Black seed oil: High growth rates and exciting synergistic effects

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Marc Bruxelle
© Getty Images / Marc Bruxelle
Demand for black seed oil is growing, albeit from a small base, with new human studies underway and intriguing synergistic effects with omega-3 reported, but there is a lot of variability on the market, says one leading supplier.

The seed and oil of black cumin (Nigella sativa​) have been used extensively in traditional medicine in many Middle Eastern and Asian countries for the treatment of a range of conditions, including some immune and inflammatory disorders.

According to the 2017 herbal supplement market report from the American Botanical Council (Herbalgram 119, pp. 62-71​), sales of Nigella-containing supplement grew 202% in 2017 in the natural channel, but sales remain relatively small at $4.675 million (#23 on the top selling herbal supplements list for 2017).

Morris Zelkha, CEO of TriNutra Ltd., which offers the ThymoQuin-branded cold-press Nigella sativa​ oil ingredient, told us that his company has analyzed various black seed samples available on the market with an outside lab in Israel. The data have not yet been published, he said, but the initial results indicated that there were big variations in levels of the main active ingredient, thymoquinone.

TriNutra’s ThymoQuin is standardized to 3% thymoquinone, and is derived from high-concentration Nigella sativa​ plants developed using a non-GMO breeding program in Israel.

Science

A search of PubMed reveals over 200 papers involving black seed oil from various suppliers, with 22 classified as clinical trials.

Potential anti-inflammatory activity depends on the dose, said Zelkha, with free fatty acid content of the oil affecting its performance. “The activity can drop three-fold when the free fatty acid levels go up (beyond 20%),”​ he said. “The product needs to contain the bioactives at specific levels and ratios.”

A recent paper published in the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences​ using ThymoQuin reported a range of benefits in obese mice, including metabolic function and liver health (reduced risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – NAFLD).

“The beneficial effects of [thymoquinone] in the pathogenesis of NAFLD in a murine model of obesity offer a portal into therapeutic approaches to the treatment of this and other obesity-related diseases,”​ concluded researchers from New York Medical College, University of Catania (Italy), University of Brescia (Italy), and Tel Aviv University.

There is also potential to combine black seed oil with other ingredients, most notably omega-3. Data shared with NutraIngredients-USA showed that the addition of 10-20% of ThymoQuin to omega-3 oils may “potentiate the anti-inflammatory active of the omega-3 oils”​.

This work is being conducted with scientists at Ben Gorion at the University in Israel and additionally with researchers at New York Medical College.

“The first study demonstrated to potentiate the healthy inflammatory response activity of omega-3 oils when the two were combined; this is an effect not observed with other ​Nigella sativa oil products on the market,” ​said Zelkha. “The NY study is expected to be published by the end of 2019.”

ThymoQuin was introduced to the US market in May 2018 and is exclusively distributed by Barrington Nutritionals. Chris Holland, Barrington’s VP of Sales, told us that they have talked with a number of omega-3 companies and “they’re excited about it”​.

This synergistic effect may also work with hemp oil and carotenoids, said Holland.

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