Nigella sativa is a herb that is popularly used in traditional medicine systems such as Unani, siddha and Ayurveda. It is native to South and Southwest Asia.
It is also known as kalonji, black caraway, Roman coriander, fennel flower etc. Although it looks similar it is not to be confused with black cumin or black sesame. It is used as a spice to add flavour to curries, vegetables and breads.
It has a number of pharmacological properties such as anticancer, antidiabetic, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-microbial, gastroprotective etc.
Traditionally it has been used as an antihypertensive, anti-bacterial, digestive, appetite stimulant and analgesic.
Can Nigella Sativa help in Weight Loss?
Most of the therapeutic properties are attributed to thymoquinone , a bioactive compound present in kalonji.
1. Kalonji helps in obesity and related diseases
A clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the effect of N.sativa consumption on cardiovascular diseases. Participants were given a low calorie diet with 1g of oil prior to the meal thrice a day.
At the end of 8 weeks significant decrease in body weight and waist circumference was observed in the group consuming N.sativa oil. Also a decrease in cholesterol and blood lipids was observed. It was concluded that Nigella sativa oil can be used as a complementary therapy in obese individuals.
As a part of another study individuals were given powdered N.sativa seeds in the form of capsules and its effect on BMI, waist hip ratio, blood pressure, blood sugar and other related parameters was observed.
N.sativa favourably impacted all these parameters but the study sample was too small to make concrete conclusions.
Obesity can give rise to many other diseases such as heart diseases, cancer, insulin abnormalities etc.
Nigella sativa seed powder is also proven to have beneficial effects on blood lipid and blood sugar levels in menopausal women.
A study proves that Nigella sativa supplementation in conjunction to aerobic training helps in decreasing BMI, lipids and cholesterol.
What does this mean?
In addition to causing weight loss, kalonji can aid in treating diseases that are caused as a result of obesity.
2.Nigella sativa influences blood glucose levels positively
A balance of blood sugar and insulin levels is vital to facilitate healthy carbohydrate metabolism.
Carbohydrates account for significant calories which if not converted to energy can lead to weight gain. Also obesity and diabetes serve as risk factors for each other.
Insulin resistance syndrome occurs when insufficient levels or activity of insulin leads to increased blood glucose levels. Research proves that consumption of N.sativa oil can serve as an add-on therapy to those who are already taking anti-diabetic medicines.
This study demonstrates that 2.5 ml of the oil taken twice daily can reduce cholesterol and improve insulin levels within 8 weeks.
N.sativa oil in conjunction with oral hypoglycaemic drugs (blood sugar lowering drugs) can help improve glucose levels and boost antioxidant status in diabetic patients over the time.
A number of animal studies suggest that N.sativa supplementation help control blood sugar by regulating biochemical pathways, inhibiting absorption of glucose from diet and improving insulin sensitivity.
What does this mean?
Kalonji prevents weight gain by regulating carbohydrate metabolism and balancing glucose and insulin levels. This property is useful in treating diabetes.
3.The herb can boost your antioxidant defence
Nigella sativa oil improves antioxidant status by:
• Increasing production of antioxidant enzymes in the body
• Reducing oxidative stress (imbalance between prooxidant and antioxidant agents in body)
• Preventing lipid peroxidation (breakdown of lipids which can led to cell death)
Obese individuals have impaired antioxidant status. Improved antioxidant status is good for liver health and liver plays an essential role in regulating fats and lipids in the body.
What does this mean?
Compounds present in N.sativa have antioxidant properties which can help fight obesity and other diseases which result from impaired antioxidant status.
4.It lowers cholesterol and fats present in blood
N.sativa oil effectively reduces cholesterol and lipid levels. Certain bioactive compounds isolated from the seeds named ‘Nigellamines’ are found to promote lipid metabolism and their activity is as potent as that of clofibrate, a cholesterol lowering drug.
The mechanism behind this is activation of PPAR-alpha. It is a protein that is regulated to treat cholesterol disorders, abnormal lipid levels and reduce risk of heart diseases.
Research proves that the herb’s cholesterol lowering effect is comparable to simvastatin, a drug used to treat hyperlipidemia (condition of abnormally high lipid levels).
Review of clinical trials conducted to evaluate the effect of N.sativa supplementation on lipid levels indicates that it can be used as an adjuvant to lipid lowering drugs.
What does this mean?
N.sativa has hypolipidemic effect or lipid lowering property. It can help reduce cholesterol by promoting lipid metabolism or burning of fats.
How to take nigella sativa for weight loss?
Research studies recommend taking either powder of kalonji seeds (1.5-3grams) or oil (2-2.5 ml) twice or thrice daily with a low calorie diet. At least try it for a period of 6-8 weeks for visible results.
Research suggests that N.sativa and its products are safe and well tolerated. However there is a possibility of drug interaction. It is safe to consume it as a part of your diet, but avoid it any other form in case of pregnancy and lactation.
Take a health practitioner’s advice if you plan to take this herb as a weight loss supplement.
Kalonji’s property to lower cholesterol and ability to treat metabolic diseases suggest that it can promote weight reduction. It is also safe to consume and it is a pretty easy weight loss remedy.
Though there isn’t much scientific evidence supporting or denying its use in obesity. If you try it, let us know your feedback about kalonji.