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I was pleasantly surprised to learn about some recent research on the positive effects of black cumin seed oil and Hashimoto’s disease. I’m always searching for compounds that can help my patients with Hashimoto’s disease and black cumin seed oil looks like a real winner. In this article I break down two promising studies on black cumin seed oil and how it can help autoimmune thyroiditis.
What is Black Cumin Seed?
Black cumin seed is also known as Nigella sativa which is a medicinal plant and the seeds have been used in traditional and folk medicine in the Middle East for centuries. Black cumin seeds are used mainly in Iranian, Pakistani and Northern Indian cuisines. Black cumin seeds contain compounds that have the following properties:
Enhanced blood sugar metabolism thus improving insulin resistance
Decreases pain (Analgesic)
Antimicrobial against bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi
Breaks down biofilms and prevents biofilm formation
Supports a healthy microbiome
Reduces lung inflammation
Specific chronic diseases that black cumin seed has been shown to improve include:
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Coronary artery disease
High blood pressure
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Urinary tract disorders
Hair loss (alopecia)
Loss of appetite
What did the latest research show on Hashimoto’s disease?
40 patients were split into two groups of 20 receiving black cumin seed and 20 receiving a placebo. 2 grams a day of black cumin seed powder was taken for 8 weeks.
What improved at the end of the 8 week study period in those who took black cumin seed?
Body Mass Index (BMI) improved
Waist circumference improved
Hip circumference improved
TSH decreased indicating improved thyroid function
T3 increased which is the most active form of thyroid hormone
Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO) decreased
None of the above measurements improved in the placebo group who just took a starch pill. This clearly indicates the black cumin seed had a profound effect on weight loss, metabolism, thyroid function and improvement in the Hashimoto’s antibody thyroid peroxidase (TPO).
What is it that resulted in such excellent improvements?
Black cumin seeds contain a compound called thymoquinone that has all of these beneficial properties. Thymoquinone has been heavily studied and one of its mechanisms is suppression of the COX-2 enzyme resulting in reduced inflammation. COX-2 inhibitors like Celebrex are popular drugs for inflammatory conditions but black cumin seed has similar benefits without the side effects.
Thymoquinone also has also been shown in previous research to improve thyroid function. Not only has it been shown to increase T3 but it actually can repair thyroid tissue that has been damaged by your immune system.
Black cumin seeds also contain thymohydroquinone and thymol which also have many of the same benefits.
Is there more research on black cumin seed oil and Hashimoto’s disease?
Another exciting paper was just published which looked specifically at black cumin seeds and their effect on lipids, glucose metabolism, and anthropometric variables including body weight and body mass index (BMI).
The authors start by discussing the connection between hypothyroidism and lipids such as cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL. High cholesterol levels are a hallmark sign of hypothyroidism which is interesting because some patients are prescribed cholesterol-lowering medication without a proper thyroid evaluation. One of the signs of successfully managing hypothyroidism is observing the drop in cholesterol levels as thyroid function improves. Hypothyroidism also increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The authors also state that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes and diabetes is a common condition associated with heart disease. In fact, up to 38% of patient with type 2 diabetes also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Interestingly, the authors also discuss some of the potential negative consequences of taking the thyroid medication levothyroxine sodium which includes bone loss, cardiac dysfunction, and left ventricular hypertrophy.
They then discuss all of the known benefits of black cumin seed oil.
How was the study done?
40 patients aged 20-50 with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis confirmed with elevated anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPOAb) antibodies and TSH, T4, and T3 were also measured. None of them had taken any supplements or followed any diets 3 months prior to the trial.
Patients in the intervention group took 2 grams of Nigella sativa powder per day and those in the placebo group took 2 grams of starches per day for 8 weeks. The black cumin seeds were milled in a grinder to make the powder. Both groups were instructed to take 1 gram with lunch and 1 gram with dinner each day.
What did they measure?
Bodyweight, BMI, waist circumference, and 3-days of food logged.
Physical activity was measured based on intensity to an average weekday.
Fasting blood tests were obtained at the beginning and end of the 8 weeks which included:
Insulin resistance was measured using the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) which is a calculation of glucose x insulin / 405.
What were the study results?
The weight and the BMI of those taking black cumin seed significantly reduced after 8 weeks compared to the placebo group which had no changes.
LDL and triglycerides significantly reduced in the study group.
HDL levels increased in the study group.
The atherogenic index improved in the study group which is a marker of heart disease risk.
TSH and anti-TPO concentrations decreased.
T3 levels increased slightly.
In the discussion, the authors provide information about the potential reasons for these positive outcomes. The effects on weight could be explained by the mechanism that black cumin seeds increase the feeling of fullness and satiety. Black cumin seeds also decrease the absorption of lipids which can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Black cumin seeds have also been shown to decrease fat storage and the spread of fat cells as well as increasing the breakdown of fat.
We know from the first paper I cover in this article on black cumin seeds and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis that it is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent which explains the reduction in TPOAb levels and a reduction in inflammation can also help with weight loss and insulin sensitivity.
What did the authors conclude?
Black cumin seed oil improves lipids and reduces body weight in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. They recommend this supplement as an adjunct to thyroid medication for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Do I have to supplement?
There are a variety of ways to add black cumin seeds to your diet. You can make tea by pouring hot water over 1 tablespoon of black cumin seeds and steep for 10 minutes. You can also add the seeds to salads, salad dressings, stir-fries, baked goods, casseroles etc. If you drink protein shakes simply add 1 tablespoon of black cumin seeds to your shake. If you just want to optimize your health, then you are probably fine just adding the seeds to your diet.
What is the best way to take black cumin seed?
You could grind up your own seeds every day to consume the equivalent of 2 grams a day in the above study but this can be inconvenient. Or you could take a highly concentrated cold-pressed organic black cumin seed oil in softgel form. I like the organic black cumin seed oil softgels from Moss Nutrition. Black cumin seed oil is better absorbed and most of the health benefits are due to the compound thymoquinone which is much more concentrated in the oil.
I wouldn’t recommend buying the oil in glass jars that are available because you don’t really know how much light exposure they have had which results in oxidation of the oil.
In addition to some extraordinary benefits for Hashimoto’s disease, it is clear that black cumin seeds have many additional health benefits that everyone can enjoy. My patients have reported rapid improvement in their symptoms when adding the black cumin seed oil softgels to their regimens. I look forward to reviewing more before and after blood tests for Hashimoto’s disease so we can view the improvements in real time.
This is one supplement you don’t want to overlook if you have Hashimoto’s disease!