All about sesame – nutrition, benefits, uses, recipe


Scientific names Common names
Dysosmon amoenum Raf. Ajonjoli (Span.)
Sesamum africanum Tod. Gingely-oil plant (Engl.)
Sesamum indicum Linn. Lañga (Bik., Tag., Ibn., Bis.)
Sesamum occidentalis Heer & Regel Lañgis (Pamp.)
Sesamum oleiferum Sm. Leñga (Ilk.)
Sesamum orientale L. Liñga (Tag.)
Volkameria orientalis (L.) Kuntze Linga (Sbl.)
Liñgo (Tag.)
Loñgis (If.)
Luñga (Bis., Sul.)
Benne seeds (Engl.)
Gingelly (Engl.)
Sesame (Engl.)
Sesamum indicum L. is an accepted name.


Other vernacular names
ARABIC: Sim sim.
ARMENIAN: Shooshma.
BURMESE: Hnan zi.
CHINESE: Hu ma, Zhi ma (Taiwan), Hei Chih-ma.
CZECH: Sezam.
DANISH: Sesamfrø.
DUTCH: Sesamzaad.
ESTONIAN: Harilik seesam.
FINNISH: Seesami.
FRENCH: Graines de sésame, Graines de sésame blanc, Graines de sésame blanches, Sésame.
GERMAN: Sesam.
GREEK: Sesami.
HEBREW: Shomshom, Shumshum, Sumsum.
HINDI: Gingli, Safed til, Til.
HUNGARIAN: Szézámfi, Szézámmag.
ICELANDIC: Sesam, Sesamfræ.
ITALIAN: Sesamo.
JAPANESE: Goma, Shiro goma.
KOREAN: Cham kkae.
LAOTIAN: Man nga, Nga.
MALAY: Bijan, Wijen.
PERSIAN: Konjed.
POLISH: Sezam indyjski.
PORTUGUESE: Gergelim, Sésamo.
RUSSIAN: Kunzhut indiiskii, Sezam.
SPANISH: Ajonjolí, Semilla de ajonjolí, Sésamo.
TAMIL: Cirrel, El, Ellu, Illu, Tilam.
TELUGU: Tillu.
THAI: Nga, Nga dam, Nga khao.
URDU: Til.

Sesame plant is an erect, annual, hairy herb, 50 to 80 centimeters in height. Leaves are oblong or ovate, 3 to 10 centimeters long, the lower ones lobed, the middle ones toothed, and the uppermost subentire. Leaf stalks are from 1 to 5 centimeters long. Sepals are lanceolate, 6 to 7 millimeters long and imbricate. Corolla is about 3 centimeters long, hairy and whitish, or with purplish, red, or yellow marks. Stamens are 4, inserted. Fruits are capsules, 2- or 4-celled, oblong, about 2.5 centimeters long, erect, and splitting halfway or quite to the base at maturity. Seeds are small and black.


– Cultivated here and there throughout the world.

– Often occurs in open waste places as an escape plant.

– Native of tropical Asia.

– Now pantropic.


– The white or yellow-seeded varieties provide the best grade of oil, while the dark red, brown, or black-seeded varieties give an inferior grade of oil.

– Has a high percentage of fixed oil which can be used as an antirheumatic in massage treatment.

– Sesame oil, also known as pil or gingelly, has a pale yellow color, a pleasant odor and taste.

– Neither warming nor cooling.

– Seeds are considered emollient, nourishing, tonic, diuretic, and lactagogue.

– Oil considered demulcent, emollient, diuretic, emmenagogue, lactagogue and laxative.


• Seed contain fixed oil, 47-59%; saccharose, pentosan, lecithin; choline; phytine; globuline, 22%; sesamin.

• The oil consists of olein, linolein, palmitin, and stearin; fatty acids consist of oleic, linoleic, linolenic, palmitic, palmitoleic, stearic, eicosenoic.

• Study on the chemical constituents of the flowers of Sesamum indicum yielded six flavones: apigenin, ladanetin, ladanetin-6-O-beta-D-glucoside, apigenin-7-O-glucuronic acid, pedalitin, and pedalitin-6-O-glucoside.

• Seeds yield lignan, lignan glycosides, and sterols; phenylethanoid glycosides from the whole plant, and phenolic acids from the leaves and seeds.

• A petroleum ether fraction of an alcoholic extract yielded sesamin, sesamolin, stigmasterol, ß-sitosterol, and stigmasterol-3-O-ß-D-glucoside. A butanol fraction yielded ferulic acid, rhamnetin, verbascoside, kaempferol-3-O-ß-D-glucorunide, and mequelianin (quercetin-3-O–D-glucuronide).

