This review article presents the medicinal use of black seed (Nigella sativa) for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The authors analyze current COVID-19-specific black seed studies in the Middle East, South Asia, and the Far East. While black seed has benefits far beyond its antiviral and immunity-enhancing effects, the authors focus on these properties as they relate specifically to COVID-19. Since some of the countries discussed have fewer financial and human resources, the successful ingestion or inhalation of black seed or black seed oil deserves worthy attention. This report is split into two sections: [1] the Islamic, historical, botanical, and scientific significance of black seed; and [2] the chemical composition, nutritional values, and current use of black seed as a prophylactic and COVID-19 treatment.


The authors intend to introduce black seed, a common ancient natural medicine that can be used to improve overall health and well-being, to key stakeholders:health researchers, policymakers, public health and preventive medicine clinicians and practitioners, and other persons concerned about a more equitable, economical, and accessible alternative, all-natural option for preventing and treating COVID-19. Black seed also serves as an introduction to Prophetic Medicine, a complementary practice used throughout the Muslim world alongside allopathic medicine. Implemented into one’s daily life, black seed has proven health implications surpassing the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The history and religious significance of black seed

Black seed is known as a natural medicine in the Christian faith, as noted in the Old Testament. (1, 2) In Islam, it is reported that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said black seed is a cure for everything, when used regularly, except death. (1-4) Following the medicinal advice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or verses from the Qur’an is called at-Tib an-Nabawi or Prophetic Medicine. (5,6) It is hard to gauge how widespread black seed usage is among Muslims worldwide. However, Muslim-majority countries had fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths during the 3 global peak dates in 2020-2021 in a cross-country analysis of 165 countries. (7) Therefore, stakeholders should take notice of any COVID-19 interventions used in Muslim- majority countries.

It is documented that black seed was historically used by the Egyptian pharaohs, Greek physicians, and Ibn Sina, who is often referred to as the father of modern medicine. (1,2) Black seed was used by Egyptians for mummification, and it was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. They also recorded black seed as a prescription for various health conditions, such as bronchial asthma, hypertension, and back pain. Hippocrates and Galen used to treat hepatitis, fevers, nasal congestion, headaches, influenza, and even intestinal parasites with black seed. (2,3) In Ibn Sina’s famous “Canon of Medicine,” black seed is noted for its ability to energize and stimulate a fatigued body and mind. Black seed is one the most widely and continuously researched medicinal plants in peer review journals, (6) with proven efficacy in non- communicable diseases and other ailments.

The botany of black seed

Black seed is also known as black cumin seed, black cumin, black caraway, and black coriander in English, “little black seed” in Greek, black grains in Italian, “seeds of blessings” in Arabic, and kalonji seeds in India. (1) Additionally, it is referred to as “the miracle cure” and “blessed herb.” (4)

The botanical names are: Kingdom: Plantae Division: Magnoliophyta Class: Magnoliopsida Order: Ranunculales Family: Ranunculaceae Genus: Nigella Species: sativa

Originally from the Mediterranean peninsula, black seed spread throughout Northern Africa, Eastern Asia, and Southern Europe, then to Eastern Europe and North America. Although it is currently cultivated throughout the world, it thrives in the climate and soil of the Middle East, the Mediterranean region, and Southern Asia. The plant is a thin white-petaled flower with five seed pods that distinctively stay closed until the seeds are ripe. Once the pods open, exposure to the air turns the seeds’ color to black.

The science of black seed

Black seed is “antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, [and] immunomodulatory,” with many other beneficial medicinal effects. Black seed’s therapeutic potential “is mostly related to the presence of a number of pharmacologically active constituents such as thymoquinone, thymohydroquinone, dithymoquinone, thymol, nigellone and many other phytochemicals.” (1,6,8) Elnour and Abdelsalam reported black seed’s “extremely low toxicity” on humans and animals. Black seed has a strong ability to improve immunity when taken regularly and continuously.

Nutritional Benefits

Black seed is rich in nutritional value as it contains vitamin A, calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, and more. (3) Notably, it has 8 of the 9 essential amino acids, which cannot be synthesized in the body and thus must be ingested from food. In relation to immunity, when a black seed powder capsule was ingested for 4 weeks in healthy volunteers, the ratio of helper to suppressor T- cells increased 73%, whereas the ratio decreased by 7% in the control group receiving a placebo. (2) When studied on immunocompromised AIDS patients, they increased the ratio by 55%. Ingested black seed oil relieves allergy and bronchial asthma symptoms as it serves as a bronchodilator. (4)

With over 100 chemicals making black seed unique and incomparable, its antiviral properties are also impressive. For example, black seed can significantly inhibit Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) replication. (3) A black seed concoction was found to dramatically decrease the viral load, symptoms, and signs and CD4 T-cell counts of HIV patients. Numerous studies have also proven its antimalarial properties.

In conjunction with its benefits on immunity and respiratory health, black seed’s ability to relieve fevers and influenza, along with its antiviral abilities, the possibilities of black seed having a positive effect on COVID-19 is extremely positive. Black seed and its oil are readily available, highly affordable, and can be self- administered at home. Known as a “miracle cure” by the two largest religions in the world (Christianity and Islam), black seed should be considered seriously.

Black seed and Covid-19

Black seed COVID-19 related studies have taken place in Pakistan, China, India, Korea, Malaysia, and treatment protocols are used in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan.

