You’ve probably come across aromatic black cumin seeds sprinkled on top of your naan bread before.
But did you know the oil extracted from these seeds could also work wonders on your skin and hair?
Here we delve into black seed oil benefits to reveal why this under the radar ingredient could be a great natural addition to your beauty routine.
Black seed oil comes from the seeds of the Nigella sativa plant that grows in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and the Middle East.
This small flowering shrub produces fruits containing tiny black seeds that are widely used as a spice and a condiment.
However, the lightweight oil extracted from the seeds is also used in various natural solutions.
You can buy black seed oil and apply it to your hair and skin directly, or you can dilute it with a carrier oil.
Black seed oil is made from the Nigella sativa plant, which is a flowering shrub that produces fruit with tiny black seeds. The plant is native to Asia, the Middle East, and Southern Europe.
Black seeds go by a variety of different names. These include black cumin, black caraway, nigella, fennel flower, and Roman coriander. We often use these seeds in cooking, but they can be pressed into an oil too.1
The black seed oil has a variety of reported health benefits, which is what it is used for most.2
Other common names for black seed oil:
Black seed oil contains numerous vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Some of these will sound familiar – for example, vitamins A (retinoids), B (niacinamide), and C (ascorbic acid).3
But one of its unique active components is thymoquinone, a powerful natural soothing agent.4
With such a rich variety of components, this oil offers a whole host of skin-friendly superpowers.
Given these impressive credentials, it’s no surprise that there are many reported skin-health benefits of black seed oil.
Advocates believe it helps with many different ailments, although there isn’t (yet) sufficient research to support all of the healing accolades, it’s definitely an oil with lots of promise.
Here we focus on three black seed oil benefits. First, the revitalising effect it has on skin, second the benefits to hair and third, the benefits of black seed oil for your health.
There are a number of reasons why consistently applying the oil topically can help to leave skin looking fresh and revitalised.5,6
The soothing properties of black seed oil can help to reduce clogged pores and control oil. This is because black seed oil is relatively low on the comedogenic scale.
Not sure what this is? Essentially this is a scale used by dermatologists to assess how likely an oil is to clog your pores.
It starts at 0, which suggests that it will not clog your pores, right through to 5, meaning it’s highly likely to clog your pores.
Black cumin seed oil has a rating of 2, which means it has a moderately low chance of clogging your pores.7
In addition to this, it’s also been found to have cleansing and soothing properties, with research suggesting that it may have the ability to help with acne.8,9,10
For this reason, some people suffering from breakouts use black seed oil for problem skin.
With vitamins A, B, and C aplenty, this oil also helps the skin to retain moisture.
This can support healthy elasticity - and thanks to an abundance of fatty acids, it may also help to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.11,12
Together the vitamin A, amino acids, and fatty acids in black seed oil work together to hydrate skin cells.
This is because vitamin A has the ability to increase epidermal turnover (aka the generation of the skin cells called keratinocytes, in the inner layer of the skin) and to restore the epithelium, which is a type of body tissue that covers all internal and external surfaces on the body.13
Alongside this, amino acids have also been proven to promote wounded skin and even manage damaged skin.14
Over time, this can reduce the prominence of any discolouration, encouraging a more even skin tone.
Due to its soothing properties, black seed oil can reduce the appearance of spots and any redness.15
This may be due to the soothing properties that black seed oil, however, most of the studies in this area are based on black seed oil that’s been taken orally rather than topically.16
If you’re looking for a natural plant oil to nourish your tresses, black seed oil is a great alternative.
While there aren’t many studies dedicated to the benefits of black seed oil for hair, there are plenty of anecdotal recommendations.
This oil has a loyal army of advocates praising its potential to help support a healthy scalp and add extra vitality to frazzled locks.17,18
Black seed oil is packed with vitamins that can have benefits for hair regrowth. One study from 2014 found that when mixed with coconut oil, black seed oil promoted hair growth in its participants.19
As well as having the ability to promote hair growth, black seed oil may also be able to reduce hair loss too.
A study in 2017 found that a hair treatment containing black seed oil resulted in a reduction in hair fallout of up to 76%. Using black seed oil for hair loss is common.20
Black seed oil may also be able to soothe the scalp, as well as reduce flakiness and sensitivity on the scalp.
