Habba Sawda

Habba Sawda is an elixir of nourishment

In the kaleidoscope of beauty rituals from the SWANA cultures this column explores, El Habba el Sawda (black seed oil) emerges as an all-time favourite elixir. Much like the comforting mist of orange blossom on a scorching beach day or the intricate patterns of henna that once decorated childhood hands, black seed oil has been a staple in our households for ages.

Source: Saouda

Prophet Muhammad passed down a timeless truth: “Take this black seed; it contains a cure for every disease except death.” This simple guidance has resonated through generations, making this product not only used for its medicinal prowess, but also as an essential of beauty and pampering. In Arabic, black seed is often referred to as “Habbat al-Barakah,” which translates to the “Seed of Blessing.” 

١. History 

The black seed holds a sacred place not only in ancient Egyptian traditions, but also in the beauty rituals of historical figures like King Tutankhamun and Cleopatra. For the pharaohs, this blessed seed was more than a mere commodity. Tutankhamun, surrounded by riches and precious stones, chose to be buried with his black seeds alongside him, underlining their spiritual significance.

Beyond the borders of Egypt, the black seed found its way into the care regimens of historical icons like Nefertiti, who incorporated Habba Sawda into her hair care routine. This tiny seed’s influence extended beyond ancient civilizations, seamlessly weaving into Islamic and Hebrew traditions. Hadith literature from the 8th and 9th centuries highlights its therapeutic role in disease treatments.

Christian literature, particularly in the Book of Isaiah, affectionately refers to the black seed as “curative black cumin,” underscoring its versatility in different cultures. Even ancient Ayurvedic texts recognize its healing properties, known as “Kalonji” in South Asia. In these cultural landscapes, the blessed seed emerges as a remedy for skin afflictions, providing relief for burns, boils, and rashes. Its application is believed not just to heal the skin, but also to restore metabolic balance, known as “agnior”.

٢. How-to: Different Uses and Techniques 

One can draw parallels to Ancient Greece, where Habba Sawda stood hand-in-hand with beeswax and propolis. Propolis, a bee product rich in antibacterial agents, formed a powerful duo with Habba Sawda, contributing to skincare practices that have withstood the test of time. While the product can be mixed with different components, it also contains multiple benefits on its own.

Source: Erin Palinski-Wade

As we delve deeper into the scientific effects, black cumin oil’s richness in oleic acids, particularly linoleic acid, becomes apparent. This fatty acid, known for its skin-friendly attributes, adds to the oil’s effectiveness in skincare. Black cumin oil safeguards the skin from infections, making it a preventive measure against inflammation and fungal diseases, particularly during the summer months. While oils don’t directly moisturize the skin, black cumin oil is an exception. It effectively locks moisture deep into the skin, offering elasticity and softness. The application is recommended on damp skin for optimal results.

In the context of hair care, black cumin oil is hailed in India as a potent remedy for hair loss and a catalyst for hair growth. Its application activates hair follicles, enhancing blood circulation to the scalp and fostering an environment conducive to new hair growth. Adding a few drops to the conditioner before application provides a nourishing boost. 

In the journey of incorporating black seed oil into your beauty regimen, consider its various forms and applications. From internal use to external treatments, black seed oil offers a lot of options. Whether in capsule form, as a condiment in daily meals, or as an ingredient in skincare routines, the “blessed” seed continues to weave its narrative of beauty and well-being across cultures and time.

٣. Our selection of Habba Sawda infused products

Habba Sawda products are attractively priced, which combined with their excellent quality, make them great buys for your skincare needs. These are KHAMSA‘s picks of the best Habba Sawda products available today.

Chantecaille Radiance Elixir: Infused with natural botanicals, black seed oil, skin-Awakening peptides, and radiance-Boosting peptides, the serum minimizes redness and irritation, providing a youthful, radiant glow while addressing concerns like dark circles and discolouration. Available here.

Tatcha Ageless Enriching Renewal Cream: An intensely rich, hydrating, and moisturizing face cream ideal for dry to very dry skin types that helps nourish the skin and address the advanced signs of ageing. Available here.

Natura Bissé Diamond Extreme Oil: One of the label’s most iconic ranges, the Diamond Collection is made with high concentrations of marine DNA, artemia salina extract (that protects the skin from environmental stressors) and other powerful ingredients such as black seed oil for an unparalleled anti-ageing effect. Available here.

Shea Moisture’s African Black Soap: A decadent formula that combines cocoa pod ash, coconut oil, black seed oil and more to cleanse out impurities, while the vitamin E, Aloe, and Oats condition and restore your skin. Available here.

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate: This potent 99.8% naturally-derived and paraben-free botanical elixir works all night to regenerate, repair and replenish the skin barrier for younger-looking skin by morning. Available here

Yasmine is a Tunisian-Italian freelance writer based in Amsterdam. Her writings are strongly inspired by her North African upbringing and culture, and her thoughts on identity and diasporic nostalgia. You will mostly find her reporting on societal phenomena in the MENA region, often in relation to digital culture, art, and fashion