Nestlé tries to hijack ancient medicine

Fennel mapOnce again  confirming   the power of the net versus corporate greed, some 160,000 people have  already signed the Sum of Us Nestlé petition  demanding the company stop trying to patent the   medicinal powers of nigella sativa.

Nigella sativa is found  the East Mediterranean to Northeast India. It’s cultivated in Egypt, the Middle East (Saudi Arabia in particular), Turkey, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Sudan, Afghanistan Europe and many other places, says the interactive map above (click to enlarge).

Its Black seed was discovered in the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb, about 1325 BC . But Nestlé claims there’s no problem because it ‘s not trying to the flower itself, only the flower’s medicinal uses.

Nestlé’s official patent, filed in countries around the world, claims it ‘invented’ use of nigella sativa to treat allergic reactions, despite the fact the flower has been used for this very purpose across the Middle East and Asia for more than a millennium.

Nigella sativa


Says Edward Hammond in his Third World Network briefing paper published in July last year

“The Swiss giant’s claims appear invalid, as traditional uses of Nigella sativa clearly anticipate Nestlé’s patent application, and developing country scholarship has already validated these traditional uses and further described, in contemporary scientific terms, the very medicinal properties of black seed that Nestlé seeks to claim as its own “invention”.

He goes on »»»

Nestlé’s international patent publication (WO2010133574), published in November 2010, is directed towards use of Nigella sativa  severeto stimulate opioid receptors in the human body, thereby preventing or reducing allergic reactions to foods. Nestlé researchers demonstrated this effect by inducing an egg protein (ovalbumin) allergy in mice, and then co feeding the rodents the allergen and a compound called thymoquinone, which is a major chemical constituent of black seed oil (as well as the herb thyme). With the additi on of thymoquinone to their diet, the mice exhibited a less severe allergic reaction to the egg protein.

NestléFrom a food company’s perspective a great advantage of claiming thymoquinone is that it can be
delivered in the form of Nigella sativa seed, which is a familiar food in many parts of the world.
In addition, because it has been widely consumed for so long, it does not require stringent
regulatory review as a drug or as a new food additive. It can also be labeled “natural”, to attract
consumers that seek to avoid highly processed foods or artificial ingredients.
Thymoquinone from black seed has been the subject of significant formal scientific interest since
the 1990s, with many studies focusing on its potential use as an antioxidant (to prevent fat build
up in arteries) and as a potential cancer treatment.
On its face, it might seem that Nestlé has discovered a new application for thymoquinone, but dig
a little deeper, and Nestlé’s claim of novelty vanishes quickly. Nestlé claims any use of an opioid receptor-stimulating compound to treat or prevent allergies,specifically thymoquinone and, more specifically, administration of thymoquinone in the form of Nigella sativa plant material (seeds).
The type of food allergy of greatest focus is upset stomach and diarrhea. Nestlé claims pure thymoquinone and/or whole Nigella sativa in a huge range of doses. These go from 0.1 to 90 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day for pure thymoquinone, to up to 50 grams if administered in the form of plant seeds. Thus, for a 75 kg adult, Nestlé claims a daily dose of Nigella sativa ranging anywhere from 7.5 milligrams of pure thymoquinone, deliverable in a small pill, to a whopping 3.75 kg of Nigella seed, surely more than enough to satisfy thebiggest appetite.
Nestlé claims any use of thymoquinone or Nigella sativa for the purpose of mitigating food allergies (including as an oral or injected drug). However, the patent application is particularly directed toward foods, including “NaturNes”, a baby food brand that the company markets in Europe. “NaturNes” is the corporate giant’s “green” baby food product aimed at EU parents concerned about chemicals and the environment.  “NatureNes” marketing materials pledge “100% natural ingredients” With the addition of black seed, Nestlé may add product claims about easier digestibility or decreased incidence of food reactions.

Jon Newton — myblogdammit

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