• Study for nutritional value of sesame seeds (S. indicum) yielded: carbohydrates 23.45 g, protein 17.73 g, total fat 49.67 g, dietary fiber 11.8 g, carbohydrates 23.45 g, copper 4.082 mg, iron 14.55 mg, magnesium 351 mg, manganese 2.460 mg, phosphorus 629, selenium 34.4 µg, zinc 7.75 mg, copper 4.082mg. Phytochemical screening of seeds yielded saponin, alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, glycosides. (26)

• Study evaluated proximate, phytochemical, and mineral compositions of seeds, leaves, root and whole plant of S. indicum. Roots yielded appreciable levels of moisture (6.60 ± 4.39%), crude fiber (12.80 ± 8.53%), and total carbohydrate (67.90 ± 45.26%). Protein content was highest (21.44 ± 14.29%) in the whole plant. Percentage flavonoids, alkaloids, and tannins of the samples ranged between 16.20-4.80, 10.04-1.96, and 3.32-1.18%, respectively. (33)

• Ethanol extract of sesame seeds yielded phenols, tannins, saponins, glycosides, alkaloids, coumarins, and flavonoids, with an absence of terpenes and steroids. (see study below) (40)

Parts used

· Seeds, leaves.

· Collect seeds as soon as the fruits ripen, harvest the above ground portion, sun-dry and collect the seeds, dry again.

Edibility / Culinary

· Whole seeds used by bakers in making cakes and sweetmeats.

· Used for cooking; for margarine; also used to adulterate olive oil.

Folkloric traditional medicinal benefits and uses of Sesame

· For chronic constipation, roasted seeds are taken alone, with honey, or mixed liberally with other foods.

· Oil extracted from seeds used as antirheumatic in massage therapy.

· Burned stalks applied to hemorrhoids.

· Leaves, which abound in the gummy matter, mixed with water to form a bland mucilage used for infantile cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, catarrh, cystitis, and strangury.

· Plaster of ground seeds applied to burns and scalds.

· Leaves with equal parts of sesame oil and lime water are a popular dressing for burns and scalds.

· Decoction of seeds with linseed used for coughs and as aphrodisiac.

· Lotion made from roots and leaves used as a hair wash; also used to promote hair growth and make it black.

· Decoction of seeds laxative for children.

· The oil of seed used for treatment of ulcers and suppurating wounds.

· White seeds promote menstruation.

· Diseases of the kidney or liver associated with dizziness, tinnitus, and haziness of vision: get see preparation from 8 to 14 gms and mix with equal volume of Morus leaf preparation. Powder, add honey and water and drink.

· Seeds ground to a paste with water, given with butter, for bleeding piles.

· In large quantities, seeds capable of producing abortion.

· Alopecia (baldness) due to prolonged illness: fry seeds, crush and add sugar, then eat 1 to 2 tbsp daily.

· In Sierra Leone the mucilaginous juice of the plant is used by women to destroy headlice.

· In India, seeds used for wound healing.

· In Yucatan, seeds given as laxative to children.

· Seeds and oil used as emmenagogue.

· Malays use the oil in tonics.

· In Africa, decoction of leaves used as aphrodisiac. Decoction of plant used for malaria. Leaves chewed as alternative to tobacco. Powdered leaf applied to snake bites. Decoction of seeds used for hemorrhoids and regulation of the menstrual cycle.

· In European medicine the oil was once used pulmonary tuberculosis.

Other uses

· Perfumery: Oil use in perfumery in Europe, North America and India.

· Hair uses: Lotion from leaves and roots used for healthy hair growth and color restoration.

Scientific studies on the benefits and uses of sesame

• Free Radical Scavenging / Antioxidant:

Study evaluated the free radical scavenging capacity of antioxidants from sesame cake extract using a DPPH kinetic model. (1)

Antioxidant / Analgesic:

Study observed antioxidant and analgesic activity of the ethanol extract of seeds of SI with inhibition of writhing response comparable to ibuprofen. Study also showed an antioxidant activity compared to standard antioxidant ascorbic acid. (7)

Antioxidant / Neuroprotective:

Lignans and tocopherols, identified as major antioxidants in Sesamum indicum have also been reported to have protective effects against neurodegenerative disease. Sesame seeds and its antioxidants may be a potent natural agent with both therapeutic and preventive applications in neurodegenerative diseases in humans. (9)

Lipid Effects: Effect of Sesame Oil on Serum Lipids in Rats:

Sesame oil increased S cholesterol and LDL-C in hypercholesterolemic diet fed rats, with no significant effects on serum lipids of normocholesterolemic rats. (2)

Acetylcholine-like Substance:

Alcoholic extract of seeds of Sesamum indicum caused hypotensive effects in anesthetized rats. It also caused decreased rate and force of atrial contractions; contractile responses in rat uterus. The results indicate that the alcoholic extract of SI contain acetylcholine-like constituents that explains its folkloric use. (3)

Wound Healing:

Sesamum indicum seeds and oil applied topically showed wound healing activity with significant reduction in period of epithelization and wound contraction. (4)

Health Effects of Sesame Oil:

Study on the effect of SI in hypertensive diabetics on atenolol and sulfonylurea showed reduction in systolic and diastolic BP, decrease in glucose, HbA1C, LDL and TC, with increase in activities of enzymic and non-enzymic levels of antioxidants. (5)

Fertility Effects:

Study of the ethanolic extract of Sesamum indicum, vitamin C and SI+VC promote fertility from their testosterone-increasing effects and their antioxidant effects. (10)


Sesamin has been shown to be insecticidal and is synergistic to pyrethrum.

