Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant native to Arabia, India and Europe. Different cultures refer to it in different names such as black cumin, nutmeg flower, fennel flower or kalonji in Hindi.
Nigel sativa belongs to a family of flowering plants called ranunculaceae, or buttercup. It grows to about 30 centimeters long and produces light blue and white flowers.
It has a large fruit that contains seeds, which are used as spice in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. The nigella seeds, when dry-roasted, flavor vegetables, salads and curries. In Middle Eastern cookery, the seeds are used in breads and cheese.
The nigella sativa plant is also used to treat various health problems, including high blood pressure, migraine, hemorrhoids, constipation and rheumatoid arthritis. It is also used for remedying respiratory conditions including bronchitis, asthma, swine flu, cough and allergies, and it possibly helps lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Nigella may help block the progression of pancreatic cancer, according to About.com. Studies have shown that thymoquinone, the main ingredient of nigella sativa oil, reduces the levels of the inflammation causing compounds in pancreatic tumors.
In ancient times, the plant was used to treat toothaches, headaches and nasal congestion. Greek physicians used nigella to treat snakebites, scorpion stings, tumors, skin rashes and abscesses.