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Traditional Moroccan Medicine

July 14, 2014 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

In 1989, a review article in the World Health Forum defined the role of traditional health practices in modern day Morocco. The piece, authored by Dr. Jamal Bellakhdar, noted that, “Traditional medicine is still popular in Morocco since it is an important form of health care for many people”. He goes on say that, “Its positive aspects could be encouraged if it were officially recognized and given a place in the health system.” Now, some twenty-five years later, a slew of scientifically controlled studies have emerged which substantiate several of the historical remedies employed by Arab and Berber healers.

Argan oil and black cumin are arguably the two trendiest Moroccan supplements currently on the market. The former is frequently added to exotic hair and skin care formulas in the hopes of promoting a flawless complexion and lustrous hair. The latter is boldly described on one website as, “A Remedy for Everything but Death”. Wow! A third remedy common to Morocco is fenugreek seed. You’ll find it in everything from hair growth sprays to formulas and teas intended to increase breast milk production and muscle mass. Some of these claims are clearly exaggerated, if not completely unbelievable. Having said that, this should not dissuade you from considering these remedies altogether.

So, what is the truth about argan oil, black cumin and fenugreek? According to the latest batch of peer-reviewed studies, the internal use of argan oil genuinely affects the body in some pretty significant ways. Namely, argan oil supplementation (25 mL/day) improves various cardiovascular indices (HDL, LDL cholesterol, oxidative status and platelet aggregation) and increases luteinizing hormone and testosterone levels in men. Two trials reveal that black cumin, likewise, reduces risk factors associated with heart disease in both overweight and postmenopausal women. In addition, black cumin seed oil was recently found to safely correct sperm abnormalities, including poor morphology, motility and volume in infertile men. Finally, a review appearing in the January 2014 edition of Nutrition Journal, determined that fenugreek intake is capable of lowering both long and short term blood sugar in diabetics. What’s more, two other studies report that combining fenugreek with conventional medications for polycystic ovary syndrome and Parkinson’s disease enhances overall treatment outcomes. These are legitimate examples of age old, Moroccan remedies functioning quite nicely in the world of modern medicine.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - A New Look at Traditional Medicine In Morocco (link)

Study 2 - Argan Oil Prevents Prothrombotic Complications By Lowering Lipid (link)

Study 3 - Argan Oil and Postmenopausal Moroccan Women: Impact On the … (link)

Study 4 - Effect of Argan and Olive Oil Consumption On the Hormonal Profile (link)

Study 5 – A Randomised Controlled Trial On Hypolipidemic Effects of Nigella … (link)

Study 6 - Effects of Nigella Sativa L. Seed Oil On Abnormal Semen Quality In (link)

Study 7 - The Effects Of 8-Week Nigella Sativa Supplementation and Aerobic (link)

Study 8 – Effect of Fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum-Graecum L.) Intake On (link)

Study 9 - Efficacy and Safety Of Standardized Extract Of Trigonella Foenum… (link)

Study 10 - Evaluation of Fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum-Graceum L.), Effects (link)

Argan Oil Intake Lowers Cardiovascular Risk Profile

Source: J Transl Med. 2014 Mar 31;12(1):82. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Heart Health, Men's Health

6 Comments & Updates to “Traditional Moroccan Medicine”

  1. PAUL F. Says:

    Hi JP,

    Thank you again for taking us along in your discoveries in remote countries of natural medicines that may be helpful to some of us!


  2. JP Says:

    I’m happy to do so, Paul! Thank you for your support!

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update: Black cumin oil may improve vitiligo:


    Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2014 Jun;16(6):e4515. doi: 10.5812/ircmj.4515. Epub 2014 Jun 5.

    Comparing Nigella sativa Oil and Fish Oil in Treatment of Vitiligo.
    Ghorbanibirgani A1, Khalili A1, Rokhafrooz D2.


    Vitiligo is one of the autoimmune skin diseases that destroy the melanocytes of the skin. Moreover, its prevalence varies in different countries and regions.


    The aim of this study was to compare the effect of Nigella sativa and fish oil on vitiligo lesions of the patients referred to a dermatology clinic.


    This randomized, double blind clinical trial was conducted in the dermatology clinic of the Imam Khomeini Hospital Ahvaz, Iran, from June to December 2011. We used a randomized simple sampling. From 96 patients with vitiligo, 52 eligible patients were selected and allocated to two groups with equal size. The study medications were applied twice a day by patients on their lesions. After six months, the improvement rate of lesions was assessed by the Vitiligo Area Scoring Index (VASI). Data were analyzed using SPSS v. 15; P value < 0.05 was considered as statistically significant.


