When people learn of my interest in seed science and the launch of ISNS, one question I often get right off the bat is, “Do you have a favorite seed?”
It’s kind of like asking a parent if they have a favorite child. Each child is special and unique and fascinating in their own rite, aren’t they?
Could you dare pick a favorite?
Cranberry has some amazing qualities, but wait so do Chardonnay Grape Seeds, and then there’s Chia and let’s not forget Red Raspberry Seeds, and I could go on and on and on. And truth be told, I usually do. Maybe it’s proud parent syndrome.
But I will readily admit that one seed has certainly been on my mind lately. I’m not only captivated by it, some of its qualities hit very close to home. The incredible seed I’m talking about is over 4,000 years old.
The ancient Egyptians took it. Famous Greek physicians recommended it. A renowned first century Persian healer and author was a huge advocate. There is even mention of it in the Bible by the Prophet Muhammed. “In the black seed is healing for every disease except death.” Now that is some seed.
I am talking about the infamous and powerful Nigella Sativa, or black cumin seed.
My interest in black cumin seed is not only the remarkable lineage of traditional medicine that has gone on for centuries. It’s also the effect it has on diseases that are major threats to modern life.
I grew up in a rural farming community in Missouri. Almost every member of my family, including myself, and one of my sons, has, at some point been diagnosed with cancer. Susan Corbo, our ISNS President, lost her mother at a young age to the disease, and in practically every other house in the neighborhood where she grew up, someone was suffering from cancer.
I’m sure you have similar stories of a loved one, a co-worker, a neighbor, a dear friend, or even, perhaps, yourself.
Today, cancer is still considered the second leading cause of death, right behind myocardial infarction. Millions of people still die every year, despite tremendous efforts on the part of the healthcare community to find ways to control and cure it.
But there is something I find incredibly encouraging. To find new and authentic therapies, scientist are working more and more with folk medicine, or traditional therapies, in parallel with modern science. They are pairing ancient findings with todays boundless knowledge and limitless technology to uncover new ways to approach modern problems.
Here’s what I find to be very special about black cumin seed. The crude oil and Thymoquinone (TQ) extracted from its seeds and oil are proving to be effective against cancer. Not just cancer in the blood system, but in the lungs, kidneys, liver, prostate, breast, cervix and skin. And black cumin seed is helping to do all this safely —- without the side effects of many contemporary therapies.
In one study held in 2003, researchers at Jackson State University in the US exposed breast cancer cells to black cumin seed extracts. The cancer cells were inactivated, leading researchers to conclude that black cumin may hold great promise in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Some studies are beginning to show that the TQ in black cumin acts as an antioxidant, an anti-carcinogenic and an anti-mutagenic agent and improves the body’s defense system. TQ acts directly on cancer cells to help kill them by more than one molecular pathway. It is kind of like coming at the enemy from all sides.
But in addition to these cancer- inhibiting properties, black cumin seed also has cancer protective roles. Radiotherapy is one of the most common strategies for treating cancer, but it is very risky for normal tissue. Studies show that black cumin seed and glutathione significantly antagonize the effects of radiation. Therefore it may be a very beneficial way to protect against radiation-related tissue injury.
The anti-cancer properties of black cumin seed were recognized thousands of years ago. It originated in Southeastern Asia, and was used in ancient Egypt, Greece, the Middle East and Africa. But proper, statistically significant scientific research with this incredibly significant seed is a very recent story.
In some parts of the world today, I feel there is something of a renaissance occurring in the study of traditional remedies. My wish is for that renaissance to spread like wild fire.
I love all my seeds, but I hope continued research will bring greater clarity and understanding of black cumin as a safe and promising anti-cancer seed. And then, it will truly become one of my favorites.
Dr. Christina Cook