Beating Withdrawal With Nigella Seed Oil

By Nathan A Thompson 06/15/12

Recovering opioid addicts (and some studies) praise the oil's ability to ease withdrawals.

Nigella sativa: A better way to kick?
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Seed oil from the flowering plant Nigella sativa has been used for its health-giving properties since ancient times, and is particularly popular in Islamic cultures. The prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying that Nigella seed oil can “remedy every disease except death." Today it's mainly used as a spice—better known as black cumin. But some opioid addicts take oral doses of the oil to wean themselves off drugs. They say it helps them to withdraw, and even to stay clean afterwards. “I never wanted to be on methadone. I had seen people detoxing from that and it was horrific," Dylan, a recovering heroin addict from Wales, tells The Fix. "I tried many different remedies but Nigella seed oil really works, it helped ease my withdrawal and now I am clean I find it has a calming and restorative effect.”

The University of Karachi in Pakistan has conducted two of the rare studies on these effects: one in 2004 and one in 2008 that found, “Nigella sativa showed a rapid improvement in signs and symptoms of acute opioid withdrawal. It was also observed that Nigella sativa prevented the development of significant craving and relapse." Saudi Arabia's King Saud University also found that Nigella seed oil has anti-inflammatory effects, “decreases blood pressure and increases respiration," and is rich in compounds that are effective in treating liver conditions like hepatitis—which affects many drug addicts. While more research would be welcome, anecdotal evidence is strong. One user of an online heroin forum reports that the oil “works well for sleep during withdrawals.” Another asserts that “taking the oil has vastly reduced all cravings for opiates."

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Nathan A. Thompson is the president of the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia, where he has been based since 2013. He has reported for VICE News, the TelegraphGuardianSlateSalonand Christian Science Monitor both in Cambodia and across the region and currently works in editorial at He writes travel articles, essays and released his first poetry collection, I Take Nothing Strong Only Lightning in 2016. Follow Nathan on Twitter.