

By Dr. Hamad Shafqat | Edited By Samuel Kovac | Written on October 8, 2023

Black seed oil | Can it work | How does it work | Scientific backing | Bottom line

Black seed oil, a time-honored remedy renowned for its versatile therapeutic properties, has garnered attention from traditional healers and modern scientists alike. Derived naturally from the seeds of Nigella sativa, a flowering plant cultivated in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, this herbal extract boasts a rich history spanning thousands of years ( [Ahmad A, Husain A, Mujeeb M, Khan SA, Najmi AK, Siddique NA, Damanhouri ZA, Anwar F. A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013 May;3(5):337-52. doi: 10.1016/S2221-1691(13)60075-1. PMID: 23646296; PMCID: PMC3642442.] ).

Among the conditions that have piqued interest is allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever or “having allergies,” which affects a substantial portion of the population. In the UK alone, approximately one in five individuals grapple with allergic rhinitis, making the arrival of the hay fever season a cause for discomfort ( [Allergic rhinitis. Illnesses & conditions | NHS inform. (2023, February 10). https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/ears-nose-and-throat/allergic-rhinitis.] ). Characterized by sinus irritation, itchy eyes, and relentless sneezing, those afflicted seek natural alternatives to alleviate their symptoms. Could black seed oil hold the solution?

This article will delve into the nature of black seed oil, explore the scientific foundations underlying its effects, examine its bioactive constituents, and investigate its potential interactions with the immune system to provide possible relief from allergies. Discussed are promising clinical trials and studies that shed light on its efficacy and its potential role in managing allergic rhinitis.

What is Black Seed Oil?

Black seed oil – derived from the black cumin plant seeds – is a natural remedy that has gained popularity for its potential health benefits. They are known by various names, such as black caraway, kalonji, black cumin, and black onion seeds. Extracted through a cold-pressing process, the oil has a distinct dark yellow or green color and a strong, pungent aroma.

At the heart of black seed oil’s therapeutic properties lie two key active ingredients: thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone ( [Yimer EM, Tuem KB, Karim A, Ur-Rehman N, Anwar F. Nigella sativa L. (Black Cumin): A Promising Natural Remedy for Wide Range of Illnesses. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019 May 12;2019:1528635. doi: 10.1155/2019/1528635. PMID: 31214267; PMCID: PMC6535880.] ). Thymoquinone acts as an antioxidant, safeguarding cells against damage caused by harmful free radicals. It also exhibits anti-inflammatory and potentially tumor-reducing properties, making it a fascinating compound for further exploration ( [Sakib, R.; Caruso, F.; Aktar, S.; Belli, S.; Kaur, S.; Hernandez, M.; Rossi, M. Antioxidant Properties of Thymoquinone, Thymohydroquinone and Black Cumin (Nigella sativa L.) Seed Oil: Scavenging of Superoxide Radical Studied Using Cyclic Voltammetry, DFT and Single Crystal X-ray Diffraction. Antioxidants 2023, 12, 607. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox12030607.] ). On the other hand, thymohydroquinone shares similar antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics while also supporting liver function.

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It can be consumed in capsule form or applied topically for skin benefits. Additionally, the oil can be incorporated into massage oils, shampoos, homemade skincare products, and fragrances. Furthermore, high-quality black seed oil is suitable for use in cooking, baking, and beverages, offering a versatile and nutritious addition to your culinary creations.

Can Black Seed Oil be Used for Allergies?

Black seed oil has been traditionally used as a natural remedy for various diseases, including allergies (particularly allergic rhinitis). Studies investigating its efficacy in allergic diseases have shown promising results.

In clinical trials, patients with allergic rhinitis, bronchial asthma, and atopic eczema were given Nigella sativa oil capsules at a dose of 40 to 80 mg/kg/day. The severity of symptoms was evaluated using standardized scales, while laboratory parameters such as IgE levels, eosinophil count, and lipid profiles were monitored ( [Kalus U, Pruss A, Bystron J, Jurecka M, Smekalova A, Lichius JJ, Kiesewetter H. Effect of Nigella sativa (black seed) on subjective feeling in patients with allergic diseases. Phytother Res. 2003 Dec;17(10):1209-14. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1356. PMID: 14669258.] ).

