Black Seed Oil: Protection In A Toxic World?
We are increasingly exposed to an array of different potentially harmful toxic substances in daily life. These come from chemicals we have become dependent on for almost everything from protecting our crops to delivering safe water and packaging foods.
Many of these chemicals are known to cause us harm in high concentrations and our continuous exposure to them may explain some of the heath dilemmas we face today. Scientists have implicated environmental chemicals in increasing cancer rates, plummeting fertility, increases in obesity, respiratory illness, depression, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity and fibromyalgia to name but a few.
Apart from isolating yourself to an organic commune and existing purely on a raw vegan organic diet is there anything else you can do to protect yourselves?
In this series of articles we will examine the effects of known harmful chemicals present in our environments and the potential role for black seed oil to protect us against them.
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, which acts on the nervous system of insects. It is moderately toxic to humans, and exposure has been linked to neurological effects, persistent developmental disorders, reduced fertility and autoimmune disorders.
A study [i] investigating the effects of Chlorpyrifos in rats confirmed the adverse effect on fertility and hormone balance by causing decreased sperm count, daily sperm production, and sperm motility while increasing dead sperm and abnormal sperm compared with the control group. Additionally Chlorpyrifos also reduced testosterone, thyroxine levels, body weight, food intake, and relative weight of reproductive organs.
The same study administered black seed oil to the rats exposed to Chlorpyrifos and found that as well as boosting testosterone and antioxidant levels, black seed oil alleviated the reproductive toxic effects of Chlorpyrifos by improving semen quality and preventing toxicity.
Bromobenzene is a volatile halocarbon frequently encountered in table-ready foods as contaminant residues. This toxic substance and can cause liver and nervous system damage if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin. A study[ii] was conducted to investigate if black seed oil could reduce liver and kidney damage caused by exposure to bromobenzene. The study looked at blood test markers of liver and kidney function as well as tissue architecture.
The results showed treatment with black seed oil provided powerful antioxidant properties and alleviated the markers of liver and kidney damage. Microscopic examination of the liver and kidney tissue structure showed black seed oil reduced damage and scarring. The authors concluded that black seed oil enhanced the liver and kidney protection mechanisms, reduced disease complications and delayed its progression in bromobenzene toxicity.
Heavy metals are widely distributed in the environment and some of them occur in food, water, air and tissues even in the absence of occupational exposure. Among these lead, is a known hazardous substance to human and animals.
Lead is believed to be one of the top sources of toxicity worldwide. Routes of exposure to lead include contaminated air, water, soil, food, and consumer products. Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems. Black seed oil has been found to be protective against a number of different lead induced toxicity.
Brain toxicity [iii]
The mad hatter from Alice and Wonderland may well have suffered from lead acetate-induced brain damage.
Co-administration of black seed oil component thymoquinone with lead acetate markedly decreased the incidence of lead acetate-induced pathological brain lesions. Thus the study indicates beneficial effects of thymoquinone against neurotoxic effects of lead in rats.
Reproductive toxicity [iv]
Lead is also known to cause oxidative stress in testes. A study examining the effect of the major active ingredient of volatile oil of black seed oil, thymoquinone on against lead-induced testicular oxidative stress found thymoquinone supplementation completely reversed these biochemical changes caused by lead. The study concluded that 5 weeks of thymoquinone supplementation is very efficient in preventing lead-induced testicular oxidative stress.
Liver and kidney toxicity [v]
As the liver and kidneys are exposed to most of what comes into our bodies they are vulnerable to damage from those very substances.
A study was carried out to investigate the possible protective effect of co-administered Nigella sativa seeds on lead acetate-induced liver and kidney toxicity in rats. Thirty-six male rats were divided into six groups, 6 rats each. The first group was served as a control, while the second group was fed on the basal diet with Nigella sativa addition, whereas the other groups contained lead acetate (10 and 20% of LD50) with and without Nigella sativa supplementation for six weeks. The results of this study revealed that lead acetate caused significant elevations in AST, urea, creatinine, total cholesterol and triglycerides in serum. Lead treatment also produced significant decrease in serum total protein and albumin. Histopathological observations showed severe damage in the liver and kidneys. Combined treatment of lead-exposed animals with Nigella sativa showed marked improvement in both biochemical and histopathological findings as well as reduction in the damaged areas. These experimental results strongly indicate the protective effect of Nigella sativa against toxic effect of lead on liver and kidney tissues.
N-Nitrosodimethylamine is an organic chemical, produced as by-product of several industrial processes and present in low levels in certain foodstuffs, especially those cooked, smoked, or cured. N-Nitrosodimethylamine is highly toxic to the liver and may cause hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer).
A study[vi] was conducted which examined the effect of black seed oil volatile extract thymoquinone on liver cancer induced by N-Nitrosodimethylamine. The results showed that thymoquinone significantly reduced the detrimental alterations by reducing abnormal cell proliferation. The results showed thymoquinone has potent anti proliferative activity, which may indicate a beneficial role in the treatment of liver cancer.
5. Diesel exhaust particles
Diesel combustion exhaust is a source of contaminants; atmospheric soot and fine particles implicated in human cancer, heart and lung damage, and mental dysfunction.
A study[vii] was conducted to examine the effects of black seed oil extract thymoquinone on the effects of diesel exhaust particles.
After 18 hours of diesel combustion exhaust particle exposure significant reduction in pulmonary and cardiovascular functions in rats was noted. It was also noted that clot formation became likely. Pre-treatment with thymoquinone prevented the cardiovascular effects. Thymoquinone also prevented the decrease in platelet numbers and the prethrombotic effects of diesel exhaust particles.
The antioxidant properties of black seed oil are well recognised and its potential application in protecting us against the myriad of substances we are exposed to daily is becoming more evident.
In part two we will examine the effects of black seed oil on another 5 potentially toxic substances.
[i] Mosbah R, Yousef MI, Maranghi F, et al. Protective role of Nigella sativa oil against reproductive toxicity, hormonal alterations, and oxidative damage induced by chlorpyrifos in male rats. Toxicol Ind Health. 2014 Nov 25. pii: 0748233714554675.
[ii] Hamed MA, El-Rigal NS, Ali SA. Effects of black seed oil on resolution of hepato-renal toxicity induced bybromobenzene in rats. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Mar;17(5):569-81.
[iii] Radad K, Hassanein K, Al-Shraim M, et al. Thymoquinone ameliorates lead-induced brain damage in Sprague Dawley rats. Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2014 Jan;66(1):13-7.
[iv] Mabrouk A, Cheikh HB. Thymoquinone supplementation ameliorates lead-induced testis function impairment in adult rats. Toxicol Ind Health. 2014 Sep 12. pii: 0748233714548474.
[v] Farrag AR, Mahdy KA, Abdel Rahman GH, et al. Protective effect of Nigella sativa seeds against lead-induced hepatorenal damage in male rats. Pak J Biol Sci. 2007 Sep 1;10(17):2809-16.
[vi] Raghunandhakumar S, Paramasivam A, Senthilraja S, et al. Thymoquinone inhibits cell proliferation through regulation of G1/S phase cell cycle transition in N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced experimental rat hepatocellular carcinoma. Toxicol Lett. 2013 Oct 23;223(1):60-72.
[vii] Nemmar A, Al-Salam S, Zia S, et al. Contrasting actions of diesel exhaust particles on the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems and the effects of thymoquinone. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Dec;164(7):1871-82.