Spices for sleep: Black cumin may aid short-term sleep quality, study finds

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

© VeraLivchak / Getty Images
© VeraLivchak / Getty Images

Related tags Sleep black cumin oil

A new randomized controlled trial reported significant improvements to sleep quality following administration of the black cumin oil extract BCO-5 over a week-long period in healthy adults.

The Akay Natural Ingredients-funded study, published in Frontiers of Nutrition​, reported significant improvements to sleep efficiency, total sleep time and sleep onset latency following intakes of 200 mg/day BCO-5.

“BCO-5 significantly improved non-restorative sleep in seven days, indicating its potential role as a natural sleep aid,” the team of Indian researchers wrote.

Natural sleep remedies

Sleep issues are a common complaint of the modern world for millions worldwide, with stress, depression and anxiety known to play a key role through the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to produce cortisol. Inadequate sleep has been associated with an range of health conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and impaired cognitive function.

While over-the-counter sleep drugs are available, including benzodiazepine receptor agonists and non-benzodiazepines, their usage has been associated with adverse side effects including drowsiness, nausea and dependency— prompting the search for effective, long-term sleep solutions.

Herbal remedies have gained substantial interest over recent years, with a recent human trial​ suggesting that a black cumin extract (BCO-5) may act as a calming agent and manage sleep disorders due to the presence of the bioactive thymoquinone.

Sleep study

The researchers recruited 70 healthy male and female participants between 18 and 65 years. Subjects were randomized to receive either BCO-5 or a placebo at a dosage of 200 mg/day over a period of seven days.

The interventions were delivered as identical soft gelatin capsules containing either BCO-5 or placebo, obtained from M/s Akay Natural Ingredients (Cochin, India). BCO-5 is a patented cold-pressed black cumin oil extract containing 5% (w/w) of thymoquinone and a unique composition of thymoquinone to carvacrol in the ratio 10:1.

Actigraphy was used to measure average motor activities and thus sleep parameters, and the Restorative Sleep Questionnaire (RSQ) assessed subjective feelings of tiredness, mood and energy on a 5-point scale.

Findings indicated that the BCO-5 group had a significantly improved sleep quality when compared to placebo, as revealed by analysis of the actigraphy data. Sleep efficiency increased by 6.1%, total sleep time increased by 15.2% and sleep onset latency decreased by 40.4%.

In addition, the RSQ-W findings revealed that the BCO-5 group had improved sleep by 75.3% compared to baseline and 68.9% when compared o the placebo group. BCO-5 was also well-tolerated with no reports of side effects or toxicity.

The researchers highlighted the significance of their findings, attributing the observed effect to the carvacrol, α-thujene and p-cymene bioactive terpenes present in the essential oil of BCO-5, as well as thymoquinone.

“Our results on BCO-5 were found to be superior to many other herbal extracts presented in the last decade,” they stressed, when considering the strength of their study design and the short-term duration of the study protocol.

For future study, they called for further research in various population types to determine the full therapeutic potential of black seed oil extract for sleep management.


Source: Frontiers of Nutrition
doi: 10.3389/fnut.2023.1200118
“Exploring the short-term influence of a proprietary oil extract of black cumin (Nigella sativa) on non-restorative sleep: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled actigraphy study”
Authors: M. E. Mohan et al.

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