Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is a flowering plant that grows throughout the world and is cultivated for its edible seeds. Sesame oil is derived from sesame seeds.
Sesame seeds are used in foods and as flavoring agents. Sesame oil is used in cooking and for a variety of purposes, including body massage, hair treatment, and various practices of worship. Sesame oil is also commonly used as a base for preparing drugs, including those to be taken by mouth, injected, or applied to the skin. Sesame products have been added to some foods, such as snack bars, to increase nutritional value.
Sesame oil has been used in various traditional medical systems around the word, such as Ayurveda, for anxiety, nerve and bone disorders, poor circulation, lowered immunity, and bowel and skin problems. Sesame has also been studied for use in other conditions such as heart disease, cataracts, cough, dental conditions, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, infant massage, infertility, malnutrition, and nasal discomfort.
Abongra, acrylamide, alkaline inorganic pyrophosphatase, allomelanins, alpha-globulin, alpha-tocopherol, aluminum, anthraquinones, anthrasesamone, apigenin, arai-goma, ardeh, arginine, asarinin, aurantiamide acetate, beniseed, benne, benzyl alcohol, beta-sitosterol, bisfuranyl lignans, cadmium, calcium, calcium-dependent protein kinase (CDPK), caleosin, campesta-3,5-diene, carbohydrates, carotene, casein kinase I, chlorosesamone, cham kkae, chromium, cobalt, copper, cyanogenic glucoside, cytochrome c, daucosterol, dehydroascorbate reductase, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, delta-tocopherol, desmethyl tocopherols, D-galactitol, dietary fiber, dioleoyl-linoleoylglycerol, diversiform phytosterols, dronabinol (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), eicosanoic acid, enterolignans, episesaminone, epoxysesamone, fatty acids, flavones, flavonoids, furanofuran lignans, gamma-tocopherol, gingelly oil, glucopyranoside, goma (Japanese), halvah, halawa tehineh, hu ma (Mandarin Chinese), hydroxymatairesinol, hydroxysesamone, iron, ladanetin, ladanetin, lariciresinol, latifonin, lead, lecithin, lectins, lignan glycosides, lignans, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, lipid transfer proteins, lipolytic enzymes, magnesium, manchi noone (Telugu, India), manganese, melanin, methionine, microsomal oleic acid desaturase (FAD2), momor-cerebroside, n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, nalla ennai (Tamil, India), naphthoquinone, nickel, nuvvula noone (Telugu, India), octadene, octadienine, ogiri, oil bodies, oleic acid, oleosins, oleoyl-dilinoleoyl-glycerol, oligosaccharides, oxalate, palmitic acid, palmitoleic acid, pedalitin, pedalitin-6-O-glucoside, peroxidase, phenol glucosides, phenolic acids, phenylethanoid glycosides, phosphatidylcholine, phospholipids, phosphorus, phthoquinone, phytic acid, phytosterols, pinoresinol, policosanol, polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids, potassium, (+)-saminol, Sanskrit tila, saponins, secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, seed-specific FAD2 (SeFAD2), seed-specific metallothionein-like protein (SiMT), selenium, semilla de ajonjoli (Spanish), Sesam (German), sesame oil, sesame paste, sesame seeds, sesamin, sesaminol sesaminol diglucoside, sesaminol glucosides, sesaminol triglucoside, sésamo (Spanish), sesamol, (-)-sesamolactol, sesamolin, sesamolinol diglucoside, Sesamum africanum, Sesamum brasiliense, Sesamum indicum, Sesamum luteum, Sesamum malabaricum, Sesamumorientale, sezam indyjski (Polish), sesamzaad (Dutch), shiro goma (Japanese), simsim (Arabic), sodium, sop1 (caleosin), sop2 (caleosin), sop3 (steroleosin), sophoroside, soya-cerebroside II, stearic acid, stearoyl-acyl carrier protein desaturase, steroleosin, sterols, stigmasta-3,5-diene, tannins, teel tel (Marathi, India), thala thel (Sinhalese, Sri Lanka), thiamin-binding proteins, til (Punabi, Bengali, India), til oil, tocopherols, triacylglycerols, triglycerides, triglycosides, trypsin inhibitors, tryptophan, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin B1, vitamin E, yellenne (Kannada, India), zhi ma (Mandarin Chinese), zinc.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Preliminary study found that sesame oil was safe and effective when used together with the standard treatment for a form of small bowel obstruction. Further research is needed in this area.
