What does Indian sweet tilgul and Middle East condiment tahini have in common? Both are made from seeds which are very ancient and have high oil content. It is Sesame seeds! You may know it by different names. Til (Hindi, Marathi, Bengali), Ellu (Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada), Hu ma (Chinese), Goma (Japanese), Gergelim (Portuguese) and Ajonjoli (Spanish). These small delicate seeds have rich nutty taste and are used in cuisines across the world. History of sesame consumption and cultivation is more than 5000 years old. In Hindu legends, sesame seeds represent a symbol of immortality. It seems quite true considering the rich health benefits offered by sesame seeds.
Sesame seeds nutrition facts
In terms of broad nutrition of sesame seeds, they contain 50-60% of fat, 18-25% of protein, 12-15% of carbohydrates/fibers and rest micronutrients. Some unique properties of sesame oil including its flavour and aroma is due to presence of lignans – Sesamin , sesamolin and sesamol.
Sesame seed oil is also rich in Vitamin E along with Vitamin B12. What makes sesasme seeds valuable, is its high nutrient density for Copper. A cup of dried sesame seeds while offering about 200 calories, also provide 1.5 times of amount of copper required daily. It is also rich source of manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, molybdenum and selenium.
Nutrient profile changes about the variety and way of processing of sesame seeds. Black sesame seeds are more popular in East and believed to be superior to white sesame seeds when it come to health benefits. Similarly unhulled sesame seeds contain more calcium than the hulled sesame seeds. Roasted Sesame oil or toasted sesame oil is preferred by many for its distinct flavour and aroma, while some prefer cold pressed sesame seed oil.
Health benefits of sesame
Sesame seeds and Sesame oil has been long used in traditional practices of India and China. In India, during auspicious ceremonies, sesame oil is massage to boy to improve energy and remove impurities. Tibetian medicine used sesame oil as sedative. Some benefits of sesame seeds and sesame seed oil include its ability to aid digestion, reduce inflammation, protect against oxidative stress, regulate diabetes, promote hair and skin health, protect liver, act as anti-microbial, reduce stress, reduce risk of cancer and others. Health benefits of til oil are discussed below.
Sesame reduces inflammation
Sesame seed exhibits strong anti-inflammatory properties, which means it can help in reducing pain and swelling of tissues, reduction of inflammation in the joints, bones, and muscles. This is attributed to abundance of copper in the sesame seeds. Sesame oil is used as cure of joint pains and pain associated with rheumatic arthritis. Copper enables blood circulation and strengthening of blood vessels and joints. Copper is also important for producing enzyme needed developing substance responsible for structure, strength and elasticity in blood vessels, bones and joints. Use of sesame oil for joint pain is popular in India.
[Read more about Natural ways to treat joint pain]
Sesame seeds for stronger bones
We all know that calcium is need for stronger bones. Other key minerals needed by our bones are zinc and phosphorus, which play role in bone density. Sesame seeds are rich in zinc, calcium, and phosphorous which makes them good food for bone health. Sesame seeds are useful in strengthening and repairing bones, reducing risk of degenerative osteoporosis.
Sesame seeds benefits heart
There are multiple ways in which sesame seeds help our heart. It reduces blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, protects from oxidative stress, inhibits atherosclerosis and reduces risk of heart attacks.
- Sesame seeds provide high amount of dietary fibers which helps reduce harmful cholesterol from body, thus protect circulatory system. Sesame seed oil also contains rich fatty acids considered helpful to our heart.
- Sesame seed also contain sesaminol, sesamolinol, sesamolin, sesamin and vitamin E which are considered to be excellent antioxidants. They protect cardiac walls and blood vessels from degenerative stress from free radicals.
- Sesame seed also contains ample magnesium which is known for its ability to reduce blood pressure.
- Sesame seeds contain very high phytosterols, compounds similar to cholesterol. Phytosterols reduce cholesterol blood levels, enhance immunity and reduces risk of cancers.
