Niger seeds facts and health benefits

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Niger seeds facts and health benefits

Niger seeds Quick Facts
Name: Niger seeds
Scientific Name: Guizotia abyssinica
Origin Ethiopia
Colors Glossy black with white to yellow scars
Shapes Club-shaped, obovoid and narrowly long, 3-6 mm long x 1.5-4 mm broad, 4-angled
Taste Nutty taste
Major nutrients Isoleucine (18.36%)
Threonine (13.47%)
Tryptophan (12.27%)
Leucine (10.50%)
Lysine (8.79%)
Health benefits Heart Health, Reduces Inflammation, Heals Wounds, Immune System Booster, Good for Rheumatism, Sleep Aid, Give Relief from Cold and Flu, Gastrointestinal Issues, Curbs Morning Sickness, Speed Healing, Protect the Skin, Weight Gain
More facts about Niger seeds
Niger scientifically known as Guizotia abyssinica is an oilseed crop that belongs to the Asteraceae family and on Guizotia genus. It is originated in Ethiopia, and its wild ancestor is likely Guizotia schimperi Sch.Bip. It was probably domesticated before 3000 BC in the highlands of Ethiopia, where it is still cultivated as an oilseed crop. The earliest name given to this plant was Verbesina oleifera. The first botanical description of Niger was Polymnia abyssinica L. Apart from Niger it is also known Ramtil, Inga seed, Niger, Niger-seed, blackseed, noog/nug, nyger, nyjer, Niger-seed oil and ramtil oil.


Niger also known as Ramtil is an erect, stout, branched annual herb grown for its edible oil and seeds. Plant is average of 1.4 m, but can vary significantly as a result of environmental influences and heights of up to 2 m. It is normally adapted to different environments: cool tropical Eastern Africa, hotter tropical and subtropical lowlands of India and temperate Europe. It grows on almost any soil as long as it is not coarse-textured or extremely heavy. It is usually sown in areas with a rather poor soil or on heavy clay soil under poor cultural conditions.  Niger tolerates waterlogged soils since it grows equally well on either drained soils or waterlogged clays. Niger is extremely resistant to poor oxygen supply in soil because of its ability to develop aerenchymas under these conditions.


The stem of Niger is normally smooth to slightly rough and the plant is usually moderately to well branched. Niger stems are hollow and break easily. The number of branches per plant differs from five to twelve and in very dense plant stands fewer branches are formed. Color of the stem varies from dark purple to light green and the stem is about 1.5 cm in diameter at the base. The plant height of Niger is an average of 1.4 m, but can differ significantly as a result of environmental influences and heights of up to 2 m have been reported from the Birr valley of Ethiopia.


Leaves are arranged on opposite sides of the stem; 10-20 cm long and 3-5 cm wide. The leaf margin morphology varies from pointed to smooth and leaf color varies from light green to dark green, the leaf surface is smooth.


Niger flower is yellow and rarely slightly green. The heads are 15-50 mm in diameter along with 5-20 mm long ray florets. Two to three capitulae (heads) grow together, each having ray and disk florets. The receptacle has a semi-spherical shape and is 1-2 cm in diameter and 0.5-0.8 cm high. The receptacle is surrounded by two rows of involucral bracts. The capitulum consists of six to eight fertile female ray florets with narrowly elliptic, obovate ovules. The stigma has two curled branches about 2 mm long. The hermaphrodite disk florets, usually 40-60 per capitulum, are arranged in three whorls. The disk florets are yellow to orange with yellow anthers, and a densely hairy stigma.


The seed of Niger, technically a fruit called an achene is club-shaped, obovoid and narrowly long normally 3-6 mm long x 1.5-4 mm broad, 4-angled. The head produces about 40 fruits. The achenes are glossy black with white to yellow scars on the top and base and have a hard testa. The embryo is white colored. Seeds bear a fairly thick, adherent seed coat and can be stored for up to a year without deterioration. Niger seed oil is produced from Niger seeds which are quite beneficial for culinary as well as medicinal uses. Niger seed oil normally has nutty taste and pleasant odor.


Niger seed originated in Ethiopia, and its wild ancestor is probably Guizotia schimperi Sch.Bip. It was probably domesticated before 3000 BC in the highlands of Ethiopia, where it is still grown as an oilseed crop. From there, traders brought it to India before the Christian era and probably during the same period it spread to other countries in East Africa. Niger seed is now grown widely in Ethiopia, India and Nepal and on a smaller scale in parts of montane, eastern and southern Africa, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan and the West Indies. In the 19th century it was also grown in Europe where it still occurs as a casual and it is currently grown on a small scale in the United States.

Nutritional Values

Apart from their nutty taste, Niger seed flour is a good source of important amino acids. Consuming 1 gram of niger seed flour offers 0.054 g of Tryptophan, 0.237 g of Threonine, 0.307 g of Isoleucine, 0.388 g of Leucine, 0.294 g of Lysine, 0.109 g of Methionine and 0.177 g of Cystine.


