The antinociceptive effects of Nigella sativa oil and its major component, thymoquinone, were examined in mice. The p.o. administration of N. sativa oil (50-400 mg/kg) dose-dependently suppressed the nociceptive response in the hot-plate test, tail-pinch test, acetic acid-induced writhing test and in the early phase of the formalin test. The systemic administration (2.5-10 mg/kg, p.o. and 1-6 mg/kg, i.p.) and the i.c.v. injection (1-4 microgram/mouse) of thymoquinone attenuated the nociceptive response in not only the early phase but also the late phase of the formalin test. Naloxone injected s.c. (1 mg/kg) significantly blocked N. sativa oil- and thymoquinone-induced antinociception in the early phase of the formalin test. Moreover, the i.c.v. injection of naloxone (10 microgram/mouse), the mu(1)-opioid receptor antagonist, naloxonazine (1-5 microgram/mouse), or the kappa-opioid receptor antagonist, nor-binaltorphimine (1-5 microgram/mouse), significantly reversed thymoquinone-induced antinociception in the early phase but not the late phase of the formalin test, whereas the delta-opioid receptor antagonist, naltrindole (1-5 ng/mouse, i.c.v.), had no effect on either phase. The antinociceptive effect of morphine was significantly reduced in thymoquinone- and N. sativa oil-tolerant mice, but not vice versa. These results suggest that N. sativa oil and thymoquinone produce antinociceptive effects through indirect activation of the supraspinal mu(1)- and kappa-opioid receptor subtypes.