Sesame can prevent cancer
With good amount of minerals and phytonutrients, sesame is associated with reduction in incidence of cancer. Sesame contains various cancer preventing compounds – phytate, cephalinm, myristic acid and sesamin. Most preventive functions are associated with their ability to protect body from free radicals. Sesame seeds have ability to reduce cancers of blood, breast, lungs, pancreas, colon and prostrate; which has been confirmed in various lab studies. Sesame oil helps in removal of chemicals form liver which reduces chances of tumors. Studies also show that sesame flower extract posses ability to prevent growth of tumors. Sesamol in sesame oil protects our skin from ultraviolet light and other electromagnetic raditions, and reduces risk of sunburns and skin cancer.
Sesame seeds for diabetes
Seasame seeds contain good amount dietary fiber and magnesium which are considered useful for health of diabetic patients. Fibers delays absorption of sugar in body and thus help regulate blood sugar. Magnesium in seeds and sesame oil helps reduces chances of diabetes and manage diabetic symptoms. It supports impact of other diabetic medications and increases their efficacy.
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Sesame oil improves oral health
In Ayurveda, Sesame oil has been traditionally used for oil pulling – a traditional Indian remedy for strengthening teeth and gums, prevent dental decay, bleeding of gums, dry throat and lip cracking. In this technique, tablespoon of sesame oil is sipped and swished in mouth for 10 to 15 minutes and then discarded. Sesame oil has strong antibacterial and astringent property which is helpful prevent development of oral bacteria and dental plaque. Initial studies have found this technique to be effective over wide range of oral bacteria. As a throat gargle, it checks growth of Streptococcus and common cold virus.
In ayurveda, chewing of sesame seed is considered good for oral health. In case of toothache, tooth sensitivity, its paste is applied to the area. Sesame oil pulling is also considered good to heal mouth ulcers. Massaging gums with mixture of black pepper,salt and sesame oil is considered helpful.
Sesame oil helps heal wounds
Sesame oil has been long used in healing wounds and considered natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Studies have found that free radicals are generated in process of healing and often damages tissues. Antioxidant content in sesame oil protects oxidative damage and promotes healing. Sesamol is one such component present in sesame oil which with strong antioxidant and rapid healing properties. Traditionally paste made from sesame seeds is applied over wounds for quick healing. Animal studies have confirmed that topical application of sesame oil or oral intake of sesame seed oil promotes healing of wounds.
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Sesame seeds for good digestion
Sesame seeds provide body with ample supply of dietary fibers which help in good bowel movements and promote absorption of nutrients in intestine. Sesame seeds can be helpful in treating digestive problems like constipation. It protects digestive tract from infection and other degenerative diseases. As home remedy, sesame honey (3 parts honey, one part sesame seed oil) taken with warm boiled water before breakfast is considered effective for constipation.
Sesame seeds are also good supply of vegetative proteins which adds to overall body strength, structure and other metabolic functions.
Sesame seed oil to reduce stress
Sesame seeds contain minerals like magnesium and calcium which help in reduce stress and anxiety. Good head massage with sesame oil is considered good to treat insomnia and headache.
In Ayurveda, practice of Shirodhara is considered helpful in nerve calming and stress relief. This technique involves pouring warm sesame oil with herbs infused onto forehead for several minutes. Benefits of sesame oil head massage: Massaging head and scalp with warm sesame oil regularly helps relieve from migrane, headache and insomnia.
Sesame oil to reduce fever
Studies have shown that sesame oil produce significant antipyretic effect in reducing fever which is comparable to popular drug paracetamol. Sesame oil used regularly in cooking serves benefits to body as dietary supplement while offering anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic and antioxidant benefits.
