Life Extension Magazine January 2013
What Doctors Don't Know about Inflammation
By Logan Bronwell
Inflammation is an underlying culprit behind virtually all age-related diseases.1,2 That's why nutrients like curcumin, fish oil, and vitamin D have become so popular.
Less understood is that as maturing people suffer chronic inflammatory insults, they simultaneously encounter impairment of beneficial immune responses necessary to kill foreign invaders and malignant cells.
Aging destroys the delicate balance between destructive and protective inflammatory responses.1-4 Fortunately, scientists have discovered a method to turn back this lethal process! 5-9
In this article, you'll learn about a new discovery that can boost immune function while suppressing damaging inflammatory reactions.5-13
Chronic inflammation damages cells throughout our body, including the delicate linings of our arteries and our precious brain cells. About 25% of all cancers are associated with chronic inflammation that causes mutations that lead to malignant changes.14
A certain degree of healthy inflammation is needed, however, to protect us when the body encounters infectious agents,3 trauma, and malignant cells.
With aging there is an imbalance that results in low-level systemic inflammation slowly destroying tissues, while our ability to mount a strong immune response to pathologic killers is diminished. This imbalance underlies virtually all diseases of aging and early death.1,2
Scientists have found that oil from the seed of the black cumin plant (Nigella sativa) can reverse this age-related process!5-9
New discoveries reveal that black cumin seed oil contains potent but non-toxic compounds that suppress excessive inflammatory molecules5-7 while at the same time stimulating the normal, acute inflammation we need to fight infections and kill cancers.8,9,13
So how do our bodies distinguish between "good" inflammation and "dangerous" inflammation?
When optimally balanced, our bodies' chemical and cellular systems fine-tune the inflammatory response, providing enough immediate action to stop an invader, and then, at the correct moment, shut it down when the threat is gone.
But when age unbalances this system, our bodies gradually shift into a chronically inflamed state called inflammaging.3 At the same time, we increasingly develop immunosenescence, a loss of immune function that leaves us vulnerable to dangerous infections and cancers, both of which require a vigilant and potent immune system for their prevention.4
In recent years, hundreds of studies have emerged indicating that black cumin seed oil critically rebalances the body's inflammatory factors. Through this delicate balancing effect, this powerful seed oil battles a broad range of conditions, including allergies, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and colitis.
One of the earliest recorded uses of black cumin seed oil was for the prevention and treatment of arthritis.15 Nearly 52 million modern Americans suffer from some form of the disease, almost 23% of the adult population.16 Both major forms of arthritis, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, involve excessive inflammatory responses.
Black cumin seed oil has shown benefits in managing rheumatoid arthritis, a highly inflammatory condition. In addition to the joints, rheumatoid disease can afflict the heart, liver, nerves, and blood-forming cells.
A human study of black cumin seed oil has produced encouraging results. Forty women with rheumatoid arthritis had a one month washout period, during which they took a placebo capsule twice daily, followed by one month of taking 500 mg of black cumin seed oil twice daily.17 Subjects experienced a significant improvement on a standard 28-point scale used to assess how rheumatoid arthritis is affecting the body as a whole. Additionally, there was a reduction in the number of swollen joints and in the duration of morning stiffness. Remarkably, there was an overall reduction of symptoms in 42.5% of the patients.17
Black cumin seed oil has been shown to be effective in experimental models of osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis in humans.18 Treatment with thymoquinone, a component of black cumin seed oil, reduced levels of a protein-melting enzyme, known as MMP (matrix metalloproteinase), that destroys bone and joint tissue in osteoarthritis.15
Allergies and Asthma
Eight percent of Americans—18 million people—endure environmental allergies such as hay fever. Another 8.2% of Americans—18.7 million—suffer from asthma.19,20
These conditions are related. Both are driven by an overreaction of the immune system and resulting inflammation.
Nasal congestion and weepy eyes are the recognized symptoms of hay fever, the most common environmental allergy. Underlying these symptoms are marked increases in a host of pro-inflammatory factors.
These inflammatory factors include cytokines, such as interleukins, antibodies called IgE, and immune cells called eosinophils.
Lab studies show that black cumin seed oil and its active constituents have beneficial effects on all of these inflammatory factors. Thymoquinone, a component found in black cumin seed oil, was found to alter production of interleukins—both suppressing inflammatory interleukins and boosting anti-inflammatory interleukins.21
Mice treated with black cumin seed oil were found to have reduced numbers of eosinophils, cytokines, and inflammatory cells in their lung tissue.22 These changes were equivalent to those induced by dexamethasone, a potent, immune-suppressing steroid used to treat arthritis.22
A human study of 66 patients with allergic rhinitis produced compelling results. Treatment with black cumin seed oil resulted in a sharp decrease in IgE antibodies in nasal secretions, accompanied by significant reductions in nasal congestion and itching, runny nose, sneezing attacks.23
Black cumin seed oil also shows great promise in managing asthma, with its many inflammatory and allergic components. Lab studies show that both the seed oil and its thymoquinone constituent trigger relaxation of the trachea and large airways (bronchi), both of which can go into spasm during an asthma attack.22,24 The thymoquinone found in black cumin seed oil produces a sharp reduction in inflammatory mediators known as interleukins and leukotrienes, both of which play a role in asthma and allergy-related conditions.25,26