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Black Seed Oil and MS: Is It Safe and Helpful for MS Symptoms?

Posted on May 19, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Emily Brown

The main characteristic of multiple sclerosis (MS) is the damage it causes to nerve fibers and myelin sheaths, the fatty substance around nerve fibers, in the brain and spinal cord. This damage causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. There has been a lot of research on natural remedies and supplements, such as biotin and CBD oil, to potentially curb MS symptoms. Black seed oil is another supplement that is studied for its effects on MS symptoms.

Black seed oil, like any natural remedy, does not treat MS. But it may help some people with MS feel better. The natural components of black seed oil are shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective effects. Some researchers have investigated whether these properties may have the potential to shield nerve fibers against autoimmune damage from MS.

What Is Black Seed Oil?

Black seed oil is an herbal supplement that comes from black seed, also called black cumin seed. The scientific name for black seed is Nigella sativa (N. sativa), which is usually how it is referred to in studies that look at its pharmacological effect on autoimmune diseases like MS. N. sativa is part of the Ranunculaceae plant family, which includes buttercup flowers. It is native to Southern Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia and is used as a medicinal plant in traditional forms of medicine such as Ayurveda.

Black seeds are promoted as having many health benefits, and in traditional medicine are considered useful in helping people with inflammatory and immune system disorders. This has brought black seed to the attention of scientists and researchers looking for ways to help people with MS.

Is Black Seed Oil Effective for Multiple Sclerosis?

Much of the research on black seed oil and MS is actually based on animal studies. These studies look at the effects of Nigella sativa on experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (a rat model of MS). Research shows that N. sativa improves symptoms of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and, furthermore, decreases the severity of the disease in animal models.

What is it about black seed oil that may have a protective effect in humans with MS? Thymoquinone is the main compound in black seeds researched for potential neuroprotective effects — this makes it of interest for diseases involving the central nervous system, such as MS. Thymoquinone hinders neuroinflammation, which, in turn, may help neurons function better. Healthy neurons speed brain messages more effectively to the rest of the body, potentially improving movement issues. In other words, symptoms like “dead leg” or “pirate leg” may benefit from this anti-inflammatory effect in the central nervous system.

In addition to its anti-inflammatory effects, thymoquinone has also been shown to reduce apoptosis (cell death) of neurons in rats. Reducing cell death is important because the more neurons that survive, the better the central nervous system works.

With these anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptosis, and antioxidant effects, black seed oil may show promise for helping reduce MS symptoms. N. sativa is sometimes referred to as the “miracle herb.” Nonetheless, clinical trials involving humans diagnosed with MS are needed to better understand whether black seed oil is safe and offers benefits to people with MS. As natural remedies are increasingly popular with people living with chronic conditions, there is more incentive for research that backs up these claims, and most importantly, investigates whether they are safe for people with MS.

MyMSTeam Members on Black Seed Oil

Some MyMSTeam members have reported positive experiences with black seed oil. One MyMSTeam member wrote, “I have been taking it now for about three months, and I am shocked because I was skeptical.” This member noted that their yearly checkup showed some lesions were shrinking, and they had improved blood pressure, lipid panel, and A1c levels. Of course, it’s impossible to know whether these benefits stemmed directly from taking the supplement or from other changes.

Another MyMSTeam member also described positive effects after taking black seed oil for one year, writing, “I feel more energetic than ever. My brain fog rarely flares up, and my left hand isn’t shaky now. I can’t tell you when the last random all-over body tic happened, and that’s a good thing.”

More investigation is required to see whether black seed oil may directly benefit MS symptoms and whether it’s safe to take.

Safe Use of Black Seed Oil

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate black seed oil or other dietary and herbal supplements for quality or safety.

Black seed oil comes in liquid or capsule form. Like with any dietary supplement, there is a limit to how much black seed oil you should take. If you want to try black seed oil to help with your MS symptoms, talk to your neurologist first. They can advise you on whether it’s safe for you and recommend a dose to start with to see how it works for you.

Each doctor on your health care team must know about any natural remedies or supplements you are taking.

Potential Side Effects

Although black seed oil may seem harmless because it is “natural,” many supplements can cause side effects or dangerous interactions with medications you are taking or other health conditions.

Black seed oil may cause:

  • Slowed blood clotting and increased risk for bleeding in those with bleeding disorders
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in those with diabetes
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Interference with anesthesia during surgical procedures
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness

Melanthin is a component of black seed oil that can be toxic at very high doses.

Every chemical you absorb must be filtered through the kidneys and liver. If you ingest too much of any compound, these organs can be damaged by toxicity and won’t be able to function properly.

As with taking any new medication or supplement for the first time, there is the potential for an allergic reaction. In addition, the components of black seed oil may interact with other medications or supplements you take, which is why it is so important to tell your doctor if you would like to try black seed oil for your MS.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyMSTeam is the social network for people with MS and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 186,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with MS.

Do you use black seed oil for your MS symptoms? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Emily Brown is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in health communication and public health. Learn more about her here.

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