Author: The Herbalist - Spring 1990 - ISSUE 5
Nigella Sativa also known as the black seed, black caraway, black cumin, Habitual Barakah and by several other names, has been in use as a natural remedy for over 4000 years in various parts of the world. It belongs to the botanical family of Raminculaceae. Mahfouz and El-Dakhakhny, in 1959, isolated the crystalline active principle 'Nigellon' from the oil of N. Sativa seeds (1).
These workers documented the ability of Nigellone to prevent histamine-induced bronchospasm in experimental animals. Clinical studies have also shown a beneficial effect of Nigellone in the treatment of patients with bronchial asthma (2) and was found, in experimental animals, to be free of any irritant or toxic effects, even when administered in large doses (2). More recently, Attaur-Rahman et al. isolated and determined the structure of Nigellicine-a novel alkaloid from the seeds of N. Sativa whose structure is analogous to some and cancer agent? (3).
Several indications point to the immune system as a potential mediator in eliciting the therapeutic effects of N. Sativa We tested the effect of N. Sativa intake on T cell subset distribution in volunteers with a low helper T cell (TH) to Suppressor T cell (TS) ratio. N. Sativa was ground then packed in #1 capsules.
In our pilot study, the participants took 2g of N. Sativa daily. Blood was drawn before and after 5 weeks of intake. Mononuclear cells were isolated from whole blood by density gradient centrifugation over Histopaque (Sigma Chemicals, St Louis, Mo). Lymphocytes were phenotype using anti TH and anti Santibodies conjugated with coloured immunobeads. Cells coated with either antibody were then visualized using a light microscope and percent T cell subsets quantitated. Preliminary results show an increase in the TH cell population concomitant with a decline in TS after N. Sativa intake. In addition, an overall improvement of the TH to TS ratio was observed from 1.19 to 1.85.
These data suggest that intake of N. Sativa may enhance T cell mediated immunity through improvement of TH: TS ratios. This effect may exert an important role in cases involving cellular immunodeficiency particularly in cancer and AIDS thereby warranting extensive investigation to define the mechanism of action of this potentially important immunomodulator.
The Canadian Society for Herbal Research.
1- Mahfouz, M. and El-Dakhakhny. 1960. Isolation of a crystalline active principle form Nigella sativa L. seeds. J.
Pharm. Sci, U.A.R. 1:9.
2- Mahfouz, M. and El-Dakhakhny. 1960. Some chemical and pharmacological properties of the new antiasthmatic drug Nigellone. Egypt. Pharm. Bull. 42:411.
3- Atta-ur-Rahman, Malik, S., Cun-heng, H., and Clardy, J. 1985. Isolation and structure determination of Nigellicine, a novel alkaloid from the seeds of Nigella Sativa. Tetrahedron lett. 26:2759. Page 232 - Arch of AIDS Res. Vol I Submitted by Ahmed Elkadi, Osama Kandil and Abdel-Moneim Tabuni. Immunology Dept., Akbar Clinic and research Institute, Panama City, Florida.