Okay so today will be a short and sweet article…
…namely, about black cumin seeds, and how chewing on 1-2 tsp daily can help relieve stress and anxiety!
What Are Black Cumin Seeds Good For?
Nigella sativa is the name of the medicinal plant from which black cumin seeds are harvested.
Black cumin seeds are used as a spice to add flavour to dishes, but also have a long history of being a natural remedy for all kinds of diseases.
It’s especially popular in the Middle East and supposedly the prophet Muhammad said that:
“The black seed can heal every disease, except death”.
Well turns out he wasn’t too far off with that statement; recently there have been MANY studies showing that black cumin seeds, and black cumin seed oil, is a promising treatment for a wide variety of illnesses:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Infectious diseases such as bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and viral infections (including COVID-19)…
…And so on and so forth.
The main active ingredient of black cumin seeds that does all of these amazing things is thymoquinone (with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, liver-protective, anti-cancer effects).
Here it is:
Okay that’s all good and fine, but can Nigella sativa seeds help lower my anxiety?
Yes they can!
How Black Cumin Seeds Help Relieve Stress And Anxiety
In one study 48 adolescent males were randomly split into two groups – one half getting 500 mg placebo and the other 500 mg of black cumin seeds.
Over the course of 4 weeks, the group taking a daily pill of Nigella sativa seeds saw decreased anxiety, improved mood and cognition!
Here is another really interesting study that may help explain these anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects of thymoquinone.
*Remember; thymoquinone is the main active component of black cumin seeds.
The researchers took a group of both unstressed and stressed mice and gave them either:
- Thymoquinone @ 10 and 20 mg/kg
- Or diazepam (a benzodiazepine which acts as a tranquilizer) @ 2 mg/kg
- Or methylene blue (another type of quinone) @ 1 mg/kg
After administering these substances they then studied the behaviours of the mice, and the levels of nitric oxide (NO) as well as brain GABA levels.
To give you a quick explanation of these two brain chemicals:
Nitric oxide (NO) – an inflammatory signalling molecule produced in response to stress and inflammation.
GABA – the main calming anti-anxiety neurotransmitter in the brain.
So, what happened to these mice?
As might be expected; the group of stressed mice showed more anxious behaviour, had higher levels of NO metabolites in both plasma and the brain, and lower brain GABA levels.
A.k.a a tripple whammy!
Diazepam Versus Thymoquinone?
The benzodiazepine, diazepam, only showed an anxiolytic effect in the unstressed mice (related to an increase in brain GABA levels)…
…and thymoquinone, at a dose of 20 mg/kg, also had effects comparable to that of diazepam in the unstressed mice (plus it also boosted GABA)!
Pretty impressive for something found in a very common cooking spice.
Now, here’s the kicker:
In the group of stressed mice, the higher dose of thymoquinone significantly lowered anxiety… AND reduced inflammatory nitric oxide metabolites… AND reversed the decrease in brain GABA levels!
Meanwhile diazepam – often prescribed as a treatment for severe anxiety – did NOT have these same protective effects under stressful conditions.
Thymoquinone wins the battle!
How Does Thymoquinone Reduce Anxiety?
Both physical and emotional stress causes not-so-good things to happen in the brain and body.
Like the increased levels of inflammatory nitric oxide, and decreases in calming brain GABA levels, seen in the stressed-out mice!
In other words…
…stress makes your brain more inflamed → which makes anxiety worse.
Certain substances and supplements can protect against these harmful/inflammatory effects of stress.
For instance, benzodiazepines have a pro-GABA effect in the brain which makes you feel calmer in the face of stress.
However in this study diazepam failed to help the stressed-out mice.
The authors of the study speculate that the reason is because:
a. The model of stress (immobilization stress) used in the study is known to mess with GABA receptors and may prevent the benzodiazepines from ‘working properly’
b. Immobilization stress strongly increases nitric oxide in the brains of the mice and the downstream effects of NO further increases anxiety… and diazepam doesn’t do anything to help reduce NO!
So thymoquinone may actually be more effective than benzodiazepines for relieving anxiety by targeting both nitric oxide AND increasing GABA levels!
Moreover, blocking nitric oxide production has been shown to reduce anxious behaviours in rats.
You could say that black cumin seeds are like benzodiazepines on crack.
…Ok maybe not.
But you get what I’m trying to say!
Methylene Blue Enhances The Effects of Thymoquinone
This study is full of gold nuggets!
Here’s another one:
When the researchers gave the mice thymoquinone, together with another quite similar molecule called methylene blue (MB), the anti-anxiety effect was further enhanced!
Methylene blue is a super interesting substance that also blocks NO signalling (inhibiting an enzyme called guanylate cyclase), and there are promising reports that MB has both antidepressant and anxiolytic activity in humans.
So it appears that taking black cumin seeds WITH methylene blue could be an interesting combo for getting rid of anxiety!
(I will probably write a separate article on methylene blue in the future.)
How Much Black Cumin Seeds Should You Take?
Okay, so if I want these awesome anti-anxiety effects, how much black cumin seeds do I need to take?
…it’s a very safe, cheap and effective natural remedy so you can’t really go wrong.
I would say that 1-2 teaspoons of whole black cumin seeds, chewed well and swallowed, is a good starting dose.
Whenever I chew on some black cumin seeds I notice an immediate ‘pick-me-up’ energy boost, improved mood and motivation to do things, and easier breathing, like my airways open up.
I like to take them with some honey or with my daily coffee.
But to be honest, if you truly wanted to reach the therapeutic doses of thymoquinone used in this study (10 or 20 mg/kg), you would need to chew an awful lot of black cumin seeds.
You see – only a small, small fraction of the whole seeds consists of the active substance thymoquinone.
If you wanted a much larger dose I would instead buy black cumin seed oil, or a more potent extract of Nigella sativa, as that would be a more practical way to get more milligrams of thymoquinone.
Still, in my experience, you can get a very nice effect from just using the whole seeds (chewed up) on their own.
*Disclaimer: as always, people react differently to different foods/substances so if you notice any negative symptoms I would just stop taking it.
I hope this article was helpful or interesting! 🙂
Try out the black cumin seeds and let me know how you felt!