The Prophet (SAW) said, ” If my community had only known what there is in fenugreek they would have paid its weight in gold.”
When considering the value of herbs, it is not their cost or exotic quality that matters as much as their versatility. Many herbs have been used historically as “cure-alls” or potent “tonic herbs.” Among these herbs are black seed, fenugreek and aloe vera, three of the Prophet’s (SAW) favorite herbs.
Bukhari reports that the Prophet (SAW) recommended that we “use black seed regularly because it has a cure for every disease except death.” The magazine Food Chemistry found black seed to be high in protein, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, vitamins A, B1, B2, C and niacin as well as calcium, potassium and iron. These are the very nutrients that modern science has found that we most lack. We are encouraged to drink milk for calcium, to take supplements for EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids), and to consume niacin pills to lower our cholesterol; however, black seed can provide many of these same benefits. It also provides many of the same nutrients that the FDA recommends to help prevent disease and slow down the aging process.
Dr. Michael Tierra, author of Planetary Herbology, also found black seed to be high in the above nutrients. In addition, he found a remarkable number of sterols, especially beta-sitosterol, which is known to have anti-carcinogenic properties. The Journal of American Scientists reports that black seed has a number of useful properties such as antihistamine, antioxidant, antibiotic, antimycotic and broncho-dilating effects.
These findings possibly explain its long history as a lung tonic. Black seed has been used for almost 3,000 years to clear up blockages and phlegm in the lungs, asthma and asthma attacks, and stuffy or runny noses with colds. Allah’s Messenger (SAW), in fact, used to soak 20 seeds wrapped in a linen cloth in water overnight, and place drops of this solution into his nostrils to relieve congestion and head colds the following morning (Al-Akili, Medicine of the Prophet).
Another famous use of black seed is for digestive problems – to “dry up” a soggy stomach, ease colic pain, expel intestinal worms, and remove wind and bloating in the intestines caused by eating wheat bread. The warmth of black seed also increases the flow of all fluids in the body including blood, urine, a nursing mother’s milk and weak or halted menses.
Black seed ointment is also useful for all kinds of ailments where a topical application is indicated including warts, skin allergies, insect bites, baldness and gray hair. In fact, black seed has been classified by many modern scientists as a “tonic herb” or “cure all.”
Dr. Peter Schleicher, an immunologist in Germany, has found that black seed contains the valuable unsaturated fatty acids, Linoleic (which stabilizes the cell membranes) and Gammalinolen. Also, the Prostaglandin in black seeds has the effect of inhibiting inflammation. This combination halts immune reactions and the start of many chronic illnesses like eczema, asthma and even cancer.
Fenugreek is another herb that was favored by the Prophet (SAW) and herbalists for thousands of years. Qasim bin Abdur-Rahman narrated that the Prophet said, “Mix fenugreek in your medicines.” It is also related in the collection of Hadith that the Prophet visited one of his blessed companions, Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqass, who had contracted an illness during his stay in Mecca, and then requested that a physician examine him. After a diagnosis was made, the Prophet (SAW) said, “He will be fine. Give him the soup of a concoction of dates and fenugreek.”
Fenugreek seeds have been found by laboratory tests to be very high in a number of nutrients, most notably fixed oils, which are comparable to the beneficial cod liver oil and other therapeutic oils that contain high amounts of vitamin A and choline. For this reason, fenugreek is often used to lower blood cholesterol and provide strength to the body systems, particularly the heart, lungs and digestive system. These same ingredients oxidize to produce the distinctive smell one acquires when drinking fenugreek tea.
The trigonelline in the seeds has been proven to have a hypoglycemic effect on rats, and has long been a favorite for anyone suffering from hypoglycemia and diabetes as well as fatigue. Fenugreek also contains saponins and sapogenins, which are materials essential for the synthesis of steroid hormones and related drugs, giving it the same potential as wild yam has recently become popular for – as a natural estrogen replacement therapy. For this same reason, fenugreek has been used historically for a multitude of female complaints – from halting painful menses to promoting lactation in new mothers.
Fenugreek is also high in minerals and proteins, making it a valuable skin conditioner when the seeds are soaked and applied to the skin. The proteins in fenugreek are also high in lysine, tryptophan, fats, phosphorus and iron. For this reason, fenugreek is often used to combat anemia. The seeds also have a unique ability to bulk up when added to liquid so the tea is often drank unstrained as a remedy against constipation, urine retention and candida albicanas.
Aloe vera is another very useful and favorite herb of the Prophet (SAW). Qays bin Rafi al-Qatsi narrates that God’s messenger (SAW) said, “Aloes and watercress are a sure cure for illness.” In fact, in some areas of the world such as South America, aloe vera is still used as an “all-purpose” cure. In some homes, it is the ONLY herb used – for all illnesses.
One of its unique qualities is that you do not have to cook or prepare it for internal or external applications, because it comes from the leaves as a ready-made gel that can be mixed with water and consumed OR applied directly to the skin from the cut leaves. In this sense, aloe vera is one of the most useful plants to have around the house. Its only drawbacks are that it is usually too strong for children, or pregnant or nursing women to take internally, and the taste is quite offensive. In some cases, people have had skin reactions to the plant as well, indicating that although it is useful, it should be used with caution.
Aloe vera is most famous in the Western world for its external uses, particularly in treating kitchen burns, acne and wounds from injuries or surgery. In fact, documented cases of radiation burn victims in Japan showed that aloe healed the burns more rapidly than any other method. The mucilage in aloe, which contains mucopolysaccharides, is largely responsible for aloe’s healing action both on burns and wounds. In fact, these polysaccharides show similar action as hyaluronic acid in lab tests. Aloe works most effectively when it is taken directly from the growing plant as it is sterile and will not contaminate a burn or wound with bacteria.
Aloe also contains varying amounts of anthraquinone glucosides, which have bitter gripping cathartic principles. This explains its long history of internal uses as a colon cleanser and detoxification herb. It has also been used to open obstructions in internal organs, particularly the liver. In fact, aloe’s mucilage provides a unique soothing effect to the digestive system along with a cleansing effect from the polysaccharides.
We are wise to use these herbs that Allah has provided, remembering that, “For every malady Allah created, He also created its cure (and he who) acquires such knowledge shall benefit from it and one who ignores it will forgo such benefit” (Sahih Bukhari).
By Karima Burns, MH, ND