The seeds of Nigella sativa L. have been shown in both in-vitro and in-vivo to possess interesting pharmacological properties. These properties have been attributed to the volatile fraction, the principal component of which is thymoquinone. If clinical studies of N. sativa are to be envisaged it will be necessary to develop a means to ensure the homogeneity of different sources and to avoid confusion, notably with N. damascena the seeds of which closely resemble those of N. sativa. Gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry was used to analyse the volatile and fixed oil composition of different sources of N. sativa seeds. There was a substantial variation in the volatile fraction between the different sources, whereas the fixed oil composition remained relatively constant. In addition, the GC chromatograms of volatile fractions of N. sativa and N. damascena were remarkably different; the presence of the toxic compound, damascene was confirmed in N. damascena and thymoquinone was shown to be absent from this species of Nigella. A morphological and microscopic examination of N. sativa and N. damascena seeds showed for the first time that physical differences barely discernible on to the naked eye are readily identifiable using a 20-fold magnification.
Online ISSN: 1459-0263Year: 2013, Vol. 11, Issue 1, pages 165-171. Publisher: WFL.
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