Black Seed Oil for Cancer

Black seed oil  (Nigella sativa) has proven effect against human cancer cells in scientific studies,  these anti-cancer effects may translate into effective cancer treatments in humans

Cancer occurs when cells within the body grow in an unregulated, uncontrolled way. Cancerous cells replicate and can spread to nearby parts of the body and in some cases to more distant parts of the body. Nigella sativa has been shown to possess anti-cancer activity; inhibiting growth of many cancer cell lines in the lab; causing apoptosis (programmed cell death) of malignant cells.

The use of black seed oil for cancer treatment is the subject of much investigation in the medical literature. Thymoquinone is the most bio-active constituent of black seed oil. This particular extract of Nigella sativa (black seed) has been found to have effect against cancerous cells. It is proven to boost the effects for the anti-cancer drug doxorubicin (when used for certain human cancer cell lines including; leukaemia, melanoma, colon, cervix and breast carcinomas) including for multi-drug-resistant variants of cancer. [1]

One of the ways in which the human body fights off cancer is by stimulating special cells within the bodies own immune system which can target and destroy cancerous cells. One such type of cell is called a Natural Killer T-cell (NK-cell), Nigella sativa has been shown to have ability to serve as a stimulant of NK anti-tumor activity. [2]

The table below outlines all of the peer-reviewed studies in the scientific literature which have demonstrated the effect of Nigella sativa (black seed) and its extract (mostly thymoquinone) against human cancer cells. Most studies are laboratory based on cell lines. We have only included those since 2011. [References are at the end of the article]

Black seed oil for cancer in the medical literature

Cancer type

Studies showing anti-cancer effects of Nigella sativa or extracts

  • (Sutton, et al 2012)[3]
  • (Dilshad, et al 2012)[4]
  • (Velho-Pereira, et al 2011)[5]
  • (Woo, et al 2011)[6]
  • (Motaghed, et al 2013)[7]
  • (Baharetha, et al 2013)[8]
  • (Jafri, et al 2010)[9]
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
  • (Abusnina, et al 2011)[10]
  • (Salim et al, 2013)[11]
Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • (Hassan, et al 2011)[12]
  • (Abdel-Hamid, et al 2013)[13]
  • (Fathy, et al 2013)[14]
Pancreatic cancer
  • (Banerjee, et al 2010)[15]
  • (Torres, et al 2010)[16]
  • (Wu, et al 2011)[17]
  • (Yusufi, et al 2013)[18]
  • (Kolli-Bouhafs, et al 2011)[19]
  • (Gurung, et al 2010)[20]
Multiple myeloma
  • (Badr, et al 2011)[21]
  • (Li, et al 2011)[22]
  • (Effenberger, et al 2010)[23]
  • (Ahmad, et al 2013)
  • (Hussain, et al 2011)[24]
  • (Ng, et al 2011)[25]
  • (Hasan, et al 2013)[26]
  • (Sakalar, et al 2013)[27]
Gastric (stomach)
  • (Lei, et al 2012)[28]
  • (Koka, et al 2010)[29]
  • (Peng, et al 2012)[30]
  • (Abdelfadil, et al 2013)[31]
Nigella sativa (black seed) has demonstrated a beneficial effect against cancer cell lines in lab studies

Most studies have been performed on actual cancer cells in the lab  (in-vitro), the effect of Nigella sativa and extracts on tumours in people and animals is a hot topic of research in the field of oncology.

The local effects of Nigella sativa seed and its extracts in studies on tumours in animals have been quite remarkable displaying a selective cytotoxic effect for cancerous cells whilst preserving normal cells.

Additionally the regulatory effect of Nigella sativa on the cells of the immune system may well benefit many patients fighting cancer.

[1] Effenberger-Neidnicht K, Schobert R. Combinatorial effects of thymoquinone on the anti-cancer activity of doxorubicin. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2011 Apr;67(4):867-74.

[2] Majdalawieh AF, Hmaidan R, Carr RI. Nigella sativa modulates splenocyte proliferation, Th1/Th2 cytokine profile, macrophage function and NK anti-tumor activity. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Sep 15;131(2):268-75.