Physiochemical Properties of Sesame Oil:

Study showed (1) the acid value which is the index of free fatty acid content due to enzymatic activity was very low (2) No potential for soap making (3) High peroxide value (4) seed oils were cyanide free (5) seeds are a good source of oil, with a seed content of 50% light yellow crude oil with a pleasant smell. (12)

Residual Aerial Parts Composition / Antihyperglycemic / Antioxidant:

A petroleum ether fraction of an alcoholic extract yielded sesamin, sesamolin, stigmasterol, ß-sitosterol, and stigmasterol-3-O-ß-D-glucoside. A butanol fraction yielded ferulic acid, rhamnetin, verbascoside, kaempferol-3-O-ß-D-glucorunide, and mequelianin (quercetin-3-O–D-glucuronide). Tested extracts exhibited a reductive effect on blood glucose of diabetic rats, attributed to possible inhibition of free radicals and inhibition of tissue damage induced by alloxan. ß-sitosterol and ferulic acid may have contributed to the hypoglycemic activity of the alcoholic extract. The alcoholic extract has a potential as an alternative natural antioxidant, antihyperglycemic and anticoagulant. (13)


Study investigated the anti-hyperlipidemic effect of sesame in a high-fat fed rabbit model. Results showed supplementation with sesame oil, but not sesame seed, can ameliorate serum levels of lipids and hepatic enzymes in rabbits under a high-fat diet. (15)

Toxicity Study:

Study investigated the toxic effect of an ethanolic leaf extract of Sesamum indicum on the histomorphology of adult Wistar rats liver. The leaf extract caused an phased architectural pattern with atrophic hepatocytes and dilated sinusoid suggesting toxicity to the liver of Wistar rats. (16)

Ardeh / Anti-Atherogenic / Decreased CVD Risks:

Study investigated the effects of Ardeh, paste of ground unhulled sesame seeds, on lipid profiles and atherogenic lipid parameters on 41 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Results showed significant decrease in serum triglycerides and atherogenic index of plasma (AIP) with slight decreases in other atherogenic lipid parameters and a mild increase in HDL-C. Results suggest Ardeh could have favorable effects in decreasing CVD risk factors in T2DM.

Hepatoprotective / Seeds / CCl4-Induced Hepatic Damage:

Study of ethanolic extracts of S. indicum seeds showed potent hepatoprotective action against carbon tetrachloride induced hepatic damage in rats. (18)

Plant Gum / Formulation and In Vitro Release Properties:

Study evaluated the properties of a plant gum obtained from S. indicum. Moisture content was found to be low. All formulations released the drug in the hydrated matrix through polymer relaxation. The findings suggest the gum can be used for intestinal drug delivery. (19)

Antioxidant / Seeds:

Study evaluated ethanol extracts of white and black varieties of S. indicum. Results showed sesame seed extracts possess high antioxidant activity and that the white variety elicit better antioxidant activity than the black one. (20)

Seed and Seed Oil:

Seeds yield two unique substances, sesamin and sesamolin, reported to prevent high blood pressures and have a cholesterol lowering effect in humans. Oil is reported to increase HDL and lower LDL. Seed oil has reported antibacterial activity Staphylococcus and Streptococcus and common fungi (athlete’s foot fungus). (22)

Prophylactic Effect on Ethanol Induced Toxicity:

Study evaluat3d the prophylactic effect of aqueous extract of of S. indicum on ethanol induced hepatotoxicity in rats. S. indicum possesses antioxidant and hepatoprotective properties that eliminate the deleterious effects of toxic metabolites of ethanol. SI treatment simultaneous with ethanol exhibited similar effects to those of SI pretreated groups, while SI post-treatment group did not show the same level of protection. (23)

Reduction in Severity of Post-Traumatic Pain / Topical Sesame Oil:

Study evaluated the effects of topical sesame oil on pain severity and frequency of NSAIDs patients with trauma. Results showed topical application of sesame oil could reduce pain severity and frequency of NSAIDs treatment in patients with upper and lower extremity trauma. Results recommend complementary use of the oil for relief of pain with its low cost, easy usage, and lack of side effects. (24)

Antibacterial / Leaves:

