Nigella seeds (Nigella sativa) have exploded in popularity recently (particularly in Australia, the UK and US) due to their incredible flavour, versatility in the kitchen and long list of health benefits.
Nigella seeds have attracted a long list of different names including kalonji, charnushka, kala jeera, black cumin seed, black onion seeds, black caraway, black sesame, nutmeg flower, Roman coriander & fennel flower just to name a few, however, most of these are actually incorrect and usually refer to its close cousins.
Kalonji is probably the longest standing name for it, as it's the traditional Hindi term that's been used for millennia.
These seeds have been used in various traditional Middle Eastern & Indian recipes for centuries, with historians finding mention of them in the Old Testament, as well as archaeological evidence of their use in Tutankhamun's tomb!
What Are Nigella Seeds?:
Nigella seeds are the black teardrop-shaped seeds from the flowering plant, Nigella Sativa, of the Buttercup family of flowering plants (Ranunculaceae). There are more than 2000 plants in this family, many with similar characteristics to Nigella sativa but none with the same powerful health properties and pungent flavour. The two relatives that are most commonly misidentified are kala jeera (Bunium persicum), also known as black cumin, and the ornamental 'love-in-a-mist' (Nigella damascena).
Originally native to Southern Europe, Northern Africa and Southwest Asia, Nigella Sativa is now cultivated in many countries all over the world. Growing year-round, the seeds ripen in September when they are then harvested and left to dry out. Once dried the seeds are roasted then ground down as a deliciously flavoured spice, similar to oregano, and used to season curries, rice, breads etc.
Health Benefits of Nigella Sativa Seed:
Kalonji has been used as a herbal remedy in a number of traditional medicine systems throughout India and the Middle East for thousands of years - including Unani, Tibb, Ayurveda and Siddha. Islamic medicine considers it 'one of the greatest forms of healing medicine'.
They are loaded with nutrients and traditionally used in both seed and oil form as a diuretic, digestive, anti-diarrhoea, appetite stimulant, analgesic, anti-bacterial and in treating skin disorders and high blood pressure.
A number of modern researchers have also conducted extensive studies on it, indicating it may also be a useful anti-diabetic, anticancer, immuno-modulator, analgesic, antimicrobial & anti-inflammatory just to name a few.
Some of the most evidence-supported claims of the health effects of nigella seeds currently include:
- Strong Antioxidant - rich in polyphenols and tocopherols thought to treat many different conditions.
- Powerful Antibacterial - human studies indicate it may be as effective as standard antibiotics for a range of bacterial skin conditions.
- Potent Anti-inflammatory - human studies indicate a significant reduction in inflammatory markers with the use of Nigella.
- Can Aid With Cholesterol Management - a year-long study indicated an improvement in cholesterol and heart rate across the board for type-2 diabetes patients.
- May Assist Cancer Treatment - a number of test-tube studies have shown kalonji to attack a variety of different cancer cells.
- Can Help Protect The Liver - animal studies have found that Nigella Sativa may help protect the liver against injury and reduce liver damage.
- Blood-Sugar Regulator - studies show that kalonji could be used as an anti-diabetic drug in diabetes control.
The scientific studies into these amazing seeds have already shown some very promising, evidence based results for a number of conditions.
Recent studies into the use of Nigella Seeds and Manuka honey in the treatment of COVID-19 have been quite incredible - check out the video bwlow to find out all about it:
How To Use Nigella Seeds?:
From a medicinal viewpoint, simply consuming Nigella as seeds or sativa oil is perfect. From a culinary point of view, the uses for kalonji are only limited by your imagination! They typically have a subtle aroma with beautiful herbaceous flavours, reminiscent of oregano and onion.
They are a perfect finishing spice and garnish for soups, salads and salad dressings, pastries, rice and most other savoury dishes. Use them comfortably in the same way you'd use other spices such as cumin seeds, sesame seeds, fenugreek and black pepper.
Some very popular and traditional recipe ideas include:
- Middle Eastern string cheese
- Bengali potato stir-fry
- Indian naan bread and other flatbreads
- Korma and other curries
- Moroccan preserved lemons
- Spanish omelettes
- Pancakes and crepes
- Spiced yoghurt dips
- Pickle spice blends
- Baking sweets like brownies, scones and cookies
Where To Buy Nigella Seeds?:
You can buy Nigella Seeds from many health foods, bulk food and whole foods stores nowadays, however, I generally only buy one brand from one supplier as it's organic and excellent quality, the producer has great ethics and sourcing standards and the supplier has the best pricing and customer service I've found.
You can click here (or the banner below) to head over and get a Bircher Bar reader discount on it:
Nigella Seeds - FAQ:
These are some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding kalonji:
Can You Eat Nigella Seeds?:
Most definitely! These are some of the most flavourful and nutritious seeds you can get. They add a whole new dimension to many different recipes and work in beautifully with many common herbs and spices.
What Are Nigella Seeds Also Known As?:
Most commonly called Nigella or Nigella Sativa in reference to the plant from which they come from, you'll also see them named as kalonji which is the traditional Hindi name.
They are often confused with a variety of different other spies and called black cumin, black onion seed, black sesame seeds and black mustard seeds, although, these names are incorrect.
What Do You Use Nigella Sativa Seeds For?:
Flavouring, finishing and garnishing a wide variety of savoury dishes and recipes. They are most commonly used in traditional Middle Eastern and Indian food although there are now plenty of great modern dishes that are utilising their amazing flavour.
Aside from cooking, kalonji is also used to help treat a variety of health issues and ailments. When combined with other powerful natural tonics such as turmeric, medicinal mushrooms and fire tonics, kalonji can play a key role in your daily natural health routine
Are Nigella Seeds The Same As Black Seeds?:
'Black seeds' does typically refer to nigella seeds, but be careful as many places also use the term 'black seed' to refer to other spices like black cumin, black onion seeds and black mustard seeds which we now know are imposters!
What Does Sativa Seed Taste Like?:
Kalonji has a slightly nutty and herbaceous flavour, most like oregano, with notes of black pepper and toasted onion.
We hope you enjoyed the article and got all the information you needed on kalonji! If you do buy some and try it out, please get in touch and let us know you think - and don’t forget to tag us in any of your recipes and creations!