Black Seed Oil for COVID-19: A Natural Solution To A New Virus?

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

Benefits | Active ingredients | Can it fight COVID | Clinical trials | Antiviral activity | Bottom line

If there was a silver lining behind the breakout of COVID-19, it was how it helped many people become more health-conscious overnight. Many of those who may never have considered taking supplements are now taking more than one.

Realistically speaking, how effective are natural remedies in fighting coronavirus? Is there any evidence to support the COVID-19 fighting capabilities of natural substances?

Many drugs relied on today actually come from nature’s secret stash. Recent research has focused on uncovering these alternatives and determining the evidence-based applications.

In the following article, the evidence and evaluation of how black seed oil may fight against COVID-19 and other viruses will be discussed. Is there a strong rationale and any factual evidence of its effectiveness? Time to find out.

Benefits of Black Seed Oil

What we know as black seeds refer to a plant of the Ranunculaceae family. The scientific name is “Nigella sativa.” Besides “black seed,” it is also called “black cumin seed,” among other names.

This plant is popular in folk medicine to treat headaches and kidney deficiency. It is widely used as a diuretic and sought for its tonic effects on the digestive system.

In many parts of Asia, people use it for asthma, bronchitis, and rheumatic diseases. It is often called the “seed of blessing” in some Arabic folk cultures.

Recent studies have shown that, besides these popular uses, black seed oil improves nerve and cognitive function. For example, it has been shown to increase tryptophan levels in the brain and can be used as an anxiolytic ( [Perveen T, Haider S, Kanwal S, Haleem DJ. Repeated administration of Nigella sativa decreases 5-HT turnover and produces anxiolytic effects in rats. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2009 Apr;22(2):139-44. PMID: 19339222.] ).

Additionally, some human studies report that after administering black seed for nine weeks, scores of logical memory tests improve, improving parameters of memory, attention, and cognition ( [Bin Sayeed MS, Asaduzzaman M, Morshed H, Hossain MM, Kadir MF, Rahman MR. The effect of Nigella sativa Linn. seed on memory, attention and cognition in healthy human volunteers. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jul 30;148(3):780-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.05.004. Epub 2013 May 21. PMID: 23707331.] ).

Medicinal Substances in Black Seeds

What components of black seed oil contribute to these and other health applications? Scientific literature describes many applications, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-allergic, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, and neuroprotective effects. This is due to the presence of beneficial substances in the seed. Here are some of the most notable:

Read also:  Black Seed Oil for Allergies: Promising Research

Black Seed Oil for COVID: Can It Fight Coronavirus?

As you can see above, various constituents in black seed oil contribute directly to respiratory health. Others are potent anti-inflammatory agents or have antimicrobial effects. That’s why one of the plant’s applications is to treat coronavirus.

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, headache, and dry cough. However, some patients develop severe symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain. Many of these symptoms may improve with black seed oil.

Also note that Nigella sativa has antimicrobial potential, which includes a potent antiviral activity. In vitro, the plant’s constituents inhibit the action of coronavirus.

For example, dithymoquinone binds strongly to the S protein of COVID-19. Thus, it blocks the interaction with healthy cells, a pivotal stage before infecting them. By not being able to interact with the cells, COVID-19 cannot break in or use them to replicate. Other compounds, such as thymol and thymoquinone, also have this effect to a lesser extent ( [Shaikh YI, Sameerâ shaikh ÂVS, Ahmed K, Nazeruddin GM, Pathan ÂHM. The revelation of various compounds found in Nigella sativa L. (Black Cumin) and their possibility to inhibit COVID-19 infection based on the molecular docking and physical properties. Eng Sci. 2020;11:31–35. doi:10.30919/es8d1127.] ).

