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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 188-189

Potential role of Nigella sativa (black cumin) in epilepsy

Department of Pharmacology, Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara College of Medical Sciences and Hospital, Sattur, Dharwad, Karnataka, India

Date of Web Publication16-May-2014

Correspondence Address:
Prasan R. Bhandari
Department of Pharmacology, Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara College of Medical Sciences and Hospital, Sattur, Dharwad - 580 009, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2231-0738.132680

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How to cite this article:
Bhandari PR. Potential role of Nigella sativa (black cumin) in epilepsy. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2014;4:188-9

How to cite this URL:
Bhandari PR. Potential role of Nigella sativa (black cumin) in epilepsy. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis [serial online] 2014 [cited 2023 Feb 5];4:188-9. Available from:


There is a high prevalence of mental and neurological disorders worldwide; these account for 13% of total disability-adjusted life years lost due to all diseases and injuries in the world. World Health Organization estimates that 450 million persons suffer from mental illness. [1] Around 50 million people worldwide are afflicted with epilepsy. It is estimated that there are more than 10 million people with epilepsy in India. [2] Nearly 30% of epileptics do not have control even though good medicines are available. Each year in India the incidence rate of epilepsy is around 49.3 per 100,000 individuals reported by a solitary study, which would be nearer to half a million. [3] Unresponsiveness to the standard antiepileptic medications, serious and chronic toxicity has led these patients to resort to alternative and complementary forms of medicines. [4] During the past couple of decades, the indigenous or traditional system of medicine has generated interest in the field of medicine. In majority of the developing countries, a significant percentage of people rely on traditional practitioners, who in turn are dependent on medicinal plants, to meet their primary healthcare needs. Though conventional allopathic drugs are available, herbal medicines are continued to be used for historical and cultural reasons. Since the utility of these herbal medicines have escalated, concern about their quality, safety, and efficacy in industrialized and developing countries have cropped up. Increasing interest has forced the researcher to scientifically screen various traditional claims. There is a need for screening the traditional claims because in this scientific era, everyone is interested in the scientific support before using traditional drugs. [5]

Traditionally, seeds of Nigella sativa (NS) Linn. (Ranunculaceae), also known as black seed or black cumin, is being used round the globe for the prevention as well as treatment of a number of diseases and conditions that include asthma, diarrhea, and dyslipidemia. The therapeutic properties that have been attributed to the seeds/oil include, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antimicrobial, and antineoplastic activity, besides nephroprotective and hepatoprotective properties. Much of the biological activity of the seeds has been shown to be due to thymoquinone (TQ), the major component of the essential oil. Additionally, in traditional medicine, NS has been known for its anticonvulsant effects.

Experimental studies have demonstrated potential anticonvulsant and potent antioxidant effects of NS oil in reducing oxidative stress, excitability, and the induction of seizures in epileptic animals besides ameliorating certain adverse effects of antiepileptic drugs. [6] Drugs like benzodiazepines and barbiturates that enhance the function of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) A receptors as well as drugs targeting the GABA-binding site of the GABA A receptor are commonly used as effective antiepileptic agents. [7] NS oil was demonstrated to be effective in preventing pentylenetetrazole (PTZ)-induced seizures compared to valproate. The results from this study suggest that TQ could have anticonvulsant activity in the petit mal epilepsy possibly through an opioid receptor-mediated increase in GABAergic tone. [8] In spite of the availability and use of several antiepileptic drugs, about 15% of childhood epilepsy cases are resistant to treatment. A study conducted by Akhondian et al., evaluated the efficacy of this agent in reducing the frequency of seizures in childhood refractory epilepsy. The study demonstrated a reduction in the mean frequency of seizures during treatment with extract (P < 0.05). [9]

To elucidate its mechanism, Hosseini et al., demonstrated that the hydroalcoholic extract of NS prevents scopolamine-induced spatial memory deficits and decreases the anticholinesterase activity as well as oxidative stress of brain tissues in rats. [10] The data obtained also support the hypothesis that its neuroprotective action may correlate with its ability to inhibit not only excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation but also seizure generation. [11] The oral administration of NS induced an elevation in aspartate and glutamate contents, whereas, the levels of GABA and glycine were decreased. [12]