[3] Sutton KM, Doucette CD, Hoskin DW. NADPH quinone oxidoreductase 1 mediates breast cancer cell resistance to thymoquinone-induced apoptosis. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 Sep 28;426(3):421-6.

[4] Dilshad A, Abulkhair O, Nemenqani D, Tamimi W. Antiproliferative properties of methanolic extract of Nigella sativa against the MDA-MB-231 cancer cell line. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2012;13(11):5839-42.

[5] Velho-Pereira R, Kumar A, Pandey BN, Jagtap AG, Mishra KP. Radiosensitization in human breast carcinoma cells by thymoquinone: role of cell cycle and apoptosis. Cell Biol Int. 2011 Oct;35(10):1025-9.

[6] Woo CC, Loo SY, Gee V, Yap CW, Sethi G, Kumar AP, Tan KH. Anticancer activity of thymoquinone in breast cancer cells: possible involvement of PPAR-γ pathway. Biochem Pharmacol. 2011 Sep 1;82(5):464-75

[7] Motaghed M, Al-Hassan FM, Hamid SS. Cellular responses with thymoquinone treatment in human breast cancer cell line MCF-7. Pharmacognosy Res. 2013 Jul;5(3):200-6.

[8] Baharetha HM, Nassar ZD, Aisha AF, Ahamed MB, Al-Suede FS, Abd Kadir MO, Ismail Z, Majid AM. Proapoptotic and antimetastatic properties of supercritical CO2 extract of Nigella sativa Linn. against breast cancer cells. J Med Food. 2013 Dec;16(12):1121-30.

[9] Jafri SH, Glass J, Shi R, Zhang S, Prince M, Kleiner-Hancock H. Thymoquinone and cisplatin as a therapeutic combination in lung cancer: In vitro and in vivo. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Jul 1;29:87.

[10] Abusnina A, Alhosin M, Keravis T, Muller CD, Fuhrmann G, Bronner C, Lugnier C. Down-regulation of cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase PDE1A is the key event of p73 and UHRF1 deregulation in thymoquinone-induced acute lymphoblastic leukemia cell apoptosis. Cell Signal. 2011 Jan;23(1):152-60.

[11] Salim LZ, Mohan S, Othman R, Abdelwahab SI, Kamalidehghan B, Sheikh BY, Ibrahim MY. Thymoquinone induces mitochondria-mediated apoptosis in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in vitro. Molecules. 2013 Sep 12;18(9):11219-40.

[12] Hassan MI, Mabrouk GM, Shehata HH, Aboelhussein MM. Antineoplastic effects of bee honey and Nigella sativa on hepatocellular carcinoma cells. Integr Cancer Ther. 2012 Dec;11(4):354-63.

[13] Abdel-Hamid NM, Abdel-Ghany MI, Nazmy MH, Amgad SW. Can methanolic extract of Nigella sativa seed affect glyco-regulatory enzymes in experimental hepatocellular carcinoma? Environ Health Prev Med. 2013 Jan;18(1):49-56.

[14] Fathy M, Nikaido T. In vivo modulation of iNOS pathway in hepatocellular carcinoma by Nigella sativa. Environ Health Prev Med. 2013 Sep;18(5):377-85.

[15] Banerjee S, Azmi AS, Padhye S, Singh MW, Baruah JB, Philip PA, Sarkar FH, Mohammad RM. Pharm Res. 2010 Jun;27(6):1146-58.

[16] Torres MP, Ponnusamy MP, Chakraborty S, Smith LM, Das S, Arafat HA, Batra SK. Effects of thymoquinone in the expression of mucin 4 in pancreatic cancer cells: implications for the development of novel cancer therapies. Mol Cancer Ther. 2010 May;9(5):1419-31.

[17] Wu ZH, Chen Z, Shen Y, Huang LL, Jiang P. [Anti-metastasis effect of thymoquinone on human pancreatic cancer]. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2011 Aug;46(8):910-4. [Article in Chinese]

[18] Yusufi M, Banerjee S, Mohammad M, Khatal S, Venkateswara Swamy K, Khan EM, Aboukameel A, Sarkar FH, Padhye S. Synthesis, characterization and anti-tumor activity of novel thymoquinone analogs against pancreatic cancer. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2013 May 15;23(10):3101-4

[19] Kolli-Bouhafs K, Boukhari A, Abusnina A, Velot E, Gies JP, Lugnier C, Rondé P. Thymoquinone reduces migration and invasion of human glioblastoma cells associated with FAK, MMP-2 and MMP-9 down-regulation. Invest New Drugs. 2012 Dec;30(6):2121-31.