After entering the infected cell, the coronavirus uses its cellular machinery to multiply and infect more cells. Black seed oil can also counteract this process. Some substances in black seed oil prevent the transcription of viral genes. They bind to the main protease of COVID-19, keeping it from playing its role in genome transcription and reducing viral replication ( [Maiti S, Banerjee A, Nazmeen A, Kanwar M, Das S. Active-site molecular docking of nigellidine with nucleocapsid-NSP2-MPro of COVID-19 and to human IL1R-IL6R and strong antioxidant role of Nigella sativa in experimental rats. J Drug Target. 2022 Jun;30(5):511-521. doi: 10.1080/1061186X.2020.1817040. Epub 2022 Mar 18. PMID: 32875925.] ).

Read also:  Black Seed Oil's Potential Uses for Radiation Protection

Black Seed Potential in COVID-19 Clinical Trials

After recognizing the promising in vitro applications of black seed oils, researchers used clinical trials to evaluate the application of black seed oil in real life. It is an important step to evaluate the effectiveness of a natural remedy and translate it into real clinical applications.

They published a study in 2021 in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine. The researchers reported that supplementation with Nigella sativa produced accelerated recovery in patients with COVID-19.

Patients received 500 mg capsules of black seed twice daily. These patients had mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms but improved after ten days of treatment. Their improvement was more rapid than those who received standard treatment without supplementation.

Black seed oil was thus shown to be effective against coronavirus in vitro and a clinical setting. Similar studies are lacking in patients with severe coronavirus symptoms. Still, the results are promising and demonstrate that the components of black seed oil stop COVID-19 disease at various stages of the viral life cycle ( [Koshak A, Koshak EA, Mobeireek AF, Badawi MA, Wali SO, Malibary HM, Atwah AF, Alhamdan MM, Almalki RA, Madani TA. Nigella Sativa Supplementation Accelerates Recovery from Mild COVID-19: First Randomized Controlled Trial. Eur J Integr Med. 2021 Dec;48:101899. doi: 10.1016/j.eujim.2021.101899. Epub 2021 Dec 17. PMCID: PMC8696021.] ).

Black Seed Antiviral Activity Against Similar Viruses

Black seed oil antiviral activity is not a new field of research. This plant has already been shown to be active against other viruses. For example ( [Alagie Jassey, Zuha Imtiyaz, Sheriffo Jassey, Mufeed Imtiyaz, Saiema Rasool. Chapter 16 – Antiviral effects of black seeds: Effect on COVID-19. Editor(s): Andleeb Khan, Muneeb Rehman. Black Seeds (Nigella Sativa). Elsevier. 2022. Pages 387-404. ISBN 9780128244623. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-824462-3.00004-4.] ):

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): Along with antiretroviral treatment, black seed oil can achieve undetectable HIV levels in up to 80% of patients. Treatment for four months improves CD4 count. There are also two cases of complete seroreversion in the literature after taking the supplements for 6-12 months.
  • Hepatitis C: It is also beneficial in the infection with the hepatitis C virus. In patients unable to receive treatment with interferon-alpha, black seed oil supplements containing 450 mg three times a day improved the viral load after three months of treatment. In addition, there were improvements in the antioxidant capacity and glycemic control.
  • Avian influenza and cytomegalovirus: There are also animal studies against avian influenza and cytomegalovirus. These show that black seed oil can counteract the infection and speed up the recovery.

The Bottom Line

Black seed oil is a potent inhibitor agent of the COVID-19 virus. Several compounds in this plant interact with the life cycle of the virus. They block its access to healthy cells and prevent gene replication.

Read also:  Black (Cumin) Seed Oil in the Bible: Where It Is Mentioned + Historical Significance

These in vitro effects are confirmed in clinical trials with promising results. Patients with mild and moderate symptoms of COVID-19 had faster recovery rates after including supplementation to the standard treatment. For this reason, the Nigella sativa plant may be a natural option for patients with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 to bring up in conversation with their doctor or appropriate health professional when seeking treatment for COVID-19.

