Sesame is largely cultivated in China, India, and West Indies. The herb is an annual plant that can be of a branched or un-branched variety. The leaves are opposite, and the ripened capsules of the plant release the seeds with a pop. The plant resists drought, though it requires adequate moisture in its early stages of growth and germination. It is mainly cultivated for its seeds, which are used in cooking and as a flavoring agent. The seeds also yield oil that is rich in nutrients. The Chinese used the seeds of sesame plant while making their ink blocks and the Romans used it to make a tasty spread on their breads.

Nutritional Information and Properties  

The husk of sesame seeds is removed before they are used in cooking. This is because of the bitterness of the husk, which is due to the high oxalic acid content. The husk is also a rich source of vitamin B1, iron, and calcium, but it cannot be absorbed by the body. Sesame seeds are of three varieties – black, white, and red. The black seeds yield the best quality of sesame oil. The white seeds are an excellent source of calcium, and the red seeds are a reservoir of iron. Rich in calcium, sesame seeds are also a good source of zinc, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, copper, iron, vitamin E, vitamin B1 (thiamin), protein, and fiber. Sesamin and sesamolin, present in sesame seeds, protect the liver against damage due to oxidative stress and help to lower high blood pressure. Sesame is also an abundant source of lignin. These are phytoestrogens with antioxidant and anticancer properties. The presence of phytosterols in sesame also accounts for its cholesterol-lowering properties. The antioxidant property of sesame oil is highest among other essential oils. The cake obtained after pressing the seeds for oil is of high nutrient value. The nutritional content of sesame is best absorbed when it is ground or crushed well.

Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses

Sesame health benefits and uses are diverse. Some of the popular ones are listed below.

  • Sesame seeds are used in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery as well as a cure for piles.
  • Sesame is a rich source of iron, and it is also used to counter anemia.
  • Sesame seeds are also given to people suffering from respiratory disorders.
  • The external application of sesame paste ground with water is also used for treating skin and hair problems.
  • Sesame oil nutrition is due to the high amounts of phytic acid in the seeds of the plant. Sesame oil is used in aromatherapy for body massages.
  • Sesame oil is also believed to help teeth and gum aches.
  • Sesame oil benefits also include its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. It is easily absorbed by the skin into the blood and helps in lowering levels of unhealthy cholesterol.
  • Sesame oil is also renowned for its stress-relieving properties.
  • Sesame leaves’ health benefits can be attributed to the high density of minerals that they contain. Additionally, their strong aroma can be used to add flavor to many dishes.

Precautions/Side Effects/Warnings

In rare cases, sesame is believed to trigger off allergic reactions in some persons. In all such cases, it is best to discontinue the use of the seeds and consult a medical practitioner.