Nigella sativa (LINN) is a species of annual flowering plant from the genus Nigella which includes al least 14 other species (including; Nigella arvensis, Nigella ciliaris, Nigella damascena, Nigella hispanica, Nigella integrifolia, Nigella nigellastrum, Nigella orientalis and Nigella papillosa)
It is also known as black cumin flower, love-in-the-mist, fennel flower, nutmeg flower, black caraway and Roman coriander.
The name Nigella comes from the diminutive of the feminine Latin word for black (nigellus), so called because of the hundreds of tiny black seeds this genus of plant produces.
Nigella sativa species have around five to 10 coloured petals which can be white, yellow, pink, blue or violet. The leafs form narrow and threadlike segments.
The plants grow 20–90 cm tall and survive just one growing season producing many seeds which are formed in a large inflated pod-like fruit known as the capsule.
Today the plants can be found growing all over the world, however it is believed they are native to the Middle East and North Africa. In the UK species of the plants are commonly seen in gardens otherwise known as ‘love-in-a-mist’ or ‘ragged lady’ or ‘fennel flower’.
The outer beauty of the Nigella sativa plant hints of a deeper beauty within. Each season the flower develops into a fruit seed pod. The Nigella sativa fruit is a large inflated capsule composed of 3-7 united follicles, each containing numerous seeds. As the fruit ripens the many tiny seeds take on a deep black colour.
The seeds of the Nigella sativa fruit pod are known as “Al-Habba Al-Sauda” and “Al-Habba Al-Barakah” in Arabic, Ketzah in Hebrew and black seed or sometimes black cumin in English. These seeds have been used throughout history for their healing properties.