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What is nigella sativa? Does it help treat allergic rhinitis, or is this an old wives’ tale? Learning more about nigella sativa, or black seed, can help determine if it is useful in fighting off symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, plagues a huge portion of the population and can be irritating or might even be life threatening in severe cases. Also called seasonal allergies because they are worst during the growing season, a lot of home remedies have been tried, including black seed, or nigella sativa.

What is Nigella Sativa?

Also called black seed, fennel flower, or black cumin, nigella sativa is prevalently grown in India, Arabia, and many parts of Europe. In history, it’s been used commonly in foods for spice, especially in Indian foods.

In modern medicine, nigella sativa has become a “miracle drug” that is used as a home remedy in a number of ailments because it’s been scientifically noted that the substance has properties of healing and improving health, containing antioxidants and boosting the immune system.

What is Nigella Sativa used for?

Because of the promise it shows, despite a lack of large scale scientific research, nigella sativa is one of the newest natural remedies often employed without consulting a physician.

Some of the ailments people use it for include:

  • Asthma – A very small study in 2007 showed that asthma patients treated daily with nigella sativa extract versus a placebo showed significant improvement, with fewer asthma attacks, as well as less severe symptoms (like wheezing) when attacks did occur.
  • Inflammation – This seems to be the reason that black seed works so well for allergic rhinitis. By reducing inflammation, symptoms of allergies are significantly reduced, opening up nasal and sinus passages.
  • High blood pressure – Another study in 2008 in which patients with mild hypertension were given two daily treatments of black seed showed that their blood pressure was better controlled, with quite a reduction in blood pressure compared to patients who were given a placebo.

Nigella sativa hasn’t been extensively studied in other areas of treatment, but with some evidence produced by its use throughout history, other ailments it is believed to help with include:

  • Bronchitis
  • Migraines
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Toothaches
  • Intestinal worms and other parasites
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Abscesses
  • Diabetes (with powder showing promise in controlling sugar levels as well as cholesterol in diabetics)
  • Cancer (especially pancreatic cancer and lymphoblastic leukemia)
  • Pregnancy prevention
  • Menstrual cycle breast pain (using a gel or oil topically)
  • Eczema (orally as an oil, not topically)
  • Epilepsy and seizures (as an extract, orally)

While these claims are scientifically unsubstantiated, there are plenty of anecdotal tales to validate the attempt to cure many of these with black seed. And when it comes to allergic rhinitis, the fact that it helps with inflammation, as well as asthmatic symptoms, points highly to its ability to reduce the effects of allergic symptoms, regardless of the allergen causing the symptoms.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever (seasonal allergies), can cause some very annoying symptoms that reduce the quality of life on a daily basis, especially in growing season (spring). In some cases, allergies to pollen and mold, which are the most common causes of allergic rhinitis, can cause such a severe reaction that it becomes life-threatening.

Recognizing the symptoms of hay fever will help guide the ability to treat the symptoms, helping to discover when allergen is the problem and what treatments may work. Since nigella sativa appears to be a good herbal solution, this is often a first response.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis may be some or all of these:

  • Runny, stuffy, and/or itchy nose, as well as sneezing
  • Irritated, dry, or itchy throat, causing cough and hoarseness
  • Asthma inducing inflammation of the airways
  • Wheezing and other difficulty breathing
  • Itchy or rashy and irritated skin

Cause of allergic rhinitis

In order to better understand the ailment, it’s important to know what actually causes seasonal allergies. It starts with inhalation of an allergen in the air, whether pollen, mold, or something else. Once this happens, there are typical reactions by the body, which then produces histamine to fight off the unwanted substances that are recognized as foreign.

However, with allergies, the body confuses the histamine for another foreign object and creates antibodies that are meant to defend against the histamine. These antibodies produce the allergic reaction by proliferating inflammation, excess fluid, and excess mucus. These all result in irritation to skin, throat, nose, lungs, and more. For asthmatics, this is especially troublesome, since they already suffer inflammation of the airways that make breathing difficult at times.

It’s believed that the major reason nigella sativa helps reduce the consequences of allergic rhinitis is that it acts like an anti-inflammatory, reducing inflammation so that the affected areas aren’t so irritated. In addition, the immune boosting properties can help reduce the initial reaction to allergens. And the antioxidants boost health so that, even when allergic rhinitis strikes, the body is strong enough to work through it without feeling so drained.


Nigella sativa seems to be one of the latest discoveries from Eastern medicinal practices entering into use in Western practices. While doctors may be hesitant to recommend its use based on what they feel is insufficient proof through studies, a look at the overall health of those living in areas where this has been a common treatment for so many ailments shows much promise.

This is especially true of allergic rhinitis, in which ingesting nigella sativa extract or oil at least once a day could not only help treat and reduce allergy symptoms but help avoid the reaction to start with. And the substance has other promising aspects as well, including the ability to potentially fight off certain cancers, help control diabetes and hypertension, and much more.

Rather than purchase antihistamines and decongestants that can cause side effects and cause a build up of tolerance to the treatment, consider the herbal option first, and see if it works before switching to chemicals.

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