Study evaluated ethanol and aqueous leaf extracts for anti-microbial activities on bacterial pathogens viz., K. pneumonia, S. typhii, E. coli, and S. aureus. The ethanolic extract strongly inhibited E. coli growth with mild inhibition of of K. pneumonia and S. typhi. The aqueous extract showed no activity on the test pathogens. (25)

Herbal Treatment of Oligomenorrhea:

Single-blind clinical trial in 56 women evaluated the efficacy of S. indicum in inducing menstrual bleeding in women with oligomenorrhea (infrequent menstrual flow at intervals of 36 days to 6 months or 5-7 cycles in a year). Results showed S. indicum was well-tolerated and partially effective in inducing and maintaining regular bleeding, and can be considered as an alternative therapy for patients who are not suitable candidates for hormone therapy. (27)

Anti-Diabetic Synergism with Glibenclamide / Sesame Oil:

Studies have reported blood pressure and antioxidant benefits with sesame oil. Open-label study evaluated the effectiveness of sesame oil with anti-diabetic (glibenclamide) medication as combination therapy in mild to moderate diabetes. Results showed sesame oil exhibited synergistic effect with glibenclamide—a safe and effective option for combination therapy for the treatment of diabetes. (28)

Effect on Hepatic and Renal Mineral Concentrations on Hypercholesterolemic Rats / Seed Oil:

Hypercholesterolemia reduced both hepatic and real concentrations of sodium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium but reduced the hepatic and not renal concentrations of magnesium and zinc. 5% supplementation with sesamum indicum seed oil reversed the effects and restored reduced ion concentrations. (29)

Antioxidant / Antibacterial / Roots, Leaves and Seeds:

Study evaluated methanol and aqueous extracts of leaves, seeds, and roots of S. indicum for antibacterial and antioxidant (DPPH, TBA) activities. The methanol extract showed promising antimicrobial and antioxidant activity. (30)

Anthelmintic / Seeds:

Study evaluated the anthelmintic activity of methanolic extract of seeds of sesame (S. indicum) and fruits of Capsicum frutescens on aquarium worms Tubifex tubifex. Results showed both alcoholic extracts exhibited significant anthelmintic activities at 10mg/ml concentration. Levasimole was used as standard. (31)

Silver Nanoparticles / Antibacterial / Seed:

Study reports on the simple, green, eco-friendly synthesis of silver nanoparticles from S. indicum seed extracts. The AgNPs showed inhibitory activity against multi-drug resistant Klebsiella pneumonia. (34)

Preservative Effects on Mashed Potatoes / Seed Oil:

Study evaluated the biopreservative efficiencies of different levels of sesame seed oil on mashed potatoes. Results showed sesame seed oil was more efficient in preserving stored potato paste than sodium benzoate. Organisms found associated with spoilage of stored potatoes included fungi Aspergillus flavus, A. fumigatus, A. niger and Fusarium spp. and bacteria such as Bacillus coagulant. (35)

Effect of S. indicum and Vitamin C in Promoting Fertility in Male Wistar Rats:

Study showed an ethanolic extract of S. indicum + vitamin C as well as ESS and VC promote fertility due to both their testosterone-increasing effects and their antioxidant effects. (36)

Nephroprotective in STZ-Induced Diabetic Rats / Seeds:

Study evaluated the effect of ethanolic extract of S. indicum on kidney function in STZ-nicotinamide induced diabetic rats. Results showed a significant decrease in levels of serum total protein, albumin, and globulin, and significant increase in blood urea, serum creatinine and uric acid when compared to normal rats. Normalization of marker enzymes in the serum and histopathological results revealed the protective effect and potential to control hyperglycemia in STZ induced diabetic rats. (37)

Prevention of Chemotherapy-Induced Phlebitis / Sesame Oil:

Study evaluated the effect of external use of sesame oil in the prevention of phlebitis in 60 patients with colon or rectal cancer. Results showed external use of SO is effective, safe, and well tolerated prophylaxis for phlebitis. (38)

Sesamin / Plant Lignan / Seed:

Study evaluated whether plant lignans in sesame seeds, particularly sesamin, could me metabolized to the mammalian lignans. Some plant lignans may have a protective effect against hormone-related diseases such as breast cancer. Study showed sesame seed is a rich source of mammalian lignan precursors and sesamin is one of them. (39)

Cytotoxicity / Seeds:

Study evaluated the active constituents in an ethanolic extract of S. indicum defatted seeds and its effect on lipid and cytogenetic changes in bone marrow in laboratory mice, and cytotoxic effects on three types of cancer cell lines. Concentration of sesamin the the ethanolic extract was 79.9% ethanolic extract. Results showed significant in vitro growth inhibition against the tested cancer cell lines (Hep-2, AMN-3, and RD). (40)



Cultivated for culinary use.

Reference list of scientific studies mentioned in this article

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