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J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Sep 15;131(2):268-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.06.030. Epub 2010 Jun 30.

Nigella sativa modulates splenocyte proliferation, Th1/Th2 cytokine profile, macrophage function and NK anti-tumor activity.

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Department of Biology and Chemistry, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.



Nigella sativa, also known as blackseed, has long been used in traditional medicine for treating various conditions related to the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems as well as different types of cancers. In this study, the potential immunomodulatory effects of Nigella sativa are investigated in light of splenocyte proliferation, macrophage function, and NK anti-tumor activity using BLAB/c and C57/BL6 primary cells.


Splenocyte proliferation was assessed by [(3)H]-thymidine incorporation. Griess assay was performed to evaluate NO production by macrophages. ELISA was performed to measure the level of cytokines secreted by splenocytes and macrophages. NK cytotoxic activity against YAC-1 tumor cells was examined by JAM assay.


We demonstrate that the aqueous extract of Nigella sativa significantly enhances splenocyte proliferation in a dose-responsive manner. In addition, the aqueous extract of Nigella sativa favors the secretion of Th2, versus Th1, cytokines by splenocytes. The secretion of IL-6, TNFalpha, and NO; key pro-inflammatory mediators, by primary macrophages is significantly suppressed by the aqueous extract of Nigella sativa, indicating that Nigella sativa exerts anti-inflammatory effects in vitro. Finally, experimental evidence indicates that the aqueous extract of Nigella sativa significantly enhances NK cytotoxic activity against YAC-1 tumor cells, suggesting that the documented anti-tumor effects of Nigella sativa may be, at least in part, attributed to its ability to serve as a stimulant of NK anti-tumor activity.


Our data present Nigella sativa as a traditionally used herb with potent immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor effects. We anticipate that Nigella sativa ingredients may be employed as effective therapeutic agents in the regulation of diverse immune reactions implicated in various conditions and diseases such as cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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