This is thought to be because of the fatty acid contents, which have been linked to improved skin moisture in some studies, but more research is needed on this specifically.21
Similarly, black seed oil may be able to help your hair stay moisturised and nourished. In addition, antioxidants in the oil neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals on your hair.22,23,24,25
There’s a long-established belief that black seed oil is a ‘panacea’ or universal healer. Of course, it’s essential to take that with a pinch of salt.
However, there are some reported black seed oil benefits.
These might include:
Research has shown that black seed oil may be effective at helping with breathing difficulties, as it can reduce inflammation and relax the muscles in your airways.26,27,28
Although the exact reason for this isn’t known, black seed oil may also be able to support your weight loss efforts.
One particular study from 2015 concluded that the participants who received the oil (rather than the placebo) lost significantly more weight and further reduced their waist circumference, compared to a low-calorie diet alone.29
Another potential benefit of black seed oil for your health is its ability to lower blood sugar levels.
A study from 2015 published in Contemporary Therapies in Medicine improved the glycemic status and lipid profile in participants with diabetes, but further studies are needed to clarify the right dosage.30
An additional health benefit of black seed oil is that it may be able to reduce cholesterol levels.
In the same study that highlighted how it could be effective for weight loss, they also concluded that those taking capsules containing 2-3g of black seed oil reduced their LDL cholesterol levels (aka the bad ones) – as well as the total levels of cholesterol.31
Black seed oil has been used as a traditional aid for many centuries, and one of the main things it was used to treat was hypertension – high blood pressure.
A study from 2013 tested this and found that a daily supplement containing 5ml of this oil reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure after eight weeks.32
The benefits of black seed oil don’t end there. Research from 2013 also suggested that it’s also able to enhance memory, attention span and cognition.
Although further, larger-scale studies are needed to confirm whether it can be a suitable supplement in this area.33
Mix together equal parts of black seed oil and coconut oil in a bowl.
Just before you’re about to shower, apply a handful of the oil mix to your scalp and massage it in.
Allow it to soak in for 30 minutes, then rinse your hair in the shower and do your haircare routine as normal.
After cleansing, pat your skin or allow it to air dry.
Apply 2-3 drops to your hands, then gently massage into your skin.
Whether you’re sprinkling black seeds onto bread or adding them a curry, it’s unlikely that you will experience adverse symptoms from using them in the kitchen.34
However, this could be different if you choose to take black seed supplements or ingest a lot of black seed oil.
There’s limited research about how taking large amounts for a long time will interact with the body.
There are some reported side-effects too. These may include:
Black seed oil may also interact with certain medications, such as dextromethorphan.38
There’s also no research into how these supplements may react if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
With this in mind, it will be essential to speak to your doctor before using them in your health routine.
Black seed supplements are available in pill, capsule, and liquid forms.
You can ingest this supplement or use it topically as a natural skin care product.
The exact dosage amount isn’t always precise, so it’s usually best to follow the instructions on your chosen product.
It’s worth remembering that supplements aren’t regulated like medicines are. Always try to choose products that have fewer added ingredients.39
While there are many, the uses and benefits of black seed oil are not wholly proven. It’s essential to proceed with caution, especially if you have an underlying health condition.
If you are experiencing symptoms or have a particular health concern, it’s best to speak to your doctor first.
Last updated: 10 June 2022
Joined Holland & Barrett: Aug 2005
Michelle joined Holland and Barrett in 2005 as a Customer Services Advisor where she worked for a total of 6 years.
She left H&B to pursue a career within the public sector and later returned in 2013 where she continued to support the Customer Services department and further developed by qualifying as an advanced product advisor working alongside a team of nutritionists.
She then moved to buying as a FNSS Raw Materials Coordinator before joining the Regulatory Affairs Department in 2017 as a Regulatory Affairs Associate. After 3 years in this role, she then moved to the Beauty team where she expanded her knowledge to focus on the beauty industry.
Michelle is now working on both own-label and branded beauty lines, ensuring that these products and all relating marketing material comply to the EU, UK and International Cosmetics Regulations.
Michelle has 3 children who take up a lot of her time, but when she has a few spare minutes she enjoys walking, fitness and cooking.