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Life Extension Magazine January 2013
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What Doctors Don't Know about Inflammation

By Logan Bronwell
What You Need to Know
Healthy Couple

What Is Black Cumin Seed Oil?

Black cumin is one of the most ancient of herbal remedies. Though it has been used as a spice, black cumin should not be confused with common cumin (Cuminum cyminum).5 In many folk traditions, black cumin's antioxidant properties made it an attractive food preservative.5

Oil extracted from black cumin seeds contains a variety of components, all of which have potent free radical scavenging properties.5,7 Of these, thymoquinone is the best understood. In addition to its antioxidant powers, thymoquinone suppresses the activities of enzymes that produce inflammatory cytokines such as interleukins and leukotrienes.

But black cumin seed oil doesn't stop at suppressing inflammation. It contains other powerful ingredients that augment the immune system's patrolling surveillance and "killer" cells responsible for identifying threats such as infection and cancer cells.6

It's this ability to restore balance to the aging immune system that justifies black cumin seed's traditional names "seeds of blessing" and "panacea."5,7

Colitis and Gastro-Protection

Colitis—meaning inflammation of the colon, or large intestine—is most commonly seen in inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that up to 1.4 million Americans suffer from this condition.27

There is still no medical cure.

However, black cumin seed oil and its components exert powerful effects that can slow colonic inflammation.6 Lab studies reveal that pre-treating animals with thymoquinone as extracted from black cumin seed oil completely prevents experimentally-induced colitis.28

Importantly, treatment with black cumin seed oil lowers levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.29

Studies have shown that both black cumin seed oil and thymoquinone strongly protect the delicate stomach lining against the injurious effects of alcohol and other toxins, and even against the effects of stress.30,31 Markers of tissue oxidation were sharply reduced.30

Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis

Cardiovascular Disease

Atherosclerosis is a major consequence of chronic inflammation—making it an appropriate target for therapy with anti-inflammatory black cumin seed oil, with its powerful antioxidant effects. Working together, these two mechanisms lower the risk of atherosclerosis and consequently, heart attacks, strokes, and other artery diseases.

Animals supplemented with black cumin seed oil demonstrated lower levels of dangerous LDL-cholesterol, and higher levels of HDL cholesterol, which may be protective.32,33

Black cumin seed oil neutralizes lipid oxidation and reduces the impact of oxidized LDL, a major trigger for the atherosclerotic plaques that block blood flow to cause heart attacks and strokes.33

Black cumin seed oil has a major impact on a destructive process known as ischemia-reperfusion injury. This serious damage occurs to tissue and organs when, following blockage of an artery, the oxygen-rich blood flow is then restored. This complex phenomenon releases a massive outpouring of reactive oxygen species that can damage tissue as severely as the original blockage! Ischemia-reperfusion injury is responsible for many of the debilitating long-term effects seen in survivors of strokes and heart attacks.

For example, the powerful protection provided by black cumin seed oil against ischemia-reperfusion injury has now been convincingly demonstrated in the kidney—one of the main targets of the insidious effects of atherosclerosis.34

How Does Black Cumin Seed Oil Work?
Couple Playing

Black cumin seed oil is a complex mixture of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory components. These capabilities have made it useful in fighting diseases related both to excessive inflammation (virtually all age-related conditions) and to the impaired immune response of old age.6

Here are the major processes that have been identified as black cumin seed oil's mechanisms of action:

1. Antioxidant: Black cumin seed oil contains powerful antioxidants that reduce intracellular products of oxidation, boost natural cellular antioxidant systems, and scavenge free radicals before they can do harm.6,35

2. Anti-Inflammatory: Black cumin seed oil's constituents that have multiple anti-inflammatory mechanisms:

  • Suppress activity of the "master inflammatory regulator" complex NF-kappaB.36
  • Inhibit important enzyme systems such as 5-LOX and COX1 that produce inflammatory mediators called leukotrienes and prostaglandins.26,37,38
  • Reduce production of a compound called 5-HETE, a precursor of inflammatory molecules.38,39
  • Inhibit production and activity of interleukins, cytokines with complex immune modulating properties. Black cumin seed oil constituents reduce production of inflammatory interleukins, and may boost production of anti-inflammatory ones.40-42

3. Immune-Modulating Effects: In addition to suppressing chronic inflammation and free radicals, black cumin oil contributes to beneficial immune responses:

  • It boosts the infection- and cancer-fighting abilities of specific cells in the immune system.6,7
  • Black cumin seed constituents trigger appropriate activation of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the face of stimulation by dangerous bacterial structural molecules, a function vital for developing acute inflammatory responses to infections.8,9

Summary

The twin problems of increased harmful chronic inflammation combined with decreased beneficial immune responses are major contributors to aging, chronic disease, and early death.

The oil of black cumin seed has historically been used to combat conditions we now understand to be related to these fundamental, age-related, inflammatory and immunological disturbances.

Modern scientific analysis shows that black cumin seed oil contains components that re-establish optimal inflammatory balance—powerfully suppressing chronic inflammation, while at the same time promoting healthy immune responses.

As a result of that delicate immunological balancing, supplementation with black cumin seed oil has the potential to slow—and even reverse—many of the most devastating aging-related conditions.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.

