The first study of its kind suggests that the flowering plant Nigella sativa protects the liver against reperfusion injuries after hepatic ischemia, which results when an insufficient amount of blood or oxygen
reaches the liver.
The seeds of Nigella sativa are known as the spice black cumin in the United States, and the plant is said to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antihistaminic, and antibacterial effects. The spice has an honored history as a sotr of panacea in folk medicine: Muhammad is quoted in one generally accepted hadith, or oral tradition, as saying that black cumin can cure anything with the exception of death.
But no study had demonstrated the effects of Nigella sativa on liver tissue against ischemia reperfusion injury.
Hepatic ischemia reperfusion injuries cause damage to tissue when the blood supply returns after a period of restriction; during reperfusion, the tissue becomes damaged as circulation is restored, because the absence of nutrients and oxygen in the blood leads to oxidative stress rather than a recurrence of normal functions. The condition poses a serious obstacle for hepatic surgical procedures and liver transplantations.
In the experimental study, rats underwent hepatic ischemia for 45 minutes followed by 60 minutes period of reperfusion; a control group got saline solution, while rats in the treatment group received the Nigella sativa dose. The rats sacrificed themselves for science, but blood samples and liver tissues showed that tissue damage was milder in the Nigella sativa treatment group than in the control group, suggesting that Nigella sativa treatments protected the rats' livers against the effects of hepatic ischemia reperfusion injury.
Nigella sativa may become a popular treatment choice in conditions wherein hepatic ischemia reperfusion is expected, partly because the plant contains no side effects. But the study authors say further studies are required to establish its ease of use in clinical settings.