What makes a quality black seed oil and its link to multiple health benefits
Nigella sativa, more commonly known as black seed or black cumin, is a flowering plant native to south and southwest Asia. This botanical has been used for over 2,000 years in various traditional Eastern and Ayurvedic systems as a therapeutic tool for health and beauty purposes. The earliest written reference of N. sativa is thought to be in the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, where the reaping of Nigella and wheat is contrasted (Isaiah 28: 25, 27). Because of its many uses, black seeds have also been called the ‘blessing seed’1 and been referred to as the ‘oil of the Pharaohs,’ as the plant was believed to be buried in the tomb of Tutankhamen to accompany him into the afterlife2.
Today, the effects of black seed oil have been rigorously tested to determine the active compounds and applied health benefits in more than 900 studies3, including in vitro, in vivo, and human clinical trials.
Realizing the powerful potential of black seed, TriNutra has dedicated itself to providing the most potent black seed oil, including purity, quality, bioavailability, and efficacy through clinical research and a proprietary black seed oil growing and extraction operation. Before diving into black seed oil’s immune health benefits, it is vital to understand what actually constitutes a quality black seed oil to ensure its efficacy for the end consumer.
Standardization of black seed oil
Black seed oil (BSO) has several key phytochemical compounds: thymoquinone, p-Cymene, carvacrol, its fatty acids and free fatty acids (FFA). There are also numerous other compounds found in a fullspectrum oil, including sterols and saponins, novel lipid constituents, and volatile oils of varying compositions4. Much of the biological activity is attributed to the thymoquinone (TQ) content in the oil5. Specific ratios between the various phytochemicals are important to achieving optimal stability and efficacy.
Black cumin seed naturally contains 0.3-0.7% thymoquinone (TQ) and 25%-40% oil. Standardization is achieved through selective extraction or by using plant varieties cultivated to contain higher TQ content. What appears to work best in achieving a balanced and full-spectrum BSO is using freshly harvested black cumin seeds and a cold-pressed extraction. Using fresh sources with cold-pressed extraction yields a standardized, full-spectrum oil with optimal ratios of all the bioactives found in black seeds.
Specifically, clinical and non-clinical research has shown that 3% TQ, combined with low free fatty acids (less than 2%) and other important bioactives at optimal levels, provides superior potential compared to other BSO compositions. These precise ratios contribute to the synergistic effects available in Nigella sativa oil and TriNutra’s branded BSO, ThymoQuin® specifically.
Conversely, extractions that force high thymoquinone concentrations often leave other beneficial compounds out or in low proportions, resulting in a narrow composition and reduced therapeutic benefit.
Diving deeper: why composition matters
Research has found that beyond thymoquinone standardization, optimal amounts of the active biologics p-Cymene, carvacrol, and free fatty acids also play a significant role in black seed oil’s health benefits. p-Cymene is a naturally occurring aromatic organic compound. Studies show BSO’s p-Cymene creates a synergistic effect with TQ to enhance inflammation inhibition particularity when the p-Cymene and TQ ratio is ≤ 1 to 3. Carvacrol is an aromatic compound found in several plants and herbs. Research has demonstrated that carvacrol levels of no more than 0.1 percent stabilize and enhance the inflammation inhibition ability of thymoquinone. (White paper, internal publication of TriNutra)
Finally, the level of free fatty acids (FFA) or acid value in other words, is correlated to the freshness of the seeds, processing method, and product stability.
Research examining the FFA content of BSO showed that a higher FFA content reduces the efficacy of thymoquinone and causes rancidity of the oil. Understanding what constitutes a quality black seed oil, TriNutra also discovered a method to enhance the bioavailability and stability of its branded black seed oil extract, ThymoQuin®, by adding minor amounts of sunflower derivatives, significantly improving bioavailability. (White paper, internal publication of TriNutra)
Studies show that the percentage of thymoquinone (3%), combined with low FFA (less than 2%), (and other important bioactives at optimal levels) provides superior inflammatory-fighting potential compared to other BSO compositions (TriNutra patent).
The chart below (Figure 1) shows the effect of using a 3% thymoquinone standardized oil with low FFA compared to three different finished products from the market containing significantly lower levels of the active compound. Their effects were compared via an inflammation inhibition model using inhibition of NO production.
To illustrate the importance of standardization for the thymoquinone and free fatty acid actives, a study was conducted to evaluate the antifungal activity of several cold-pressed black seed oils with varying concentrations of TQ and FFA (Figure 2). The growth of two opportunistic fungal pathogens, Malassezia furfur and an antibiotic-resistant strain of Candida albicans were most inhibited by a combination of high amounts of thymoquinone (3%) and low amounts of free fatty acids (2%).9
Black seed oil and immune support
Black seed oil has many therapeutic benefits including its ability to support a balanced inflammatory response, improve mitochondrial activity, including ATP production, and delivering excellent antioxidant capacity and antimicrobial effects. TriNutra has conducted several clinical studies on its branded extract, ThymoQuin®, and its ability to modulate immunity and well-being.
