Nigella Seeds- A flavorful spice with great medicinal value

by Shanu Pande
October 17, 2020

Nigella seeds, also called Kalonji in local dialect are great flavor enhancers known for their medicinal properties. They are mainly used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The flavor of Nigella seeds is a typical mix of oregano and toasted onions with a slight bitter taste.

Kalonji is the seed of the flowering Nigella plant. Also known as black cumin, black caraway, or black onion seeds, Kalonji was known to be a natural remedy for almost all ailments in the past.

Kalonji, however, has no link with cumin, caraway or onions.

 

Let’s look into some remarkable health benefits of Kalonji:

  • Antioxidant- Kalonji is loaded with antioxidants such as thymoquinone. Antioxidants prevent damage to cells and are believed to give protection against many chronic conditions. 
  • Lowers cholesterol- Kalonji and its components have shown to be very effective in lowering both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
  • Anti-carcinogenic- Kalonji is believed to have cancer-fighting properties. Thymoquinone, an active ingredient of Kalonji is believed to kill blood cancer cells and inactivate breast cancer cells. Studies suggest that it can be effective in pancreatic, prostate, skin, cervical, and colon cancers.
  • Antimicrobial- It’s antimicrobial properties kill certain strains of bacteria. Some studies indicate that it is a standard antibiotic against Staphylococcus skin infection caused by bacteria.
  • Protects liver- Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help reduce toxicity and protect against liver damage.
  • Anti-inflammatory- Chronic inflammation can be a leading cause of diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Thymoquinone found in Kalonji reduces inflammation.
  • Anti-diabetic- Elevated blood sugar can have serious consequences. Kalonji is believed to regulate blood sugar if consumed regularly. 
  • Beauty- Kalonji oil is said to be augment hair growth and treat some skin conditions. It is applied topically in a diluted form. 

 

Precautions (who should have or who shouldn't):

  • Studies have revealed that Kalonji oil may cause allergy in some people. It is, therefore, advised to do a skin patch test before including it in your beauty regime.
  • According to research, Kalonji can cause blood to clot. If taking medication for blood clotting, ensure that you seek a doctor consultation before taking Kalonji or its supplements.
  • Kalonji and its use during pregnancy is controversial. On one hand, some studies say that Kalonji can be taken safely during pregnancy. On the other hand, a study reveals that Kalonji can obstruct uterine contractions. If you are pregnant, it is better to consult your doctor before consuming it.

To sum up, using Kalonji in your diet can have vast benefits on many aspects of your health. However, precaution must be exercised if you are suffering from any of the above-mentioned conditions.


How to use Kalonji?

One can add Kalonji to dishes in a variety of creative ways. 

  • It can be slightly toasted, ground, or even added as a whole to naan, breads, curry dishes, dry recipes, salads, soups, and stews.

 

  • In India, Kalonji is used in pickles, stuffed Karela (bitter gourd), and dry potato recipes.

  • Kalonji seeds can also be consumed in the raw form with honey and water. One can also add the seeds to oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt.

 

Availability:

Nigella seeds are available in the following forms

  • Kalonji seeds
  • Capsule or soft gel form
  • Kalonji oil

How to store:

Nigella seeds are best stored in an airtight container. Purchase the seeds in small amounts and buy whenever required. This will retain its flavor and aroma.

 

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