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What is Kalonji?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Kalonji, which may also be called nigella, refers to small black seeds grown on Kalonji bushes, which are grown widely through India. The plant may have originally been grown in Turkey and/or Italy, but according to herbal lore has been grown in India for several millennia. Kalonji is both flavoring, added to a variety of traditional foods, and an herbal remedy that has been touted as the magic bullet for a variety of ailments.

Kalonji seeds are about the same size as sesame seeds, though they have a more triangular instead of oval shape. In foods, you’ll find kalonji seeds in a variety of recipes. They may be added to traditional Indian flatbread (naan), any type of curry or stew, and to dal. Lovers of these little black seeds praise their nutlike, somewhat peppery taste. To make this taste most evident, kalonji may be prepared first by being roasted in a pan. Due to the high oil content, it is unnecessary to add other oils during the roasting process.

Sometimes the seeds are used to make oil. It’s rare to find such oil outside of India or Arabic countries, but you can order it online. It’s normally used more as an herbal remedy than as cooking oil, and may be present in a variety of lotions or ointments to treat skin conditions.

Some of the ailments which kalonji purportedly cures include:

  • Common cold
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Facial paralysis
  • Kidney and Bladder stones
  • Earache
  • Asthma
  • Dysentery
  • Amnesia
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Rabies

The list of supposed cures is extremely extensive and nigella is said to cure anything short of death or plague. These are obviously inflated claims with little evidence to prove any truth regarding most of them. The use of these black seeds may be helpful as a laxative because of their high oil content, and the oil made from the seeds might be helpful in treating dry skin. Beyond that, most of the purported herbal remedies are based on slim and anecdotal evidence, with little Western medical evidence in the form of double-blind clinical trials to support claims of the magic cures the seeds supposedly offer.

Despite dubious claims regarding health benefits, these black seeds can be a tasty addition to foods, and if they do promote health, this may be the ideal use of kalonji. Consider topping breads with kalonji, adding a few seeds to soups or stews, or mixing them into hummus for extra texture.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon998877 — On Sep 12, 2017

So, it should not be used in satvik food as it is onion..

By anon997707 — On Feb 15, 2017

According to Muslim belief it can cure any disease except death.

By anon993791 — On Dec 15, 2015

When I was little, my mum used to soak the seeds in water and they swelled, and when a glutinous substance appeared, we used to drink it as a refresher. Were those the Kalonji seeds? I am trying to find the English equivalent word. We use to say 'tocmaria' in Mauritius. No idea where this word comes from?

By anon991985 — On Aug 03, 2015

Jau means Javas in marathi.

By anon985656 — On Jan 17, 2015

I understand that kalonji will work on Parkinson's disease. Is this true? Please advise.

By anon980001 — On Dec 01, 2014

Thanks for this article. I have kalonji in my cupboard, but have never used it. I will definitely start using it!

By anon979999 — On Dec 01, 2014

Western medicine will only study drugs that benefit big pharma. There are so many natural cures that they will never touch. Look at cancer. They are like a dog chasing their tail! There are so many natural cures already that work, but they keep "looking for the cure", but don't look beyond drugs, radiation, and surgery.

By anon973316 — On Oct 10, 2014

What is kalunji in marathi? What is jau in marathi?

By anon964558 — On Aug 06, 2014

Kalonji can also cure male impotence. Just take 11 dots with milk every day before meals. Within a month, you will feel the difference. To get quick results also eat Injeer daily.

By anon942046 — On Mar 25, 2014

Mohd. Fasihuddin under 'post 21' has indicated correctly that Onion Seeds and Kalonji are not the same! Kalonji is available at every Spice Store. Kalonji Oil can be purchased at health/herbal food or online. Although science hasn't had enough study done on it, I am definitely going to try for my psoriasis. I just read on this site called 'Nature' that it cures pretty much everything except death!

By anon941455 — On Mar 22, 2014

In Malayalam it is known as 'Karimjeerakam'. Be further informed that it is not same as 'Ell' which is 'sesame.'

By anon934775 — On Feb 22, 2014

Science can't prove any thing about it. It's a cure for every thing except death. One should know how to use it.

By anon924646 — On Jan 06, 2014

Western medicine has not even cured the common cold and does not accept natural remedies, but only chemical preparations which cost exorbitant amounts. At only 200 years, modern science was responsible for killing George Washington who was suffering just a fever and these doctors cut off his wrists.

By anon353833 — On Nov 03, 2013

Shall we call it a black sesame seed? Is it the same Kalonji?

By anon352969 — On Oct 27, 2013

Kalonji is black seed and is also called negelle or karimjeeragam.

By anon347945 — On Sep 12, 2013

Kalonji means mangraila in Hindi.