It’s reported that stress related gut disbiosis and immune alterations can represent significant challenges for not only the exercise performance of athletes but also their overall health and well-being. In the published study, researchers used “exercise stress” of endurance running to challenge the gut microbiome resilience and temporarily suppress immune vigilance. This randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial investigated ThymoQuin® as a natural immune modulator on upper-respiratory tract complaints and mood state in endurance runners following the stress of training and competition over four weeks. The study volunteers received 500 mg of ThymoQuin or a placebo per day. Following four weeks of supplementation, the total number of URTC complaints, including nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, cough, fatigue, headache, general malaise, and body aches, were 62% lower in the supplement group when compared to the placebo. Additionally, the supplement group demonstrated an 11% improvement in the Global Mood State index and had lower cortisol levels (44%) when compared to the placebo. The bacteria strain, Streptococcus thermophilus, was 66% higher than the placebo group, suggesting a significant improved immune system regulation.
The study demonstrated ThymoQuin’s ability to act as a natural ‘immune-modulator’ for improved physical and mental health compared to the placebo. TriNutra also tested its black seed oil in combination with omega-3 fish oils. The study, published in the ECronicon Journal, was conducted with marathon runners who consumed an oil blend of 500 mg of ThymoQuin® plus 1,500 mg of fish oil, or a placebo oil for four weeks. During the 4-week treatment period (3 weeks before and 1 weeks after an intense endurance run), the subjects who supplemented with the ThymoQuin and omega-3 oil blend reported significantly (-62%) fewer upper-respiratory tract complaints (URTCs), better overall health and a more positive mood (+15%) when compared to the placebo group. Additionally, the supplemented runners showed greater omega-3 blood levels and higher levels of Streptococcus thermophilus (+67%) and lower stress hormone exposure (cortisol -37%) both of which are associated with immune vigilance and psychological mood state.
Black seed oil and metabolic health
TriNutra invested in clinical research of ThymoQuin for various metabolic health features. At the base of these benefits stands mitochondrial functions boost along with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. The research focus and highlight ThymoQuin’s ability to:
- Maintain healthy blood pressure
- Support healthy blood glucose levels
- Support healthy liver functions (decreased hepatic fat).
One published human clinical trial investigated ThymoQuin’s ability to improve cardiovascular function in healthy adults over six weeks. Healthy adults with normal blood pressure were supplemented daily with ThymoQuin (3% thymoquinone) for six weeks.
Following a three-week washout period, patients were given placebo treatment for six weeks, with blood pressure measured daily. The results indicated a significant decrease in blood pressure with 500mg/day of ThymoQuin after 2 days already and was maintained continuously over the six weeks6.
A second clinical study demonstrated ThymoQuin’s ability to aid in healthy blood sugar levels when combined with omega-3. The pair reduced adipocyte hypertrophy-induced inflammation, enhanced AMPK activation, fatty acid metabolism, and mitochondrial function, and reprogrammed unhealthy white to healthy beige adipocytes7.
Another study researched ThymoQuin on metabolic function and fatty liver in a murine model of obesity. The eight-week study had three subject groups: group 1 – lean; group 2 – high fat diet; group 3 – high fat diet supplemented with ThymoQuin. In flammatory biomarkers, antioxidant biomarkers, mitochondrial biogenesis, tissue fat accumulation, and hepatic steatosis were determined. The results demonstrated that ThymoQuin intervention attenuated the obesity-mediated decrease of oxygen consumption and fasting glucose and improved mitochondrial biogenesis. These findings indicated that ThymoQuin could significantly impact the metabolic markers8.
TriNutra has taken a 2,000-year-old ingredient – commonly considered a commodity – and brought out its unrealized potential as a specialty product through ThymoQuin which is also the only full spectrum, black seed oil available in the market that meets USP monograph.
The company continues to invest in significant research to substantiate the roles of quality, composition, standardization, and bioavailability and how each affects the health benefits provided by black seed oil. With the BSO market expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.34% through 2030, reaching $37.71 million (Straits Research), the risk of ingredient adulteration and misinformation also grows.
This is why TriNutra is at the forefront of research and education for both the industry and consumers alike to bring to light the incredible potential of this blessing seed for improved health.
1 Dajani, E et al. “Overview of the Preclinical Pharmacological Properties of Nigella Sativa (Black Seeds): a Complementary Drug with Historical and Clinical Significance.” J Physiol Pharmacol. 2016