Health benefits of Niger seeds oil

Niger seed is an herb that grows annually and is grown for its edible seeds. The shape of these seeds looks like those of sunflower, but Niger seeds are smaller and black in color. This plant was originally cultivated in the Ethiopian highlands. However, nowadays it is also cultivated in other countries around the world, including Africa, Mexico, Germany, Brazil, Nepal, India as well as other parts of Southeast Asia. It is growing in popularity all over the world due to its richness in various essential nutrients. Listed below are some of the popular health benefits of Niger seed

1. Heart Health

Niger seed oil is quite beneficial than other typical vegetable oils to improve your cholesterol balance, because this oils possess high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and linoleic acid. This can help lower your chances of developing atherosclerosis, which can further prevent heart attacks and strokes. The anti-inflammatory effects of these healthy fats can also help lower blood pressure and generally reduce the strain on your cardiovascular system.(1)

2. Reduces Inflammation

Niger seed oil consists of good amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which make it popular for people struggling with arthritis, gout, rheumatism, fever, or high blood pressure. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress. By its very definition, oxidative stress causes inflammation in the body, thus eliminating those free radicals is a great place to start.(2)

3. Heals Wounds

Niger essential oil is highly nutritious as it consists of vital nutrients like niacin, oleic acid, carbohydrates, protein, fibers, stearic acid, riboflavin and ascorbic acids which possess good healing ability. Niger seed oil offers immediate relief from irritation caused due to wounds.

4. Immune System Booster

Niger seed oil consists of certain anti-parasitic and antioxidant qualities which is quite helpful whenever topically applied or consumed. If you wish to avoid several infections and strengthen the overall immune system, then use Niger seed oil on your skin for external infections, and consume it in your food for internal protection.(3)

5. Good for Rheumatism

Niger seeds oil is quite beneficial for treating rheumatism and can give fast relief from it without causing any other side effects to its consumer’s health. Niger seeds have exceptional medicinal properties that have an ability to heal complexion signs of rheumatism naturally.

6. Sleep Aid

Niger seed oil is the store house of Magnesium, potassium and zinc which are some of the key minerals that can affect the hormonal levels in the body. These minerals help to calm Circadian rhythms and induce the release of certain neurotransmitters that the body needs for proper rest, mainly magnesium. If you are suffering from insomnia or chronic restlessness while sleeping, try to include some Niger seed oil and get benefited.(4)

7. Give Relief from Cold and Flu

Niger seeds oil is extremely beneficial in giving protection to the body against cold and flu. In fact, regular massage of this oil extract on chest, back and other parts of the body gives relief against common symptoms of flu and cold.

8. Gastrointestinal Issues

Niger seed oil is quite comparable to rapeseed and sunflower oils, both of which can calm gastrointestinal problems like constipation, bloating, cramping, hemorrhoids and general stomach upset. The oil can also help to coat the stomach and reduce inflammation, and also protect against any bad bacteria in the gut that may be compromising your immune system or preventing proper nutrient uptake.(5)

9. Curbs Morning Sickness

Niger seeds oil do have non acidic stability that makes it healthy oil to curb morning sickness. This oil also consists of lower amount of unsaturated fats therefore there lowers uncommon symptoms like mood swings, stress and hypertension.

10. Speed Healing

As mentioned before Niger seed oil is loaded with mineral and vitamin composition which makes it ideal for stimulating healing and regrowth of cells and tissues. Protein, fiber, riboflavin, vitamin C and other carbohydrates compressed in this oil are essential for the healing process, so including this to your diet can do far more than help with your cholesterol issues. When recovering from an injury or surgery, consider switching to this oil for your culinary needs.(6)

11. Protect the Skin

If case you are searching for a good solution for scars, burns, rashes or skin irritation, Niger seed oil is an excellent option. Antioxidants found in this oil help to encourage the healing process and calm inflammation. They can prevent infections in the skin by increasing the immune reactivity at the site of wounds or lacerations. Antioxidants also neutralize free radicals, which can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age spots.(7)

12. Weight Gain

Fatty acids and proteins found within this oil are perfect if you are trying to gain weight in a healthy way. Following an injury or illness, boosting weight gain is often desired, and the balance of omega-3s and other nutrients can encourage healthy weight gain for those patients or consumer. If you are not trying to gain weight, just use this oil in moderation, but you don’t need to worry about this oil pumping in excessive calories or “bad” cholesterol into your system.(8)

How to Eat

  • Seed is warmed in a kettle over an open fire, crushed with a pestle in a mortar and then mixed with crushed pulse seeds to prepare ‘wot’ in Ethiopia.
  • ‘Chibto’ and ‘litlit’ are prepared from crushed Niger seed mixed with roasted cereals, and is the preferred food for young boys.
  • Oil is used in cooking as a ghee substitute and can be used in salad dressings etc.
  • Niger seeds are used as food in numerous dishes, condiments and snacks.
  • Niger seed is prepared into chutneys, condiments as well as porridge, mixed with pulses to make snack foods and ground to produce flour and beverages.

Other Traditional uses and benefits of Niger seed

  • Niger oil is used for birth control and for the treatment of syphilis.
  • Niger sprouts mixed with garlic and honey are used to treat coughs.
  • Oil from the seeds is used in the treatment of rheumatism.
  • It is also applied to treat burns.
  • Paste of the seeds is applied as a poultice in the treatment of scabies.

Other Facts

  • Niger plant is consumed by sheep but not by cattle, to which only Niger silage can be fed.
  • Niger is also used as a green manure for increasing soil organic matter.
  • Niger oil is used for cooking, lighting, anointing, painting and cleaning of machinery.
  • Niger oil is a substitute for sesame oil for pharmaceutical purposes and can be used for soap-making.
  • After cooking oil needs are met, the Niger seed surplus in many countries is exported for bird food, mostly to the United States and Europe.
  • Niger oil cake is the main protein supplement for livestock in Ethiopia.
  • The residual seed-cake after oil extraction has a high manurial value.
  • Straw is used as fuel for cooking in Ethiopia.
  • A paste or gruel made from ground Niger seed, mixed with ground flaxseeds (Amharic: talvah), is traditionally used in Ethiopia in treating leather.






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