A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb
Nigella sativa (N. sativa) (Family Ranunculaceae) is a widely used medicinal plant throughout the world. It is very popular in various traditional systems of medicine like Unani and Tibb, Ayurveda and Siddha. Seeds and oil have a long history of folklore usage in various systems of medicines and food. The seeds of N. sativa have been widely used in the treatment of different diseases and ailments. In Islamic literature, it is considered as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine. It has been recommended for using on regular basis in Tibb-e-Nabwi (Prophetic Medicine). It has been widely used as antihypertensive, liver tonics, diuretics, digestive, anti-diarrheal, appetite stimulant, analgesics, anti-bacterial and in skin disorders. Extensive studies on N. sativa have been carried out by various researchers and a wide spectrum of its pharmacological actions have been explored which may include antidiabetic, anticancer, immunomodulator, analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, bronchodilator, hepato-protective, renal protective, gastro-protective, antioxidant properties, etc. Due to its miraculous power of healing, N. sativa has got the place among the top ranked evidence based herbal medicines. This is also revealed that most of the therapeutic properties of this plant are due to the presence of thymoquinone which is major bioactive component of the essential oil. The present review is an effort to provide a detailed survey of the literature on scientific researches of pharmacognostical characteristics, chemical composition and pharmacological activities of the seeds of this plant.
Medicinal plants have been used for curing diseases for many centuries in different indigenous systems of medicine as well as folk medicines. Moreover, medicinal plants are also used in the preparation of herbal medicines as they are considered to be safe as compared to modern allopathic medicines. Many researchers are focusing on medicinal plants since only a few plant species have been thoroughly investigated for their medicinal properties, potential, mechanism of action, safety evaluation and toxicological studies.
Among various medicinal plants, Nigella sativa (N. sativa) (Family Ranunculaceae) is emerging as a miracle herb with a rich historical and religious background since many researches revealed its wide spectrum of pharmacological potential. N. sativa is commonly known as black seed. N. sativa is native to Southern Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia and it is cultivated in many countries in the world like Middle Eastern Mediterranean region, South Europe, India, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia.
The seeds of N. sativa and their oil have been widely used for centuries in the treatment of various ailments throughout the world. And it is an important drug in the Indian traditional system of medicine like Unani and Ayurveda,. Among Muslims, it is considered as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine available due to it was mentioned that black seed is the remedy for all diseases except death in one of the Prophetic hadith. It is also recommended for use on regular basis in Tibb-e-Nabwi (Prophetic Medicine).
N. sativa has been extensively studied for its biological activities and therapeutic potential and shown to possess wide spectrum of activities viz. as diuretic, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, anticancer and immunomodulatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, anthelmintics, analgesics and anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, bronchodilator, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, renal protective and antioxidant properties. The seeds of N. sativa are widely used in the treatment of various diseases like bronchitis, asthma, diarrhea, rheumatism and skin disorders. It is also used as liver tonic, digestive, anti-diarrheal, appetite stimulant, emmenagogue, to increase milk production in nursing mothers to fight parasitic infections, and to support immune system–. Most of the therapeutic properties of this plant are due to the presence of thymoquinone (TQ) which is a major active chemical component of the essential oil. Black seeds are also used in food like flavoring additive in the breads and pickles because it has very low level of toxicity.
The use of herbal drugs as complementary medicine is prevalent and gaining world wide popularity. Many drugs are derived directly from plants; while the others are chemically modified natural products. The original research articles published so far have confirmed the pharmacological potential of N. sativa seeds, its oil and extracts and some of its active principles, particularly TQ and alpha-hederin, possess remarkable in vitro and in vivo pharmacological activities against a large variety of diseases and found to be relatively safe.
7. Future perspectives
Further investigations are required to study the mechanism of actions of N. sativa seeds and its constituents by which they exert their therapeutic effects. Chemical modifications in the molecular structure of TQ, alpha-hederin and other constituents of N. sativa seeds could lead to more effective and safer drugs for the treatment of wide variety of diseases in the future. N. sativa seeds, its oil, constituents of N. sativa seeds like TQ, alpha-hederin or others could be used in suitable combinations with existing chemotherapeutic agents for an effective treatment of many infectious diseases and to overcome the resistance problem. Moreover, further researches should focus and explore the specific cellular and molecular targets of various constituents of N. sativa, particularly TQ. This review article is dedicated to all those researchers who are interested in focussing their research on this miracle herb and hope, this review article would help them in investigating and conducting further preclinical and clinical studies on the use of N. sativa for the treatment of variety of diseases.
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