Black Sesame Seed

Other Names of Black Sesame Seed: Sesamum Indicum; Til; Tahini (butter made from sesame seeds)

Useful Parts of the Plant: Seeds

Black Sesame seeds are one of the oldest condiments known to man. Their use dates back to approximately 1600 BC and they are prized primarily for their high oil content. Sesame seeds come in many different colors, with the white ones being popular in the West and the Middle East and the black seeds being popular in the East. Black sesame seeds have been used as a spice in many Asian dishes, imparting a nutty flavor to the food. The seeds are harvested and dried during early autumn and are also used for their medicinal value. The oil which is extracted by crushing the seeds is highly valued because of it resists rancidity.

Nutritional Information and Properties of Black Sesame Seed

Black sesame seeds are a rich source of many minerals and other important nutrients. Some of the minerals present in high quantities are manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and phosphorus. They also contain high levels of vitamin B1 and are a rich source of dietary fiber. Black sesame seeds contain two unique substances, sesamin and sesamolin. They have been found to lower cholesterol levels in humans as well as lower blood pressure. Sesamin also protects the liver from oxidative damage. Black sesame seeds are rich in minerals and other nutrients. A quarter cup of sesame supplies almost 75% of the daily value (DV) of copper, 35% of the DV of calcium and 32% of the DV of magnesium.

Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses of Black Sesame Seeds

  • Copper is required by the body in the production of enzymes, a number of which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It plays a vital role in the activity of the enzyme lysyl oxidase which helps provide strength as well as elasticity to blood vessels, bones and joints. Hence, black sesame seeds have been used by herbalists in to provide relief to people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Studies have shown magnesium helps prevent airway spasm in asthma attacks, helps lower blood pressure and can prevent migraine attacks.
  • It may help restore sleep patterns in women going through menopause.
  • Calcium is essential for healthy bones. Menopause in women can cause weakening of the bones leading to osteoporosis. The calcium present in black sesame seeds help in dealing with osteoporosis.
  • It also helps protect colon cells from turning cancerous. There is however, a difference between the calcium content of hulled and un-hulled black sesame seeds. The hulled seeds contain about 60% less calcium than the un-hulled ones. However, the calcium contained in the kernels, though of a lesser amount, is of the more absorbable kind. So the actual amount of calcium in black sesame seeds that can be absorbed by the body is still open to debate.
  • The high zinc content of black sesame seeds is also good for the bones. Studies have shown that older men who take black sesame seeds as part of their regular diet have lower incidences of osteoporosis. They show that there exists a definite correlation between low blood levels of zinc and osteoporosis at the spine and the hip.
  • Black sesame seeds contain phytosterols. These are compounds that when consumed in sufficient quantities, can help lower blood cholesterol levels, boost the immune system and also decrease the risks of certain cancers.
  • Black sesame seeds have one of the highest levels of phytosterols in comparison with other foods like pistachio nuts and sunflower seeds.

Care should be taken while purchasing the seeds. The seeds should be in a covered airtight container and should be fresh to avoid the risk of rancidity. The hulled seeds can turn rancid faster and should be stored in a refrigerator. There have been an increasing number of cases of sesame seed allergy, so take care when trying any product that uses sesame seed extracts.