Commonly Known As “Love in the Mist” A Beautiful Middle Eastern Herb With Many Uses

Dr. Michael Tierra L.AC., O.M.D.

Nigella, (NIGELLA SATIVA L.) Black Cumin, Fitch (Biblical), Love in the Mist, Fitches
“…For the fitches are not thrashed with a threshing instrument. ..but the fitches are beaten out with a staff…” Isaiah 28

  • Parts Used: seeds
  • Energy and Flavors: Hot energy, spicy flavor
  • Systems Affected: Lungs, Stomach, spleen
  • Biochemical Constituents: Alanine, arginine, ascorbic-acid, asparagine, campesterol, carvone, cymene, cystine, dehydroascorbic-acid, eicosadienoic-acid, glucose, glutamic-acid, glycine, iron, isoleucine, leucine, d-limonene, linoleic-acid, linolenic-acid, lipase, lysine, methionine, myristic-acid, nigellin, nigellone, oleic-acid, palmitic-acid, phenylalanine, phytosterols, potassium, beta-sitosterol, alpha-spinasterol, stearic-acid, stigmasterol, tannin, threonine, thymohydroquinone, thymoquinone, tryptophan, tyrosine
  • Properties: Stimulant, aromatic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, excitant, galactatagogue, purgative, resolvent, stimulant, stomachic, sudorific, tonic, and vermifuge

Uses: For me the common name “love in the mist” aptly describes the poetry of this exquisite plant. In the garden, one easily imagines etheric spirits flitting about amongst its evanescent bluish-white blossoms. Even the seedpods, which are so often used in dried flower arrangements, suggest an otherworldly sense of exotic enchantment. Is it possible that such a delicately beautiful herb, with such potent medicinal properties would be so hardy as to easily reseed itself in our gardens year after year?

With an exalted position of use throughout the Middle East and to a somewhat lesser extent in India and other Eastern lands, the information about Nigella I owe to herbalist, plant-scientist extraordinaire, Jim Duke as presented in his book Medicinal Plants of the Bible. In it he describes Black Cumin as a Muslim Miracle Herb which, according to an Arab Proverb it is said that, ‘in the black seed is the medicine for every disease except death.’

I have spoken with a Turkish colleague who reports that it the seeds are widely cultivated and traded in ton lots within his country throughout the Middle East, Northern Africa and India. The seeds are used both as a condiment in bread and cakes and various confections and like pepper or combined with pepper such as cayenne in sauces. The Ethiopians add along with other spices to flavor local alcoholic beverages. Still another use is to sprinkle them with woolen garments as a moth repellant.

The major uses I have employed it for are upper respiratory conditions, allergies, coughs, colds, bronchitis, fevers, flu, asthma and emphysema for which it is effective. Simply collect the abundance of seeds from the pods and grind them to a paste and mix with melted honey to a ‘hahlava’ (a Middle Eastern confection usually made with toasted sesame seeds and honey). Jim Duke confirms its folk use for these and a wide variety of other diseases and conditions including bilious ailments, calluses, cancer, colic, corns, eruptions, headache, jaundice, myrmecia, orchitis, puerperal fever, sclerosis, skin, snakebite, stomachache, swellings, tumors of the abdomen and eyes, and warts. In Algeria, the roasted seeds are combined with butter for cough and honey and taken for colic.

For upper respiratory conditions, at least a few of its constituents have shown an antihistamine-like action, which explains is positive effects for upper respiratory diseases including asthma, bronchitis, and cough. The oils of the seed increase milk flow which explains its folk use as a galactagogue. In large quantities, however, the seeds have also been used to abortion.

It is unusual for a hot spicy herb to have a positive effect on liver diseases as it is used by the Lebanese. Of course, one of its most obvious uses is for diarrhea and dysentery, combined with astringents. Externally the seeds can be ground to a powder, mixed with a little flour as a binder and applied directly to abscesses, on the forehead for headache, nasal ulcers, orchitis, and rheumatism. The seeds also are a rich source of sterols, especially beta-sitosterol, which is known to have anticarcinogenic activity. This substantiates its folk use for indurations and/or tumors of the abdomen, eyes and liver.

In India, Nigella seeds are combined with various purgatives to allay gripping and colic and also help kill and expel parasites. Middle Eastern Unani medicine affirms its abortifacient properties and also use it as a diuretic to relieve ascites, for coughs, eye-sores, hydrophobia, jaundice, paralysis, piles and tertian fever.

Contraindications: Do not take during pregnancy.

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