Spices are one of my favorite ways to delicately add powerful anti-cancer properties to my daily food. A more exotic, and undeservingly ignored one in our Western diet is the Black Cumin Seed. A staple in Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, it has been used for medicinal healing purposes for thousands of years. Its Latin name panacea means “cure-all”.
When you start researching the healing effects of Black Cumin Seeds on cancer, it is amazing what a plethora of studies reveal.
Black Cumin seeds, also known as Nigella Sativa, harbors a potent anti-oxidant called Thymoquinone (TQ) not found in any other plant. TQ has been shown in numerous animal and test tube studies to affect cancer growth at all stages, from proliferation (dividing and replicating) to metastasis (moving away from initial tumor site and spreading), it can stop angiogenesis (when tumors attract new blood vessels) and set off apoptosis (cell death). It has also been shown to improve the effectiveness, and even reduce the toxicity of, chemotherapy drugs. TQ was found to sensitize tumor cells, making them more receptive to the therapeutic effects of chemotherapy.
That not being enough, tests showed TQ to have these effects on various types of cancer cells (breast, prostate, colon, skin, lung esophageal, pancreatic, ovarian, cervical and blood). TQ works on a genetic level and interferes by stopping DNA mutations, a direct pathway to cancer. It has also been shown to downregulate (reduce the activity) of two genes associated with cancer cell survival. Other studies showed that TQ blocked cellular receptors for the hormone androgen that can fuel prostate cancer growth. In extract form Black Cumin has been shown to decrease the production of the tumor growth factor FGF (fibroblastic growth factor).
The anti-cancer effects are so numerous that a scientific paper published in the Journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics suggests that TQ “could be used as a potential drug candidate for cancer therapy”.
Black Cumin Seeds are also a rich source of essential fatty acids vital to nurture our immune system, and have been shown to boost Natural Killer (NK) cells as well as cytotoxic T-cells which play a key role in attacking cancer cells. These potent seeds have heart protective qualities and have a healing effect on various other chronic conditions such as asthma, allergies, dermatitis, eczema as well as digestive issues such as colitis (inflammatory bowel disease) and even ulcers.
So where do you find this super-potent little black seed, as you sure cannot find it in your normal supermarket. Locally your best bet will be an Asian or Indian specialty food store, or better yet online, simply search for organic black cumin seeds. Make sure not to confuse them with Black Sesame seeds (look similar) or Cumin seeds as they have nothing in common with Black cumin seeds (Nigella Sativa).
Use this seed whole when making one pot meal dishes like curries, chilis, soups, stews, sauces, chutneys or spice rubs for marinating meats and poultry. A great way of enhancing their flavor is to dry-pan roast them first or about 3-4 minutes, then grind them in a pestle and mortar or use them whole, they have a peppery taste. They pair well with other Indian / Asian spices such as ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg and turmeric.
This is also an ideal supportive nutraceutical supplement to take, make sure you find a brand from a reputable company.
HEALING FISH SOUP
- 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil
- 1-2 onions, peeled and finely cubed
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 5-6 stalks of celery, sliced
- 1-2 large yams of sweet potatoes, finely cubed
- 3-5 potatoes, finely cubed
- 2 large carrots, finely cubed
- 1 small or ½ large butternut, finely cubed
- 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
- home-made fish stock or store-bought vegetable stock
- spices to taste:
- celtic sea salt & black pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon each: black cumin seeds (whole or ground), ground cardamom, ground ginger, ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground fennel, thyme, marjoram, sprinkle of Braggs liquid aminos (liquid seasoning)
- 2 bay leaves (remove once cooked)
- 1 lbs firm white fish, cut into small cubes
- bunch of parsley, chopped fine for garnish
- Add ghee or olive oil to a large pot & sweat off onion until translucent, add minced garlic and stir for a minute or two
- Add celery, yams, potatoes, carrots and butternut and stir often for about 5 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, spices & home made fish stock to cover and simmer until veggies are tender, but still firm.
- Add fish and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until fish is cooked through. Sprinkle with fresh parsley just before
Shanmugam MK, Arfuso F, Kumar AP, Wang L, Goh BC, Ahn KS, Bishayee A, Sethi G, “Modulation of diverse oncogenic transcription factors by thymoquinone, an essential oil compound isolated from the seeds of Nigella sativa Linn”, Pharmacol Res. 2017 Nov 21, pii: S1043-6618(17)30979-9. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2017.11.023.
Goyal SN, Prajapati CP, Gore PR, Patil CR, Mahajan UB, Sharma C, Talla SP, Ojha SK, “Therapeutic Potential and Pharmaceutical Development of Thymoquinone: A Multitargeted Molecule of Natural Origin”, Front Pharmacol. 2017 Sep 21;8:656. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00656.
Bouhlel A, Ben Mosbah I, Hadj Abdallah N, Ribault C, Viel R, Mannaï S, Corlu A, Ben Abdennebi H. “Thymoquinone prevents endoplasmic reticulum stress and mitochondria-induced apoptosis in a rat model of partial hepatic warm ischemia reperfusion.”, Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Oct;94:964-973. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2017.08.018.
Barkat MA, Harshita, Ahmad J, Khan MA, Beg S, Ahmad FJ, “Insights into the Targeting Potential of Thymoquinone for Therapeutic Intervention Against Triple-negative Breast Cancer”, Curr Drug Targets. 2018;19(1):70-80. doi: 10.2174/1389450118666170612095959.
Farooqui Z, Shahid F, Khan AA, Khan F, “Oral administration of Nigella sativa oil and thymoquinone attenuates long term cisplatin treatment induced toxicity and oxidative damage in rat kidney”, Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Dec;96:912-923. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2017.12.007
Torres, Maria P. et al. “Effects of Thymoquinone in the Expression of Mucin 4 in Pancreatic Cancer Cells: Implications for the Development of Novel Cancer Therapies.” Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 9.5 (2010): 1419–1431. PMC. Web. 2 Feb. 2018.
Healing Spices by Bharat B Aggarwal, Phd with Debora Yost, Sterling Press (2011)
Herbal Medicine, Healing Cancer. A Comprehensive Program for Prevention and Treatment by Donald R Yance, Jr, CN, MH, AHG with Arlene Valentine