  1. Perveen T, Haider S, Kanwal S, Haleem DJ. Repeated administration of Nigella sativa decreases 5-HT turnover and produces anxiolytic effects in rats. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2009 Apr;22(2):139-44. PMID: 19339222.
  2. Bin Sayeed MS, Asaduzzaman M, Morshed H, Hossain MM, Kadir MF, Rahman MR. The effect of Nigella sativa Linn. seed on memory, attention and cognition in healthy human volunteers. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jul 30;148(3):780-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.05.004. Epub 2013 May 21. PMID: 23707331.
  3. Goyal SN, Prajapati CP, Gore PR, Patil CR, Mahajan UB, Sharma C, Talla SP, Ojha SK. Therapeutic Potential and Pharmaceutical Development of Thymoquinone: A Multitargeted Molecule of Natural Origin. Front Pharmacol. 2017 Sep 21;8:656. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00656. PMID: 28983249; PMCID: PMC5613109.
  4. Fröhlich T, Reiter C, Saeed MEM, Hutterer C, Hahn F, Leidenberger M, Friedrich O, Kappes B, Marschall M, Efferth T, Tsogoeva SB. Synthesis of Thymoquinone-Artemisinin Hybrids: New Potent Antileukemia, Antiviral, and Antimalarial Agents. ACS Med Chem Lett. 2017 Dec 21;9(6):534-539. doi: 10.1021/acsmedchemlett.7b00412. PMID: 29937978; PMCID: PMC6004568.
  5. Faiza, Muniba & Abdullah, Tariq & Wang, Yonghua. (2017). Dithymoquinone as a novel inhibitor for 3-carboxy-4-methyl-5-propyl-2-furanpropanoic acid (CMPF) to prevent renal failure. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319662366_Dithymoquinone_as_a_novel_inhibitor_for_3-carboxy-4-methyl-5-propyl-2-furanpropanoic_acid_CMPF_to_prevent_renal_failure.
  6. Nagoor Meeran MF, Javed H, Al Taee H, Azimullah S, Ojha SK. Pharmacological Properties and Molecular Mechanisms of Thymol: Prospects for Its Therapeutic Potential and Pharmaceutical Development. Front Pharmacol. 2017 Jun 26;8:380. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00380. PMID: 28694777; PMCID: PMC5483461.
  7. Shaikh YI, Sameerâ shaikh ÂVS, Ahmed K, Nazeruddin GM, Pathan ÂHM. The revelation of various compounds found in Nigella sativa L. (Black Cumin) and their possibility to inhibit COVID-19 infection based on the molecular docking and physical properties. Eng Sci. 2020;11:31–35. doi:10.30919/es8d1127.
  8. Maiti S, Banerjee A, Nazmeen A, Kanwar M, Das S. Active-site molecular docking of nigellidine with nucleocapsid-NSP2-MPro of COVID-19 and to human IL1R-IL6R and strong antioxidant role of Nigella sativa in experimental rats. J Drug Target. 2022 Jun;30(5):511-521. doi: 10.1080/1061186X.2020.1817040. Epub 2022 Mar 18. PMID: 32875925.
  9. Koshak A, Koshak EA, Mobeireek AF, Badawi MA, Wali SO, Malibary HM, Atwah AF, Alhamdan MM, Almalki RA, Madani TA. Nigella Sativa Supplementation Accelerates Recovery from Mild COVID-19: First Randomized Controlled Trial. Eur J Integr Med. 2021 Dec;48:101899. doi: 10.1016/j.eujim.2021.101899. Epub 2021 Dec 17. PMCID: PMC8696021.
  10. Alagie Jassey, Zuha Imtiyaz, Sheriffo Jassey, Mufeed Imtiyaz, Saiema Rasool. Chapter 16 – Antiviral effects of black seeds: Effect on COVID-19. Editor(s): Andleeb Khan, Muneeb Rehman. Black Seeds (Nigella Sativa). Elsevier. 2022. Pages 387-404. ISBN 9780128244623. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-824462-3.00004-4.
  • Current Version
  • October 8, 2023
    • Written By: Dr. Hamad Shafqat
    • Edited By: Samuel Kovac