[Read more about Health benefits of watermelon seeds]
Health benefits of sesame seeds for men
Studies have found that sesame contains antioxidant properties, which help improve semen quality, count and mobility. Thus sesame is effective in treating male factor infertility. Sesame seeds are also rich in amino acid arginine that enhances blood circulation in penis, thus improving male sexuality and treat premature ejaculation.
Sesame benefits for women
Oil from roasted sesame seeds is used as post partum medicinal food in Taiwan. Sesame seeds are good source of lignans which resemble women hormone estrogen and may benefits postmenopausal women. In ayurveda, massage of abdominal region with sesame oil is considered remedy to treat premenstrual syndrome. High magnesium content in sesame seed also helps in overcome mood fluctuations and spasms associated with menstruation.
In ayurveda, sesame seeds paste is used to treat amenorrhoea. In case of delayed period, paste made from sesame seeds soaked overnight mixed with water and jaggery is administered in morning few days before expected date of periods.
Other sesame seed benefits
- Traditionally ayurvedic practitioner use sesame oil in the treatment of several chronic diseases including hepatitis, diabetes and migraines.
- Antioxidant properties of lignans in sesame have have neuro-protective effects against hypoxia or brain damage
- Traditionally, sesame is used to cure bleeding dysentery, burns, ear pain, headache and impotency.
- The decoction of both leaves and roots is found to be effective against viral infections like chicken pox and measles.
- Black sesame seeds are considered to be rich in iron and treat anemic condition.
- Sesame oil is mildly laxative
- Mucilage from sesame leaves are found effective over gastro intestinal problems.
Sesame oil is good for your skin
- Sesame seeds and sesame seed oil provide skin with valuable mineral zinc which is vital for production of collagen – the building block for our tissues, skin and hair. Adequate zinc supplies in body help retain skin elasticity.
- Sesame oil has very good antioxidant properties, which help protect skin from oxidative stress. Use of sesame seed oil can reduce signs of aging.
- With excellent oil pulling properties, sesame oil washes away oil soluble impurities and toxins in the skin. It thus helps reduce recurrence of acne and pimples. Equal quantity of sesame oil and apple cider vinegar can be used as cleansing agent.
- Sesame oil has been long used as massaging oil. It has ability to seep deep in skin and offer warmth to region where it is applied. This helps improve blood circulation below the skin.
- Sesame seed oil also has amazing ability to protect against radiations. It can thus acts as natural sunscreen to protect damage of skin by harmful ultraviolet rays. On exposure to sun, sesame seed oil can help treat sunburns, tan, wrinkles and pigmentation. Regular application of sesame oil reduces risk of exposure to ultraviolet rays or swimming pool chlorine. It also acts as natural barrier against pollutants and smoke in air.
- When it comes to infant skin, sesame seed oil is useful in treating baby diaper rashes. Sesame oil is also considered safe as baby massage oil. Massaging babies with sesame seed oil help improve their body growth and sleep.
- In Ayurveda, sesame seed oil is used in treating wound due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Sesame seed oil is also used in treating skin fungal infections like athlete’s foot. As home remedy to control vaginal yeast infections, sesame seed oil diluted in warm water is applied.
- Sesame seed oil is a must in your beauty treatment kit. It is an excellent moisturizing agent and regular use can reverse dry skin and offer glowing skin. Applying sesame oil to your skin improves its elasticity, tightens facial skin and removes scars. Rice powder mixed with sesame oil is an excellent home made facial scrub.
- Cracked heel is common problem in winters. Rubbing heels sesame seed oil at night helps treat cracked heel and sore feet.
- Most of herbal oils in Ayurveda are prepared either with sesame oil or coconut oil as base. Sesame oil is excellent selection as carrier oil for aromatherapy. Til oil for skin therapies is common in Ayurvedic medicines.
- Applying paste made of equal quantities of turmeric powder and wheat flour mixed in sesame seed oil, is home remedy to remove unwanted facial hair or discoloured skin.