Chemical Structure and Biological Properties of Black seed

An important aspect of black seed is that the chemical structure of its biological compounds supports antiviral activity. The primary bioactive compounds of interest identified in black seed include thymoquinone and nigellimine. (8) Thymoquinone studied in isolation has shown “anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, and antimicrobial activities.” (6,9) A molecular docking study in India analyzed the binding between the SARS- CoV-2 receptor-binding sites and active compounds in black seed, primarily dithymoquinone, thymohydroquinone, thymol, and thymoquinone. This study showed the potential for blocking viral activity by binding to the COVID spike protein receptor. In some cases, these compounds bound SARS-CoV-2 even more strongly than chloroquine, which was considered a potential immunoregulatory treatment at the time. (5) Thymoquinone was also found to be safe for children in a study done on epileptic adolescents. (9)

Respiratory Benefits of Black Seed

Across several respiratory disease studies, both in humans and in guinea pigs, respiratory symptom relief, such as in asthma patients, was observed after treatment with black seed. (10) In one study, some cases showed less reliance on their original inhaler dosage after treatment. Additionally, cytokines that lead to increased numbers of mucus-producing cells in the lungs have been inhibited by black seed. This activity would potentially decrease the overproduction of mucus, alleviating a patient’s shortness of breath. Given the severe respiratory nature of COVID-19, black seed has great potential as a viable treatment.

Symptom Reliever

Black seed may also serve as an effective COVID-19 symptom treatment of fever, chills, shortness of breath, low oxygen levels, muscle fatigue, and loss of taste or smell. (11) For patients experiencing Cytokine Storm Syndrome due to an exacerbated inflammatory response to COVID-19, the anti-inflammatory properties of black seed can provide relief. (12) Since black seed has shown to increase the production of reactive oxygen species denaturing enzymes, it can also aid in the oxidative stress observed in COVID-19 patients. (11) While COVID-19 inhibits autophagic activity, an important immune response that removes virus-infected cells from the human body, thymoquinone shows promise in enhancing this immune response. (12)

TaibUVID – a Black seed mixture as a COVID-19 treatment

The Taibah University anti-COVID-19 treatment (TaibUVID) has been studied in Saudi Arabia as a novel COVID-19 treatment. The TaibUVID mixture consists of “1 small spoonful (tea spoonful) of nigella sativa oil (or 2 gram nigella sativa seeds) mixed with 1 gram of grinded anthemis hyalina mixed with 1 large spoonful of natural honey.”(13) The mixture is recommended orally or can be inhaled as a vapor. A retrospective studyof 20 COVID-19 patients and their healthy contacts in Egypt used this supplement. The study cohort consisted of volunteers who were already familiar with TaibUVID as a supplement through social media. (14) El-Sayed found that regular consumption among infected patients led to reduced COVID-19 symptoms, and, in 70% of patients, there was a faster recovery time of 1-4 days.

A group of healthy contacts of the infected patients of this study, including family members, medical personnel, and others, volunteered to use TaibUVID as a prophylaxis regularly. Of these individuals,70% of those who had contact with COVID-19 infected patients did not result in any positive PCR tests during the 4 months of testing. This indicates TaibUVID’s significant potential for prophylaxis, which is important to consider as COVID variants emerge. Not unpleasant to consume, participants generally had no complaints taking TaibUVID regularly. Composed of readily available, inexpensive ingredients, TaibUVID is a highly accessible prophylaxis. TaibUVID Forte supplements were recommended alongside COVID-19 treatment on positive cases for expedited symptom relief, and TaibUVID inhalation therapy was a recommended hospital treatment for COVID-19 inpatient cases.

Honey and black seed COVID-19 treatment

A clinical trial conducted in Pakistan showed promising results of honey and black seed mitigating severity of symptoms in COVID-19 patients. (15) Both moderate and severe COVID-19 cases were included in the study. The experimental group was given a mix of 1 g honey and 80 mg/kg of body weight of black seed daily. This mixture was divided into 2-3 doses per day. After roughly 3 months of symptom observation and regular PCR testing, it was found that symptoms were resolved in patients given the honey and black seed earlier than those receiving the placebo. The patients receiving the mixture also tested negative for COVID-19, on average, 4 days earlier than the group receiving the placebo.


The promising results presented in this paper represent only a fraction of the black seed COVID-19 research conducted. For example, in India, a list of all COVID-19 immunity-boosting foods studied was compiled. Black seed topped the list with the highest nutrient value, above the commonly-known cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom. (16) Saudi Arabia studied natural combinations of black seed, garlic, wasabi, honey, and vitamin C-rich foods. (17) A study in Malaysia found that black seed’s effectiveness increased when supplemented with Zinc. (8) Bangladesh also took steps to conduct research with black seed. (18) An important fact stressed throughout this paper is that black seed must be taken regularly and continuously for the greatest prophylaxis or treatment effect.

The authors hope that this introductory piece intrigues the reader and encourages them to support, further explore, and possibly use black seed and/or Prophetic Medicine as a complement to Western medicine practices. Specific to the pandemic, the authors strongly recommend further and ongoing research trials of black seed and its therapeutic and prophylactic effects on COVID-19 be conducted.

Acknowledgements:The authors would like to thank Maryam Edris for her research support. Funding: None. Competing interests: None declared.


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