Cardiovascular disease risk
Overweight or obese men and women who took 25 grams of sesame daily for five weeks had significantly increased levels of sesame lignans in their systems. However, they did not experience any improvement in markers of heart disease risk, such as blood pressure or the level of lipids (fats) in the blood. Based on this limited evidence, sesame is not recommended for this condition.
Cataract (with atopic dermatitis, or eczema)
Cataract formation, where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, affecting vision, can occur with severe atopic dermatitis (eczema). Both the dermatitis and the cataract may be caused by the presence of lipid peroxides, chemically changed lipids or fats, in the lens and the skin. Limited evidence suggests that a combination antioxidant product that contains sesame and is taken by mouth may be useful in treating the cataract. Studies on the effects of sesame alone are needed.
Preliminary study showed that sesame oil did not significantly improve cough symptoms in children. Additional research is needed in this area.
Oil pulling is a traditional Indian folk remedy for strengthening teeth, gums, and the jaw and to prevent dental problems, bad breath, dryness of the throat, and cracked lips. In a study of teenagers with inflamed gums due to dental plaque, oil pulling with sesame oil appears to have reduced plaque and improved the condition of the gums. Additional study is needed in this area.
Patients with type 2 diabetes who eat halvah, a candy made from sesame, may experience improved blood sugar levels. Additional research is needed in this area.
High blood pressure
In a study of patients with high blood pressure, supplementing the diet with sesamin, a lignan found in sesame, resulted in significantly lowered blood pressure. In another study, taking sesame oil led to lowered blood pressure in patients taking drugs for heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Additional studies are needed in this area.
In preliminary study, supplementing the diet with sesamin, a lignan found in sesame, has been shown to decrease total cholesterol and LDL, or "bad," cholesterol in humans. However, another study showed that sesame oil had no effect on cholesterol. Additional studies are needed.
Infant development / neonatal care
In Nepal, newborns are traditionally massaged with oil. Limited study suggested that sesame oil massage improved sleep patterns and growth in full-term newborns. In another study, Vietnamese infants who were fed instant flour containing sesame had significantly higher energy and nutrient intakes compared to infants on a standard diet. Additional research is needed in this area.
Limited study suggests that a combination antioxidant product containing sesame taken by mouth may be useful in treating male infertility. More study is needed in this area.
When HIV-positive patients ate a specially prepared food containing sesame and chickpeas, their weight increased rapidly, and the level of their physical activity improved. Additional studies are needed in this area.
Use of Nozoil™, a sesame oil-based nasal spray, may improve symptoms associated with nasal and sinus discomfort, including nasal dryness. More studies are needed in this area.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
One study suggests that a diet of rice, raw vegetables, soybean curd, and sesame seeds may improve the condition of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Additional studies are needed.
Rickets is a disease that can be caused by a diet that does not contain enough calcium. In rickets, the bones are soft, weak, and often misshapen. In one study, patients with rickets ate a calcium-rich diet that included sesame, but no improvement was seen in their bones. Additional studies are needed in this area.
Seborrhea (overactivity of sebaceous skin glands)
In one study, a cream containing polyphenols from sesame seeds and other plants appeared to improve the condition of patients with oily facial skin. Additional study is needed.
One study examined the effects of sesame oil as an influenza vaccine adjunct, or additive. However, details are lacking and additional studies are needed.
In folkloric medicine, sesame seeds have been used to treat various kinds of wounds. One study suggested that use of moist exposed burn ointment (MEBO), an oil-based ointment containing sesame oil and other ingredients from plants, may help heal burns. Additional study is needed in this area.