    After six months, a mean score of VASI decreased from 4.98 to 3.75 in patients applying topical Nigella sativa and from 4.98 to 4.62 in those using topical fish oil. Most of the percent improvement observed in upper extremities, trunk, head, and neck of those who received Nigella sativa and head, neck, trunk, and feet of those who received fish oil. No adverse effect was reported by the patients.


    Nigella sativa oil and fish oil were effective in reduction the size of patient’s lesions; however, Nigella sativa was more effective in comparison to the fish oil. Therefore, using Nigella sativa with the major drugs in the treatment of vitiligo is recommended.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update 06/05/15:


    Food Funct. 2015 Jun 1.

    Effects of Nigella sativa oil with a low-calorie diet on cardiometabolic risk factors in obese women: a randomized controlled clinical trial.

    Obesity is typically associated with increased risk factors of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Therefore, a therapeutic approach that aims to control body weight and metabolic profile might be effective in preventing CVDs. We aimed to determine the effects of Nigella Sativa (NS) oil with a low-calorie diet on cardiometabolic risk factors in obese women. In this double-blind randomized controlled clinical trial, 90 obese women were recruited. Participants were females aged 25-50 years old with body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 35 kg m-2. They were randomly assigned to receive a low-calorie diet with 3 g per day (1 g before each meal) NS oil or placebo for 8 weeks. Anthropometric indices, dietary intake and biochemical parameters were measured at the baseline and after the intervention. Eighty-four females completed the trial (intervention n = 43, placebo n = 41). Two groups were similar in the baseline characteristics. After the intervention, dietary intake was changed in both groups compared to the baseline, but the differences were not significant between the two groups. In the NS group, weight (-6.0 vs. -3.6%; p < 0.01) and waist circumference (-6.9 vs. -3.4%; p < 0.01) decreased significantly compared with the placebo group at the end of the trial. Comparison of biochemical parameters presented a significant decline in triglyceride (-14.0 vs. 1.4%; p = 0.02) and very low density lipoprotein (-14.0 vs. 7%; p < 0.01) levels in the NS group compared to the placebo group. NS oil concurrent with a low-calorie diet can reduce cardiometabolic risk factors in obese women. However, more clinical trials are needed to elucidate efficacy of NS as a complementary therapy in obese subjects.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Update 07/11/15:


    Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2014;84(3-4):196-205.

    Effect of Fenugreek Seeds on Serum Metabolic Factors and Adiponectin Levels in Type 2 Diabetic Patients.

    This triple-blind randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted on 88 type 2 diabetic (T2DM) patients (males and females). Subjects in the fenugreek seed (n=44) and placebo (n=44) groups consumed 10 g/d of powdered whole fenugreek seeds or 5 g/d of wheat starch for 8 weeks. Fasting blood samples, anthropometric measurements and dietary records were collected at the baseline and at the end of the trial. Fenugreek seeds significantly decreased fasting blood glucose (P=0.007) and HbA1c (P=0.0001), serum levels of insulin (P=0.03), homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (P=0.004), total cholesterol (P=0.005) and triglycerides (P=0.0001) and increased serum levels of adiponectin (P=0.001) compared with placebo. No significant changes were shown in serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in both groups. In conclusion, fenugreek seeds improved glucose metabolism, serum lipid profile and adiponectin levels in studied subjects, and may be useful in the control of diabetes risk factors in TD2M patients.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 09/22/15:


    J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Sep 16.

    Efficacy and safety of Honey based formulation of nigella sativa seed oil in functional dyspepsia: A double blind randomized controlled clinical trial.

    ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: A honey based formulation from Nigella sativa L. (N. sativa) has been used in Traditional Persian Medicine for upper gastrointestinal symptoms. Considering the traditional use of this formulation and its ingredients known pharmacologic effects, this study aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of N. sativa seed oil mixed with honey in treatment of patients with functional dyspepsia.

    METHODS AND MATERIALS: Seventy patients diagnosed with functional dyspepsia according to ROME III criteria and confirmed by upper gastrointestinal endoscopy were selected to receive a traditional honey based formulation of Nigella sativa (5mlN. sativa oil orally daily) or placebo for 8 weeks in a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial using a parallel design with a 1:1 allocation ratio. Patients were evaluated prior to and following 8 weeks of the intervention in terms of the Hong Kong index of dyspepsia severity, presence of H. pylori infection based on urease test, scores in different domains of short form (SF-36) health survey, and any observed adverse events.

    RESULTS: The mean scores of Hong Kong index of dyspepsia severity sores and the rate of H. pylori infection were significantly lower in the N. sativa group comparing the placebo group after the intervention (P<0.001). No serious adverse event was reported.

    CONCLUSION: This study showed that adjuvant supplementation of honey based formulation of N. sativa can cause significant symptomatic improvement of patients with functional dyspepsia whom received the standard anti-secretory therapy. The results should be investigated further in studies with longer duration and larger sample size.

    Be well!


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