References

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2. Jenny NS, French B, Arnold AM, et al. Long-term assessment of inflammation and healthy aging in late life: The Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012 Feb 24. [Epub ahead of print]

3. Franceschi C. Inflammaging as a major characteristic of old people: can it be prevented or cured? Nutr Rev. 2007 Dec;65(12 Pt 2):S173-6.

4. Kanapeckiene V, Kalibatas J, Redaitiene E, Ceremnych J. The association between cytomegalovirus infection and aging process. Medicina (Kaunas). 2007;43(5):419-24.

5. Padhye S, Banerjee S, Ahmad A, Mohammad R, Sarkar FH. From here to eternity - the secret of Pharaohs: Therapeutic potential of black cumin seeds and beyond. Cancer Ther. 2008;6(b):495-510.

6. Shahzad M, Yang X, Raza Asim MB, et al. Black seed oil ameliorates allergic airway inflammation by inhibiting T-cell proliferation in rats. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Feb;22(1):37-43. Epub 2008 Nov 27.

7. Butt MS, Sultan MT. Nigella sativa: reduces the risk of various maladies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Aug;50(7):654-65.

8. Finlay TM, Abdulkhalek S, Gilmour A, et al. Thymoquinone-induced Neu4 sialidase activates NFkappaB in macrophage cells and pro-inflammatory cytokines in vivo. Glycoconj J. 2010 Aug;27(6):583-600.

9. Finlay TM, Jayanth P, Amith SR, et al. Thymoquinone from nutraceutical black cumin oil activates Neu4 sialidase in live macrophage, dendritic, and normal and type I sialidosis human fibroblast cells via GPCR Galphai proteins and matrix metalloproteinase-9. Glycoconj J. 2010 Apr;27(3):329-48.

10. Majdalawieh AF, Hmaidan R, Carr RI. Nigella sativa modulates splenocyte proliferation, Th1/Th2 cytokine profile, macrophage function and NK anti-tumor activity. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Sep 15;131(2):268-75. Epub 2010 Jun 30.

11. Salem ML, Hossain MS. Protective effect of black seed oil from Nigella sativa against murine cytomegalovirus infection. Int J Immunopharmacol. 2000 Sep;22(9):729-40.

12. Salem ML, Alenzi FQ, Attia WY. Thymoquinone, the active ingredient of Nigella sativa seeds, enhances survival and activity of antigen-specific CD8-positive T cells in vitro. Br J Biomed Sci. 2011;68(3):131-7.

13. Salem ML. Immunomodulatory and therapeutic properties of the Nigella sativa L. seed. Int Immunopharmacol. 2005 Dec;5(13-14):1749-70.

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22. Abbas AT, Abdel-Aziz MM, Zalata KR, Abd Al-Galel Tel D. Effect of dexamethasone and Nigella sativa on peripheral blood eosinophil count, IgG1 and IgG2a, cytokine profiles and lung inflammation in murine model of allergic asthma. Egypt J Immunol. 2005;12(1):95-102.

23. Nikakhlagh S, Rahim F, Aryani FH, Syahpoush A, Brougerdnya MG, Saki N. Herbal treatment of allergic rhinitis: the use of Nigella sativa. Am J Otolaryngol. 2011 Sep-Oct;32(5):402-7.

24. Al-Majed AA, Daba MH, Asiri YA, Al-Shabanah OA, Mostafa AA, El-Kashef HA. Thymoquinone-induced relaxation of guinea-pig isolated trachea. Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol. 2001;110(5-6):333-45.

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26. El Gazzar M, El Mezayen R, Nicolls MR, Marecki JC, Dreskin SC. Downregulation of leukotriene biosynthesis by thymoquinone attenuates airway inflammation in a mouse model of allergic asthma. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2006 Jul;1760(7):1088-95.

27. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ibd/. Accessed July 12, 2012.

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29. Isik F, Tunali Akbay T, Yarat A, et al. Protective effects of black cumin (Nigella sativa) oil on TNBS-induced experimental colitis in rats. Dig Dis Sci. 2011 Mar;56(3):721-30.

30. Kanter M, Demir H, Karakaya C, Ozbek H. Gastroprotective activity of Nigella sativa L oil and its constituent, thymoquinone against acute alcohol-induced gastric mucosal injury in rats. World J Gastroenterol. 2005 Nov 14;11(42):6662-6.

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38. Mansour M, Tornhamre S. Inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase and leukotriene C4 synthase in human blood cells by thymoquinone. J Enzyme Inhib Med Chem. 2004 Oct;19(5):431-6.

39. El-Dakhakhny M, Madi NJ, Lembert N, Ammon HP. Nigella sativa oil, nigellone and derived thymoquinone inhibit synthesis of 5-lipoxygenase products in polymorphonuclear leukocytes from rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002 Jul;81(2):161-4.

40. Vaillancourt F, Silva P, Shi Q, Fahmi H, Fernandes JC, Benderdour M. Elucidation of molecular mechanisms underlying the protective effects of thymoquinone against rheumatoid arthritis. J Cell Biochem. 2011 Jan;112(1):107-17.

41. Keyhanmanesh R, Boskabady MH, Khamneh S, Doostar Y. Effect of thymoquinone on the lung pathology and cytokine levels of ovalbumin-sensitized guinea pigs. Pharmacol Rep. 2010 Sep-Oct;62(5):910-6.

42. Nemmar A, Al-Salam S, Zia S, et al. Contrasting actions of diesel exhaust particles on the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems and the effects of thymoquinone. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Dec;164(7):1871-82.