Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Black cumin, also known as Nigella sativa or simply black seed, is not actually related to cumin (it’s a member of the buttercup rather than carrot family). Black cumin is used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines just like any other regular spice, and has a peppery flavor. But it’s also been prized for purported medicinal benefits. Described as a “miracle herb,” with mentions going back to the Old Testament, it was found cached in King Tut’s tomb, for instance, and Prophet Muhammad is evidently quoted as saying black cumin could “heal every disease except death.” Only in the last 50 years or so has it been put to the test though, culminating in more than a thousand papers published in the medical literature.

Typical doses used in studies are just one or two grams a day, which is only about a quarter teaspoon. This enables researchers to perform randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials by stuffing the whole food spice powdered into capsules, rather than studying some component or extract.

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials have found that daily black cumin consumption significantly improves cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar control.  Some of the results were quite extraordinary. For example, one study found that postmenopausal women randomized to a gram a day (which is less than a quarter teaspoon) of black cumin powder reduced their LDL cholesterol by 27 percent within two months, significantly better than placebo. Those are the kind of results you’d expect from a statin drug, yet this was just a sprinkle’s worth of a simple spice. Black cumin may even help with menopausal symptoms. Now it didn’t cure anything; a month after stopping the spice, cholesterol levels started to creep back up, but it does appear to be a cheap, safe, effective (and delicious if you like things spicy) treatment for some of our deadliest risk factors. And the side effects? Loss of appetite and weight loss. Bingo!

The latest systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled weight loss trials found that about a quarter teaspoon of black cumin powder every day does appear to cause weight loss within a span of a few months. If it really can benefit so many facets of health, why don’t you hear more about it? Why wasn’t I taught about it in medical school? Maybe because there’s little profit motive. Black cumin is just a common, natural spice. The daily dose used in most of these studies would cost about three cents a day. You’re not going to thrill your stockholders by selling something you can’t patent that costs three cents a day. Black cumin has become a staple in my family’s daily diet. You can just keep a pepper mill filled with it right on the kitchen table, grinding it onto foods just like black pepper—easy and delicious.

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