Black Seed for Lowering Cholesterol: Does It Work?

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Elena Elisseeva, istockphoto

Black seed—also known by its scientific name, Nigella sativa - is a small seed that comes from a flowering plant by the same name and is found in certain areas of Southeast Asia.  Besides the seed, you can also find black seed prepared into an oil or as a capsule, which can be found in the supplement aisle of your local pharmacy or natural foods store.

Also known as black cumin, this tiny seed is sometimes used as a spice in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, providing flavors to breads, proteins, and other dishes.

Black seed has also been used in folk medicine to treat a variety of medical conditions, including certain cancers, gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders. And, although black seed is currently being studied in a variety of diseases, there is some promising evidence suggesting that black seed may be able to help keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check.

Can Black Seed Lower Your Lipids?

There are quite a few studies that examine the effect of black seed on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The people participating in these studies had high cholesterol, diabetes, metabolic syndrome or were overweight. People took anywhere between 500 mg to 2 grams of crushed black seed placed into a capsule for up to two months. Although a couple of these studies did not see a significant change in cholesterol and triglyceride levels, other studies saw that:

  • HDL levels were increased by up to 5 percent.
  • Total cholesterol levels were lowered by at least 5 percent.
  • LDL cholesterol levels were lowered by up to 7 percent.
  • Triglyceride levels were lowered by anywhere between 8 percent and 16 percent.

One analysis revealed that, when people stopped taking the black seed supplement, their cholesterol and triglyceride levels returned back to the levels they were before treatment started within a month.

Additionally, a couple of studies revealed that the effect that black seed has on total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol may be dose-dependent - so, the more black seed supplements taken, the more positive effect they may have on these lipid types. This trend was not noted with triglycerides or LDL levels.

How Does Black Seed Lower Lipid Levels?

There are a few thoughts on how black seed affects your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, based on animal studies:

  • Black seed has the ability to decrease the amount of cholesterol that is made in the body.
  • Black seed may be able to prevent cholesterol from being absorbed into the blood stream in the small intestine.
  • Black seed has also been noted to increase the number of LDL receptors in the liver - which can help remove LDL from the blood.

Black seed is high in the antioxidant, thymoquinone,  as well as polyunsaturated fats, fiber, and phytosterols - all of which are thought to contribute to the lipid-lowering effect noted with black seed.

Because of its high antioxidant content, black seed can also help prevent LDL from being oxidized.

Including Black Seeds in Your Lipid-Lowering Regimen

The results from these studies appear promising: black seed appears to have a positive effect on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, more studies would be needed to strengthen this link before black seed can be recommended as part of your cholesterol-lowering regimen.

If you decide to try black seed to lower your lipid levels, you should talk to your healthcare provider first. Although people taking black seed in some of these studies did not experience significant side effects, it is not known if taking black seed will aggravate any medical conditions you may have or interact with any medications you are taking.

Sources:

Asgary S, Sahebkar A, Goli-malekabadi N. Ameliorative effects of Nigella sativa on dyslipidemia. J Endocrinol Invest 2015; 38: 1039-1046.

Farzaneh E, Nia FR, Mehrtash M, et al The effects of 8-week Nigella sativa supplementation and aerobic training on lipid profile and VO2 max in sedentary overweight females. Int J Prevent Med 2014; 5: 210-216.

Ibrahim RM, Hamdan NS, Mahmud R et al. A randomized controlled trial on hypolipidemic effects of Nigella sativa seeds powder in menopausal women. J Trans Med 2014; 12: 82.

Sabzghabaee AM, Dianatkhah M, Sarrafzadegan N, et al. Clinical evaluation of Nigella sativa seeds for the treatment of hyperlipidemia: a randomized, placebo controlled clinical trial. Med Arh 2012; 66: 198-200.

Sahebkar A, Beccuti G, Simental-Mendia LE, et al. Nigella sativa (black seed) effects on plasma lipid concentrations in humans: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo controlled trials. Pharm Res 2016; 106: 37-50.

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