No significant adverse effects were seen in liver or kidney functions following administration of either the seed extract or its oil. However, the administration of the seed extract for up to 12 weeks increased the packed cell volume and hemoglobin, and a decrease in plasma concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose. The seeds are characterized by a very low degree of toxicity. [13] Black seed significantly inhibited CYP2D6- and CYP3A4-mediated metabolism, indicating that it has the potential to interact with CYP2D6 and CYP3A4 substrates. [14]

In vitro and in vivo research has investigated the antiepileptic and adverse effects of NS/TQ against several animal models of epilepsy. As a result, information has been generated from research, thus, providing a better understanding of the antiepileptic activity of this compound. Therefore, it is appropriate that these agents should move from testing on the bench to clinical experiments.

However, certain herbs and botanicals could be proconvulsant or might modify metabolism of antiepileptic or other medications. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, additional preclinical and clinical evaluation using validated scientific methods is necessary based on various anecdotal interpretation of clinical benefit in patients with epilepsy besides published information elucidating mechanisms of action relevant to epilepsy or anticonvulsant effects in animal models of epilepsy.

   References Top

1.Thakur P, Rana AC. Anxiolytic potential of medicinal plants. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2013;3:325-31.  Back to cited text no. 1
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2.Kr PS, Jangra MK, Yadav AK. Herbal and synthetic approaches for the treatment of epilepsy. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2014;4:43-52.  Back to cited text no. 2
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3.Durugkar S, Gujjarlamudi HB, Sewliker N. Quality of life in epileptic patients in doctor's perspective. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2014;4:53-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
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4.Abdollahi Fard M, Shojaii A. Efficacy of Iranian traditional medicine in the treatment of epilepsy. Biomed Res Int 2013;2013:692751.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Bhat ZA, Kumar D, Shah MY. Angelica archangelica Linn. is an angel on earth for the treatment of diseases. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2011;1:36-50.  Back to cited text no. 5
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6.Ezz HS, Khadrawy YA, Noor NA. The neuroprotective effect of curcumin and Nigella sativa oil against oxidative stress in the pilocarpine model of epilepsy: A comparison with valproate. Neurochem Res 2011;36:2195-204.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Banga PV, Patil CY, Deshmukh GA, Chandaliya KC, Baig MS, Doifode SM. Biosynthesis, mechanism of action, and clinical importance of neuroactive steroids: Pearls from literature. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2013;3:77-86.  Back to cited text no. 7
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8.Hosseinzadeh H, Parvardeh S. Anticonvulsant effects of thymoquinone, the major constituent of Nigella sativa seeds, in mice. Phytomedicine 2004;11:56-64.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Akhondian J, Parsa A, Rakhshande H. The effect of Nigella sativa L. (black cumin seed) on intractable pediatric seizures. Med Sci Monit 2007;13:CR555-9.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Hosseini M, Mohammadpour T, Karami R, Rajaei Z, Sadeghnia HR, Soukhtanloo M. Effects of the hydro-alcoholic extract of Nigella Sativa on scopolamine-induced spatial memory impairment in rats and its possible mechanism. Chin J Integr Med 2014.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Hosseini M, Mohammadpour T, Karami R, Rajaei Z, Sadeghnia HR, Soukhtanloo M. Antiepileptogenic and antioxidant effects of Nigella sativa oil against pentylenetetrazol-induced kindling in mice. Neuropharmacology 2005;49:456-64.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Arafa NM, Abdel-Rahman M, El-khadragy MF, Kassab RB. Evaluation of the possible epileptogenic activity of ciprofloxacin: The role of Nigella sativa on amino acids neurotransmitters. Neurochem Res 2013;38:174-85.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Ali BH, Blunden G. Pharmacological and toxicological properties of Nigella sativa. Phytother Res 2003;17:299-305.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Al-Jenoobi FI, Al-Thukair AA, Abbas FA, Ansari MJ, Alkharfy KM, Al-Mohizea AM, et al. Effect of black seed on dextromethorphan O- and N-demethylation in human liver microsomes and healthy human subjects. Drug Metab Lett 2010;4:51-5.  Back to cited text no. 14

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