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New Bulletin on Nigella Seed and Seed Oil Adulteration Published by ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program

Bulletin documenting evidence of nigella seed oil adulteration with lower-cost vegetable oils marks BAPP’s 75th peer-reviewed document

AUSTIN, Texas (October 4, 2022) — The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) has issued a Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletin (BAPB) on nigella (Nigella sativa) seed and seed oil. Also referred to in commerce as “black seed” or “black cumin,”* nigella has a long history of use as a food and traditional medicine, especially in the Middle East. Whole or powdered nigella seeds are used to treat inflammation and respiratory conditions, as a carminative to ease bowel and digestive problems, for neurological disorders, and as a diuretic and diaphoretic (perspiration-inducing) agent. The seed oil is used externally as a remedy for skin diseases, and internally to treat stomach problems, respiratory ailments, and allergies, as well as to improve circulation.The whole seed is subject to adulteration by the seeds of other species of Nigella, particularly N. damascena, and other lower-cost plant seeds of similar size and color. Nigella seed oil may be adulterated with undisclosed lower-cost oils such as palm (Elaeis guineensis), corn (Zea mays), sunflower (Helianthus annuus), soybean (Glycine max), or canola (Brassica napus) oil. Depending on the source, nigella seed oil is 10 to 30 times more expensive than some of the common vegetable oils, providing a financial motivation for such fraud.The new BAPB was written by Nilüfer Orhan, PhD, an expert in natural products chemistry and analysis. It summarizes the available scientific data on nigella seed and seed oil adulteration and analytical methods to detect adulteration, and provides information about the botany, uses, supply chain/value network, and market of the botanical. Fifteen experts in quality control of medicinal plants from academia, non-profit organizations, contract analytical laboratories, and the herb industry peer reviewed the bulletin.Stefan Gafner, PhD, chief science officer of ABC and technical director of BAPP, commented: “Nigella is a relatively little-known but increasingly popular botanical in the Western medicinal herb and dietary supplement industry. As more human clinical studies are published to support its health benefits, particularly in the areas of glycemic control, improvement of lipid profiles, and reduction of biomarkers of inflammation, nigella seed oil appears to be destined to become a more important ingredient in the coming years. Due to the relatively high cost of nigella seed oil compared to other vegetable oils, there is a risk that some nigella seed oil in the global market is diluted or outright substituted with some of these lower-cost oils, similar to what has been reported with the popular botanical ingredient saw palmetto.”The nigella seed and seed oil BAPB is the 26th bulletin and the 75th peer-reviewed publication published by BAPP. As with all BAPP publications, BAPBs are freely accessible to all ABC members, registered users of the ABC website, and all members of the public on the program’s website (registration required).“Reaching the 75th document milestone is an accomplishment for BAPP,” said Ikhlas Khan, PhD, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) at the University of Mississippi. “It highlights how much has been accomplished, but there is much more to be done. We are thankful to Nilüfer Orhan and all our other BAPP writers for their excellent work and encourage more individuals and companies to become involved in the program.”About the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention ProgramThe ABC (American Botanical Council)-AHP (American Herbal Pharmacopoeia)-NCNPR (National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi) Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program is an international consortium of nonprofit professional organizations, analytical laboratories, research centers, industry trade associations, industry members, and other parties with interest in herbs and medicinal plants. The program advises industry, researchers, health professionals, government agencies, the media, and the public about various challenges related to adulterated botanical ingredients sold in commerce. To date, more than 200 US and international parties have financially supported or otherwise endorsed the program.To date, BAPP has published 75 extensively peer-reviewed articles, including Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletins, Laboratory Guidance Documents, and Botanical Adulterants Monitor e-newsletters.* Although sometimes called “black cumin,” nigella is not related to the popular spice cumin (Cuminum cyminum) in the carrot family (Apiaceae).About the American Botanical Council