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Home > Types of Spices > Seeds > Black Cumin
Black Cumin
Black CuminBotanical Name: Nigella sativa Linn
Family: Umbelliferae

Indian Names are as follows:

Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu: Kalunji Kala Jira
Bengali:Kalo jeere
Sanskrit: Krishna-jiraka
Tamil: Karun jiragam
Telugu: Nulajirakara. Black cumin is the dried seed like fruit of a small herb about 45 cm in height.

Leaves of this plant are 2.5 to 3.0 cm long, cut into linear- lanceolate segments. The flowers are pale blue. The seeds are trigonous, black, regulose tubercular.

Analysis of black cumin seeds reveals:

Total ash: 3.8 to 5.3 %
Ash insoluble in acid:0.0 to 0.5 %
Volatile oil: 0.5 to 1.6 %
Ether extract (crude oil): 35.6 to 41.6 %
Alcoholic acidity as oleic acid (FFA): 3.4 to 6.3 %

The seeds give on steam distillation, a yellowish brown volatile oil with an unpleasant odor. The oil contains Carvone (45 to 60 %), d-limonene and cymene. A carbonyl compound, nigellone, which protects guinea pigs against histamine-induced broncho-spasm, has been isolated from the oil. Preliminary clinical trials indicate its possible therapeutic use in some conditions of cough and bronchial asthma.

The fatty oil obtained by the expression of seeds is reported to be used for edible purposes. Extraction with benzene and subsequent steam distillation of extract to remove the volatile oil gave about 31 % of reddish brown, semi-drying oil with the following characteristics:

Acid value:42.83
Saponification value:199.6
Iodine value:117.6
R.M. value: 3.9
Unsaponifiable matter: 0.03 %.

Besides the volatile oil and fatty oil, the black cumin seeds contain a bitter principle (nigellin), tannins, resins, proteins, reducing sugars (mostly glucose)., saponins, and Arabic acids. The free amino acids present in dormant seeds are: cystine, lysine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, alanine, tryptophan, valine and leucine.

This spice is a popular spice in India. It is used as a spice in many Indian dishes particularly fried dishes. It is also used in bakery items.

The seed has a lot of medicinal virtues. The seeds of this plant are considered carminative, stimulant, diuretic, emenagogue, galactogogue, and are used in the treatment of mild cases of puerperal fever. They are externally applied for skin eruptions. They are also used against scorpion sting. They can be used as a stabilizing agent for edible fat.

The flowers of the plant yield nectar. Thus, if beekeeping is practiced it is possible to harvest a lot of honey. The honey is of good taste and yield vitamins and minerals apart from sugar. By practicing beekeeping production of the crop can be enhanced due to cross-pollination.

The plant can play a vital role to rejuvenate our rural economy, if utilized in a planned and effective manner. Since the post harvesting process is simple, low investment and low technology projects can easily be implemented. Considering its various virtues, varieties of projects can be planned down stream. With various types of schemes in place, if properly planned implementation is not difficult.
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