The findings revealed a reduction in subjective symptom severity over the course of treatment with black seed oil. Additionally, there were slight improvements in plasma triglycerides and HDL cholesterol levels. Notably, lymphocyte subpopulations, endogenous cortisol, and ACTH levels remained unaffected.

How Does Black Seed Oil Combat Allergies?

Black seed oil is believed to exert its effects on allergies through its anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties. By reducing inflammation, it can alleviate nasal congestion and decrease the severity of allergy symptoms. The black seed oil is also thought to have antihistamine effects, which can help relieve itching commonly experienced by allergy sufferers. Research suggests that black seed oil may inhibit T-cell proliferation, which plays a role in allergic airway inflammation. This mechanism further supports its potential in managing allergies ( [Kalus U, Pruss A, Bystron J, Jurecka M, Smekalova A, Lichius JJ, Kiesewetter H. Effect of Nigella sativa (black seed) on subjective feeling in patients with allergic diseases. Phytother Res. 2003 Dec;17(10):1209-14. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1356. PMID: 14669258.] ).

Moreover, black seed oil has shown promise in treating sinusitis, a condition often associated with allergic rhinitis ( [Mohaddese Mahboubi. Natural therapeutic approach of Nigella sativa (Black seed) fixed oil in management of Sinusitis. Integrative Medicine Research. 2018;7(1):27-32. ISSN: 2213-4220. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2018.01.005.] ). The oil’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antihistaminic, immune-modulating, antimicrobial, and analgesic effects contribute to its therapeutic potential for sinusitis. It may help alleviate symptoms such as nasal congestion, headache, earache, and toothache.

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While these findings are encouraging, further clinical studies are needed to evaluate the efficacy of black seed oil specifically for allergies and sinusitis.

Scientific Backing for Uses on Allergic Rhinitis and Hay Fever (Allergies)

Many clinical trials have been performed and provided scientific support for the effectiveness of black seed oil in treating allergic rhinitis. In one clinical trial, patients with mild, moderate, and severe symptoms of allergic rhinitis received Nigella sativa (black seed) oil as nasal drops for six weeks. The results showed that 100% of patients in the mild group, 68.7% in the moderate group, and 58.3% in the severe group became symptom-free or experienced improvement ( [Alsamarai AM, Abdulsatar M, Ahmed Alobaidi AH. Evaluation of topical black seed oil in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem. 2014 Mar;13(1):75-82. doi: 10.2174/18715230113129990014. PMID: 23855426.] ).

A study focused specifically on allergic rhinitis and found that Nigella sativa effectively alleviated nasal congestion, itching, runny nose, sneezing, turbinate hypertrophy, and mucosal pallor within the initial two weeks of treatment ( [Nikakhlagh S, Rahim F, Aryani FH, Syahpoush A, Brougerdnya MG, Saki N. Herbal treatment of allergic rhinitis: the use of Nigella sativa. Am J Otolaryngol. 2011 Sep-Oct;32(5):402-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2010.07.019. Epub 2010 Oct 13. PMID: 20947211.] ). While these findings suggest that black seed oil may be beneficial for allergies, further research is needed to understand its precise mechanisms and optimal dosage.

Another clinical trial explored the therapeutic effects of Nigella sativa and its active component, thymoquinone (TQ), in various diseases. Black seed and TQ were beneficial in treating inflammatory and autoimmune disorders and metabolic syndrome and exhibited anti-nociceptive, antimicrobial, and anti-epileptic properties ( [Tavakkoli A, Mahdian V, Razavi BM, Hosseinzadeh H. Review on Clinical Trials of Black Seed (Nigella sativa ) and Its Active Constituent, Thymoquinone. J Pharmacopuncture. 2017 Sep;20(3):179-193. doi: 10.3831/KPI.2017.20.021. Epub 2017 Sep 30. PMID: 30087794; PMCID: PMC5633670.] ). The herbal medicine demonstrated minimal side effects, making it suitable for clinical trials.

