An extract of Nigella seeds within a topical gel formulation has shown promise as a potential treatment for acne vulgaris in a study conducted in Sri Lanka,1 where Nigella seeds are used in traditional medicines for treating acne.
The researchers say their study, published in Scientific World Journal, opens “the possibility of developing commercial products” using the seeds for the management of acne vulgaris while at the same time “rationalizing” its use as a remedy for acne in traditional medicine.
The active ingredients of commercial medicines are often derived from natural ingredients, such as plants and spices, that have a long track record of use in traditional medicine. The seeds of the spice Nigella sativa L (black cumin) have been used for centuries in several cultures for the treatment of a variety of dermatological disorders, including burns, wounds and skin inflammatory conditions such as acne vulgaris.2 In Sri Lanka, the seeds are found in several topical traditional medicine formulations used to treat acne vulgaris, eruptions of the skin and related skin diseases.3
While there are many anecdotal reports of the effectiveness of Nigella seeds, there has been limited scientific investigation to confirm these effects. Researchers in Sri Lanka therefore developed topical cosmeceutical formulation incorporating N. sativa and evaluated the antibacterial activity of those formulations against acne-causing bacteria.
Dried N. sativa seeds were soaked in ethyl acetate for 24 hours in a shaker and the solvents evaporated using a rotary evaporator to create an extract which was used to prepare three topical gel formulations of different strengths, based on the strengths used in traditional medicines.
The gel incorporated cetyl alcohol, an emollient, and moisturizer to reduce the inherent irritating property in N. sativa, as well as fuller’s earth for the absorption of excess sebum present in the facial skin. Phenoxyethanol was included as the preservative along with EDTA to stabilize the formulation from rancidity and consequently to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the product as well as the water washability of the gel. Rosewater was used as the vehicle as “it is assumed that rosewater could assist in maintaining the pH while reducing erythema, dermatitis and eczema, owing to its anti-inflammatory potency,” the researchers note. The pH value of the formulations was 5–6, and the optimal pH of the skin is 5.5.
1. Nawarathne NW, Wijesekera K, Wijayaratne WMDGB, Napagoda M. Development of Novel Topical Cosmeceutical Formulations from L. with Antimicrobial Activity against Acne-Causing Microorganisms. ScientificWorldJournal. 2019;2019:5985207.
2. Eid AM, Elmarzugi NA, Abu ayyash LM, Sawafta MN, Daana HI. A Review on the Cosmeceutical and External Applications of. J Trop Med. 2017;2017:7092514.
3. Jayaweera DMA. Medicinal Plants (Indigenous and Exotic) Used in Ceylon, Vol. 4, National Science Council, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1982.