Also known as fennel flower, Roman coriander, black caraway and kalonji, nigella sativa is a plant which originates from south and southwest Asia. Egypt is known to be the one of the earliest cultivation areas of the plant, which seeds are used as a spice in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. It was also found in Tutankamun’s tomb (Egyptians entombed their pharaohs with items that were to assist them in the afterlife). Let’s see what positive health effects nigella sativa has and how to incorporate it into your cooking.
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The health benefits of this plant’s seed (also referred to as black seed) are various. Thymoquinone, a phytochemical compound found in black seed, kills leukemia, colon, oral and breast cancer cells, and reduces tumor growth. It affects glioblastoma cells the same way by inducing apoptosis (cell death), with glioblastoma being most aggressive brain tumors of all. Black seed helps those who suffer from type 2 diabetes by decreasing insulin resistance, reducing blood sugar levels and increasing pancreas’ beta-cell function. It also has heart-protective qualities, boosting overall heart health, and antiepileptic effects, reducing the frequency of seizures among children who resist standard epilepsy treatment. Nigella black seeds were found to be effective in treating asthma and in long-term opiate addiction treatments. It enhances skin complexion, cures eczema, diarrhea and boosts memory due to its neuron-protecting and antioxidant properties.
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Nigella seeds are small, black grains. Their surface is rough, while the interior is oily-white. They have a slightly bitter and peppery flavor, and are fried or crushed (mortar and pestle) before use. Nigella is widely used as a spice or a pepper substitute, especially in Indian and Pakistani cuisine. Outside Asia, they can be found in well-equipped organic food stores. There are also online organic food stores that deliver your orders directly to your home. Buying nigella sativa at Organics on a budget will, for example, relieve you from all shipping costs and provide you with nigella seeds for your cuisine.
The simplest way of consuming nigella sativa is by making tea. Pour hot water in a cup over a tablespoon of seed, and let in brew steep for 10 minutes. You add a few seeds to your favorite tea or coffee.
Nigella is used as main and decorative spice. It can be added to breads (in India they often put it in bread dough), casseroles, salad dressings or sprinkled on salads (in grinded form). Combined with lemon or cilantro, it serves as a great addition to fry dishes. Oil is also made from nigella seeds, and it is comprised of proteins, carbohydrates, plant oils and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This oil is great for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
Find traditional recipes online for preparing Balochi fish, Balochi and Katonji chicken, Black pepper beef, and vegetable dishes such as Bhindi Basala (green vegetables) and Tomato Bhujia. You can make Alushahi (an Asian version of doughnuts) and Black Seed Flat Bread. It goes great with rice along with saunf or jeera, and any type of stew or curry is more than welcoming for nigella seed. Nigella is included in the famous Bengali five-spice mix called panch phora or panch puran.
Now that you know the variety of nigella sativa health benefits, practice and experiment with new, exotic dishes and this ancient spice, or simply add it to your current cuisine. It will spice up the food nicely and provide a vast array of positive effects to your overall health.