By anon333883 — On May 08, 2013

Can we take kalonji in powder form? What is the the dose for it?

By anon313326 — On Jan 11, 2013

Sorry to say there are a lot of contradictory names for kalonji seeds. Some say it is known as ell in Malayalam and next it is said not ell but karum jiragam in Malayalam, so which is which?

Some say it is onion seeds and next they say it is not onion seed etc. all these statements are very confusing wonder what is the true name of this Nigella Sativa in Malayalam and in Tamil? Can some one enlighten me on this please?

By anon308442 — On Dec 10, 2012

Kalonji is commonly known as mangrela.

By anon297142 — On Oct 15, 2012

What is the name of gonth (gum of the tree)? Which gonth tree should be used?

By anon284485 — On Aug 10, 2012

please let me know the name of kalonji oil in Hindi/Malayam.

By anon269477 — On May 18, 2012

what is Kalonji called in Marathi?

By anon257648 — On Mar 28, 2012

Is kalonji any good for a hoarse voice please?

By anon172575 — On May 04, 2011

Can kalonji cure constipation?

By anon156931 — On Mar 01, 2011

Are kalonji and onion seeds the same?

By anon143362 — On Jan 15, 2011

kalonji is not karinjeerakam in malayalam. Karinjeerkam has the shape of a jeera or cumin.

kalonji is entirely different and looks like sesame. Kalonji can be purchased from Broadway in Ernakulam (in Kerala).. Karinjeerakam will also be available in those spice shops.

By anon125817 — On Nov 10, 2010

kalonji is not ell in malayalam. it is karinjeerakam

By anon89756 — On Jun 12, 2010

Answer to Q-16. Kalonji. In Oriya it is Kalajeera. Gonth I'm trying to find out.

By anon82463 — On May 06, 2010

In Malayalam it is pronounced as ell and gondh or gum tree = Kunthirikkam, it is an incense.

By anon82462 — On May 06, 2010

Black seed known as Kalonji is similar to sesame seeds, which are off white in color.

Normally, black small ladoo is made of it,

and God is an incense which is used by Indian Muslim or Christians to purify their homes and place of worship.

Found out by asking a lot of people. Ninan R.

By anon79960 — On Apr 25, 2010

what is the hindi word for kalonji?

By anon78515 — On Apr 19, 2010

I would like to know whether Kalonji is useful in treating Osteoporosis.

By anon78506 — On Apr 19, 2010

can someone tell me the oriya meaning of Kalunji seeds and gondh tree?

By anon75577 — On Apr 07, 2010

chirayta and kalonji - Are they the same or different?

By anon70577 — On Mar 15, 2010

is kalonji good for spinal cord injuries?

By anon69198 — On Mar 06, 2010

kalonji seeds are black and triangular in shape. onion seeds are bigger but not triangular. most of us confused between the two. dawasaz is the right person to show you both the seeds you can differentiate easily. if anybody can disclaim my findings, please do so.

mohd fasihuddin

By anon66570 — On Feb 20, 2010

Please tell me the Malayalam of "Kalonji" and "Gonth" (gum of tree) is.

By anon57222 — On Dec 21, 2009

kalonji called in telugu as nalla jeelakarra available in many ayurveda and general stores

another name also there that is ulliittanam(onionseed).

By anon55707 — On Dec 09, 2009

kalonji in kannada is called kalu jeerege

By anon55524 — On Dec 08, 2009

1. what is kalonji in oriya language ?

2.what is gondh(tree) in oriya language ?

By anon46303 — On Sep 24, 2009

Please let me know what gonth (gum of tree) is called in malayalam.

By anon43372 — On Aug 28, 2009

Please let me know what Kalonji is called in Hindi.

By anon42217 — On Aug 20, 2009

What is Salajeet? Extracted from a special rock when heated.

By anon42122 — On Aug 19, 2009

what is kalonji in tamil?

kalonji in tamil is called as "KARUNJEERAGAM"

By anon41028 — On Aug 12, 2009

what is the name kaloonji in Malayalam?

By anon39931 — On Aug 05, 2009

Kalonjee is called as karum jeeragam in tamil. It is available in all 'indian (not allopathic)medical shops'.

By anon39616 — On Aug 03, 2009

what are kalonji seeds called in Canada? where is it available in bangalore.

By anon39463 — On Aug 02, 2009

What is kalonji in Kannada language and also in marathi?

By anon39069 — On Jul 30, 2009

what is kalonji in tamil?

By anon38900 — On Jul 29, 2009

Kalonji in Telugu is 'Kalonjilu'

By anon38416 — On Jul 26, 2009

what is kalonji in telugu language ?

By azharzaidi — On Jan 12, 2009

The seeds of kalonji and the onion seed look alike. What is the difference?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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