This article is about two mysteries and how scientists are trying to unravel them. The first is the mystery of black cumin seed: thousands of years of traditional use and modern scientific research confirm its seemingly miraculous health benefits – how does it work? The second is the mystery of melanin, the black pigment that protects the skin actually does much more than that and science only beginning to understand it. Experiments carried out on the melanin extracted from black cumin seed shines some light on both of these mysteries.
Black cumin seed is most commonly consumed by pressing it into an oil. And it was this oil that was famously discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun and other pharaohs. It is mentioned in the Bible, and the prophet Mohammed described it as the “cure for everything but death”. Ancient Indian healers prescribed it for practically every medical problem you can think of. There are thousands of worth of testimonials proclaiming the benefits of black cumin seed, but only in the last three decades have scientists start to pay it serious attention.
Science has shown that ancient people were right. It is effective for an enormous number of medical conditions. We have found studies showing it’s efficacy for: Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Depression and Anxiety, Epilepsy, Opioid Dependence and Tolerance, Cancer (we found over 18 studies showing it kills various types of cancer cells), Asthma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Bacterial Infections, Fungal Infections, Viruses (including HIV), Parasites, Low Sperm-Count, Diabetes and Obesity.
Some researchers have suggested that black cumin seeds apparent versatility comes from its ability to protect the immune system, and there are scientific studies to back this up. There was even a patent taken out: “Use of Nigella sativa to increase immune function” based on some of these studies. So how does black seed oil boost our immune system? This is a question that many scientists are keen to try and answer.
The reason black cumin seed is black is that the seed coatings are rich in the natural pigment melanin. Dark pigments are generally due to melanin: from the coating of a grape to the ink of a squid.
From a scientific perspective, one thing that has become apparent is that melanin protects more than just the skin.
Most people know that it is melanin that protects our skin from the sun since the colour black absorbs UV light. But there is much more to melanin. The chemical structure of melanin is so complex it is not understood by scientists. Nor can they understand why it can be found in so many parts of the body. For example, our brains are full of melanin, yet we do not know why. In humans, melanin is created by the pineal gland, in the centre of the brain, considered to be what ancient cultures were referring to when they talked of “the third eye”. Melanin’s mysterious chemical structure and its ability to absorb light have led some spiritual thinkers to suggest that it is structured in a way that allows no energy to escape – that it a kind of cosmic battery charged by light.
From a scientific perspective, one thing that has become apparent is that melanin protects more than just the skin. Studies with melanin extracted from tea show that it protects the liver against drug-induced damage. We came across one study which concluded that “grape melanin is an interesting anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating natural product”. Melanin extracted from black cumin seed has been shown to have a painkilling effect. A study with tortoises even showed that those with more melanin tended to show less fear.
Studies with synthetic and herbal melanin have shown it to suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines. These are proteins which work against the immune system, causing and worsening various diseases. Researches have suggested that this is how melanin boosts the immune system, by reducing the harmful effects of these cytokines.
So, if melanin protects the immune system, can this explain the mystery of black seed oil’s incredible healing power? To answer this question, scientists have extracted melanin from black cumin seed and carried out an experiment where rats were inoculated with red blood cells taken from sheep (a standard way to provoke an immune system response in a laboratory). They found that the rats who were given melanin extracted from black cumin seed “may have a stimulatory effect on the immune system”.
This type of melanin research is still in its infancy, but the study does suggest melanin plays a role in black cumin seed’s effectiveness and may one of the reasons it has been said to, “cure anything but death”. After all, a drug that boosts the immune system is going to be effective against all number of diseases.
We think that this type of cutting-edge research is fascinating and shines a light on both the mystery of melanin and the power of black cumin seed. Now that we live in an age where scientific research is possible, it is great to see it being applied to natural substances rather than just profit-driven pharmaceuticals.
We should be aware though that we are never going to find a single answer as to why black cumin seed is so powerful. It contains hundreds of active ingredients, and new compounds are still being discovered within it. As well as many vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants, it contains thymoquinone (TQ) which appears to work on a genetic level. Likewise, we are never going to find a simple answer to what melanin is for, we will likely keep finding new and ever more fascinating uses for it.
The natural world is complicated almost beyond comprehension, and that is the beauty of it. The human body is the most complicated system in the known universe when it interacts with the many substances contained black cumin seed, there are millions of subtle effects taking place. Synthetic drugs seem very crude in comparison.
In the body, nothing has just one single use. Melanin was thought to be a just a pigment, but now we are learning about its protective power. This is just one of the millions of substances that exist inside of you right now!
We believe that, while we may never understand the mysteries of our world, we can learn what is good for us and what isn’t. We can learn what we should do if we fall ill or feel imbalanced. This is why research into plant medicine is so vital.
Do you need to boost your melanin levels? There is a theory that we are supposed to sleep in pitch darkness, and only then can the pineal gland produce adequate amounts of melanin. With modern-day light pollution and constant use of smartphones and computers, it may be that our brains normal function is being disrupted. For this reason, some people take substances rich in melanin.
In the modern world, we are bombarded with environmental toxins such as chemicals in our food and water. These can compromise the pineal gland, resulting in calcification – the build-up of calcium crystals. Since the pineal gland is associated with the spiritual third-eye, some have suggested that these modern toxins are making us harder lead a spiritual life. Flouride is of particular concern as it has been shown to directly calcify the pineal gland. Placing rats, previously exposed to fluoride, on a fluoride-free diet has been shown to increase cell growth in the pineal gland. Since melanin is produced by the pineal gland, calcification could likely result in insufficient levels.
A lot more research is needed, but we feel it makes sense to take supplements containing melanin when our natural ability to produce it may have been compromised. We always recommend black seed oil, and the melanin studies seem to show another good reason to take it.