Black seed oil (Nigella sativa) popularity has increased in recent years. In 2020, Nigella sativa was one of the 40 best-selling herbal supplements in the U.S. Natural Channel, coming in at number 18, with sales increasing 21.6% that year to nearly $ 6.5 million, according to the American Botanical Council (Austin, TX) Herbal Market Report Latest. Within the black seed market, the quality of extracts may vary depending on the grower. At SupplySide West in October, Morris Zelkha, partner and CEO of black seed ingredient supplier TriNutra Ltd. (Ness Ziona, Israel), discussed recent research conducted by her company to profile and study the composition of its own black seed oil, which is used to make its flagship ThymoQuin standardized cold press. Nigella sativa as well as its recently launched B’utyQuin Nigella sativa cosmetic oil – to find out what makes black seed oil better.
Zelkha said the company wanted to understand why their ThymoQuin oil seemed to perform better than other black seed ingredients. In a recent study soon to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, Zelkha said, the company looked at a range of black seed oil compositions to determine which ratio of thymoquinone, the main active constituent of Nigella sativa, and other constituents (especially free fatty acids) showed the highest activity.
ThymoQuin’s thymoquinone level is standardized to 3%. “With most of the black seed oils available in the market… the thymoquinone level is between 0.2% and 0.3%,” Zelkha said. “The highest may be 1.5% or in some cases even 2%.”
Black seed oil also contains free fatty acids, which are the natural result of enzymatic activity during processing as the fat is oxidized. The levels of free fatty acids in a Nigella product can vary — a lot. “In edible oil, for cooking, free fatty acids must reach 2%,” said Zelkha. “Black seed oil which is available on the market today [can be] at a level of 5% and in some cases even 20%.
The amount of free fatty acids in a black seed oil can have a significant impact on the activity of the oil. In the TriNutra study, the company looked at what happens when it increases and decreases the level of free fatty acid. He found that if the level of free fatty acid in an extract is too high, it decreases the effectiveness of thymoquinone. For example, Zelkha said, when the level of free fatty acid was increased from 2% to 10%, the activity of the extract “dropped” from 60 to 70%. Zelkha said the company determined that its 3% thymoquinone composition in ThymoQuin and its 2% free fatty acid level resulted in an oil with the highest activity.
He said that TriNutra now wants to educate the market on what happens when an oil’s fatty acid profile is too high. “What we’re saying is thymoquinone has a very wide range of activities. It is important to have it across the spectrum, but it is important to have it with the [right] free fatty acid level. When the level of free fatty acids is too high, you affect the performance of thymoquinone.
Opening of the beauty market
In addition to educating the public on what makes or breaks the quality of a black seed oil, TriNutra is introducing its black seed oil to the beauty market in the form of its new ingredient B’utyQuin. This Nigella sativa The oil is suitable for indoor beauty products as well as topical products. B’utyQuin contains the same IP protected composition as ThymoQuin.
“It’s a newer area for us because [until now] we mainly focused on [black seed oil for] dietary supplements to prevent inflammation, antivirals, supporting the immune system, ”Zelkha said.
So far, “very few” of the over 500 studies done on black seed oil have investigated the cosmetic effects of black seed oil, but TriNutra is looking to change that. Zelkha said the company is about to publish a study on the anti-aging benefits of B’utyQuin. The ingredient is “a free radical thirst quencher and anti-inflammatory, so [it can act as a] free radical extinguisher for the skin, ”he said.