[20] Gurung RL, Lim SN, Khaw AK, Soon JF, Shenoy K, Mohamed Ali S, Jayapal M, Sethu S, Baskar R, Hande MP. Thymoquinone induces telomere shortening, DNA damage and apoptosis in human glioblastoma cells. PLoS One. 2010 Aug 12;5(8):e12124.

[21] Badr G, Mohany M, Abu-Tarboush F. Thymoquinone decreases F-actin polymerization and the proliferation of human multiple myeloma cells by suppressing STAT3 phosphorylation and Bcl2/Bcl-XL expression. Lipids Health Dis. 2011 Dec 16;10:236.

[22] Li F, Rajendran P, Sethi G. Thymoquinone inhibits proliferation, induces apoptosis and chemosensitizes human multiple myeloma cells through suppression of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 activation pathway. Br J Pharmacol. 2010 Oct;161(3):541-54.

[23] Effenberger K, Breyer S, Schobert R. Terpene conjugates of the Nigella sativa seed-oil constituent thymoquinone with enhanced efficacy in cancer cells. Chem Biodivers. 2010 Jan;7(1):129-39.

[24] Hussain AR, Ahmed M, Ahmed S, Manogaran P, Platanias LC, Alvi SN, Al-Kuraya KS, Uddin S. Thymoquinone suppresses growth and induces apoptosis via generation of reactive oxygen species in primary effusion lymphoma. Free Radic Biol Med. 2011 Apr 15;50(8):978-87.

[25] Ng WK, Yazan LS, Ismail M. Thymoquinone from Nigella sativa was more potent than cisplatin in eliminating of SiHa cells via apoptosis with down-regulation of Bcl-2 protein. Toxicol In Vitro. 2011 Oct;25(7):1392-8.

[26] Hasan TN, Shafi G, Syed NA, Alfawaz MA, Alsaif MA, Munshi A, Lei KY, Alshatwi AA. Methanolic extract of Nigella sativa seed inhibits SiHa human cervical cancer cell proliferation through apoptosis. Nat Prod Commun. 2013 Feb;8(2):213-6.

[27] Sakalar C, Yuruk M, Kaya T, Aytekin M, Kuk S, Canatan H. Pronounced transcriptional regulation of apoptotic and TNF-NF-kappa-B signaling genes during the course of thymoquinone mediated apoptosis in HeLa cells. Mol Cell Biochem. 2013 Nov;383(1-2):243-51.

[28] Lei X, Lv X, Liu M, Yang Z, Ji M, Guo X, Dong W. Thymoquinone inhibits growth and augments 5-fluorouracil-induced apoptosis in gastric cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 Jan 13;417(2):864-8.

[29] Koka PS, Mondal D, Schultz M, Abdel-Mageed AB, Agrawal KC. Studies on molecular mechanisms of growth inhibitory effects of thymoquinone against prostate cancer cells: role of reactive oxygen species. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2010 Jun;235(6):751-60

[30] Peng L, Liu A, Shen Y, Xu HZ, Yang SZ, Ying XZ, Liao W, Liu HX, Lin ZQ, Chen QY, Cheng SW, Shen WD. Antitumor and anti-angiogenesis effects of thymoquinone on osteosarcoma through the NF-κB pathway. Oncol Rep. 2013 Feb;29(2):571-8.

[31] Abdelfadil E, Cheng YH, Bau DT, Ting WJ, Chen LM, Hsu HH, Lin YM, Chen RJ, Tsai FJ, Tsai CH, Huang CY. Thymoquinone induces apoptosis in oral cancer cells through p38β inhibition. Am J Chin Med. 2013;41(3):683-96.

Black Seed Oil for Cancer
Article Name
Black Seed Oil for Cancer
Black seed oil (Nigella sativa) has proven effect against human cancer cells in scientific studies, these anti-cancer effects may translate into effective cancer treatments in humans.