Although the hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, and bronchodilatory effects of Nigella sativa have been extensively studied, further research is needed to explore its other potential benefits and applications. These findings support using black seed oil as a promising treatment option for allergic rhinitis, warranting further clinical investigation.

The Bottom Line

Black seed oil, referred to as a “panacea” or universal healer in traditional medicine, provides health benefits due to its antioxidant properties and abundant thymoquinone content ( [Keyhanmanesh R, Gholamnezhad Z, Boskabady MH. The relaxant effect of Nigella sativa on smooth muscles, its possible mechanisms and clinical applications. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2014 Dec;17(12):939-49. PMID: 25859297; PMCID: PMC4387229.] ), thus aiding in cell protection against free radical damage and inflammation reduction.

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Though not all of its suggested applications have been scientifically validated, black seed oil displays great potential in treating allergic rhinitis and asthma by reducing inflammation and relaxing airway muscles to alleviate symptoms. Nevertheless, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before including black seed oil in your allergy management regimen.

  1. Ahmad A, Husain A, Mujeeb M, Khan SA, Najmi AK, Siddique NA, Damanhouri ZA, Anwar F. A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013 May;3(5):337-52. doi: 10.1016/S2221-1691(13)60075-1. PMID: 23646296; PMCID: PMC3642442.
  2. Allergic rhinitis. Illnesses & conditions | NHS inform. (2023, February 10). https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/ears-nose-and-throat/allergic-rhinitis.
  3. Yimer EM, Tuem KB, Karim A, Ur-Rehman N, Anwar F. Nigella sativa L. (Black Cumin): A Promising Natural Remedy for Wide Range of Illnesses. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019 May 12;2019:1528635. doi: 10.1155/2019/1528635. PMID: 31214267; PMCID: PMC6535880.
  4. Sakib, R.; Caruso, F.; Aktar, S.; Belli, S.; Kaur, S.; Hernandez, M.; Rossi, M. Antioxidant Properties of Thymoquinone, Thymohydroquinone and Black Cumin (Nigella sativa L.) Seed Oil: Scavenging of Superoxide Radical Studied Using Cyclic Voltammetry, DFT and Single Crystal X-ray Diffraction. Antioxidants 2023, 12, 607. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox12030607.
  5. Kalus U, Pruss A, Bystron J, Jurecka M, Smekalova A, Lichius JJ, Kiesewetter H. Effect of Nigella sativa (black seed) on subjective feeling in patients with allergic diseases. Phytother Res. 2003 Dec;17(10):1209-14. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1356. PMID: 14669258.
  6. Mohaddese Mahboubi, Natural therapeutic approach of Nigella sativa (Black seed) fixed oil in management of Sinusitis, Integrative Medicine Research, Volume 7, Issue 1, 2018, Pages 27-32, ISSN 2213-4220, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2018.01.005.
  7. Alsamarai AM, Abdulsatar M, Ahmed Alobaidi AH. Evaluation of topical black seed oil in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem. 2014 Mar;13(1):75-82. doi: 10.2174/18715230113129990014. PMID: 23855426.
  8. Nikakhlagh S, Rahim F, Aryani FH, Syahpoush A, Brougerdnya MG, Saki N. Herbal treatment of allergic rhinitis: the use of Nigella sativa. Am J Otolaryngol. 2011 Sep-Oct;32(5):402-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2010.07.019. Epub 2010 Oct 13. PMID: 20947211.
  9. Tavakkoli A, Mahdian V, Razavi BM, Hosseinzadeh H. Review on Clinical Trials of Black Seed (Nigella sativa ) and Its Active Constituent, Thymoquinone. J Pharmacopuncture. 2017 Sep;20(3):179-193. doi: 10.3831/KPI.2017.20.021. Epub 2017 Sep 30. PMID: 30087794; PMCID: PMC5633670.
  10. Keyhanmanesh R, Gholamnezhad Z, Boskabady MH. The relaxant effect of Nigella sativa on smooth muscles, its possible mechanisms and clinical applications. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2014 Dec;17(12):939-49. PMID: 25859297; PMCID: PMC4387229.
  • Current Version
  • October 8, 2023
    • Written By: Dr. Hamad Shafqat
    • Edited By: Samuel Kovac