[Read more about 15 natural ways to treat cracked heel]
Sesame seed oil for hair
- Sesame seed oil supplies essential fatty acids which are required for the growth of hair. Massaging hair and scalp with sesame seed oil improves blood circulation in scalp, stimulates hair growth and nourishes hair. Sesame seeds also offer body with essential zinc and other nutrients which are required for the hair growth.
- With its antimicrobial properties, it helps treat dandruff, psoriasis and other fungal infections of scalp. Massaging scalp with sesame seed oil reduces scalp dryness, flakiness, clogge pores which result in hair loss. Tough less popular, sesame seed oil can treat head lice. A regular massage with this oil helps keep scalp infections at bay. Massage sesame oil into the scalp using your fingertips before going to bed and wash hair in morning.
- Sesame oil protects hair and its root from damage by free radicals. It protects hair from exposure to extreme sunlight, chemical and other air pollution.
- Sesame seed oil acts as a deep hair conditioner. It treats dry and damaged hair, split ends. It strengthens hair and offers them bounciness and elasticity. You can apply sesame oil to your hair and scalp before or after shampooing your hair. This acts as natural conditioner.
- Sesame seed oil is known for its hair darkening qualities. Along with amla oil it is used to for preventing graying of hair.
- Stress is one of the prime cause of hair loss. Regular head massage with sesame oil not only nourishes hairs but also reduces stress and plays vital role in preventing hair loss.
Side effects of sesame
Like other nuts and foods, many people are allergic to sesame seeds. Excess consumption of til oil may cause hiccups or respiratory disorders.
Culinary uses of sesame
Whole sesame seeds are used in variety of dishes. Its taste blends well with jiggery and used as till ladoo, tilgul, til pitha, til papdi and other. Roasted sesame seeds are commonly used in salads or topping in bakery products. In Middle East, tahini which is main ingredient in popular dip Hummus, is made by grinding dry toasted sesame seeds and oil. Japanese cuisine, Gomashio uses ground sesame seeds. There are three key varieties of seeds used. White sesame seeds are used as paste in various recipes for its nutty flavour. Black sesame seeds have stronger aroma and are preferred for medicinal purposes. Black sesame seeds contain more calcium than white variety. Whereas, white sesame seeds have higher iron content as compared to black seeds.
Sesame seed oil also known as teel oil or Gingely oil is a commonly used vegetable oil in India and other Asia. Today in market oil processed in different forms are available – plain seaseme oil, Cold pressed sesame oil and toasted sesame oil. Plain oil is obtained by hot extraction from seeds and is most popular commercial oil. Cold pressed sesame oil is extracted at room temperature in an impeller and tastes good taken raw. Cold pressed sesame oil smokes at relatively low temperatures and cannot be used for frying. Toasted sesame oil is dark brown oil obtained by toasting sesame seeds brown and then extracting oil. This oil has longer shelf life and has nutty flavour. Choosing type of sesame oil would depend on flavour you need in a recipe.
So now you know what are sesame seeds good for, right? The benefits of sesame seeds are beyond the rich nutrients they offer. Sesame seeds are affluent source of medicinal and therapeutic properties. It is because of this many nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products with sesame seeds, sesame seed oil or sesame seed extract are available in market today. So instead of debating whether black sesame seeds are better than white sesame seeds or unhulled sesame seeds are effective over hulled sesame seeds, go and enjoy sesame seeds in whichever way you can. Organic sesame seed oil or organic sesame seeds ensure that you get most of the benefits without harmful chemicals. Include them in your regular diet and accumulate the health benefits sesame seeds offer.
- Health benefits of Sesamum indicum: a short review, S Ravindran
- A Review on Nutritional and Nutraceutical Properties of Sesame, Nagendra Prasad et. al.
- Nutritional, Medicinal and Industrial Uses of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Seeds – An Overview
- Bioactive Constituents as a Potential Agent in Sesame for Functional and Nutritional Application Karnika Prakash and S.N. Naik