Sesame oil is a light, nutritious oil obtained from sesame seeds. It has got lots of uses and health benefits. Sesame oil may not be the most popular oil in our times, but it was the most sought after oil in Ancient India. One of the earliest and profound writers on Ayurveda, Charaka in his Charaka Samhita mentions that sesame oil is the best oil. It was widely used back then for alleviating the body from various diseases and conditions. That is perhaps the oldest reference to this oil. Only now are we beginning to realize the strong health benefits of sesame seed oil.
Sesame oil can help one achieve flawless skin, healthy hair and radiant health from the inside out. Here, we look at the medicinal qualities of sesame oil and its nutritional value.
Sesame oil comes from sesame seeds. These are the seeds obtained from a variety of species in the broad genus Sesamum. The plants in this genus have a special ability. They tolerate drought very well. People of the ancient civilizations in India, China, Egypt and in Middle East discovered that sesame seeds are good for producing oil. Sesame oil is thus one of the oldest extracted oils in the history of human civilization.
Sesame seeds are mainly of two types –
- White sesame seeds – These are white or creamy in color. Oil obtained from these sesame seeds has a lighter color.
- Black sesame seeds – These are dark in color, and the oil obtained from these seeds is dark in color.
There are other colors of sesame seeds as well, like yellow and red.
There are many varieties of processed and adulterated sesame seed oil in the market. One should be wary of such oils. A good idea is to always go for cold pressed virgin, or extra virgin sesame seed oil, whether you want to use it in recipes or as massage oil.
Sesame oil has got many powerful therapeutic and medicinal properties. The source of these properties are often taken from ancient medicinal texts, like Charaka Samhita, Susruta Samhita and Ebers Papyrus ( famous ancient papyrus scroll from Ancient Egyptian civilization ). Few of these properties have been evaluated and verified through scientific research.
- Anti-inflammatory – it aids in reducing inflammation because of healthy fatty acids in it.
- Antioxidant – Sesame oil contains many antioxidants. It does not spoil quickly because of these antioxidant nutrients.
- Anti-diabetic – relieves diabetes.
- Hypotensive – lowers blood pressure.
- Anti-bacterial – kills many strains of bacteria.
- Anti-atherogenic – reduces the risk of atherosclerosis
- Anti-depressant – lowers the state of depression.
- DNA protection – sesame oil safeguards the DNA of body cells from damage by external factors, like radiation.
- Anti-cancer – sesame oil has now been identified to protect and inhibit the growth of specific cancers, as we shall see later.
- Emollient – excellent moisturizer, heals dry skin.
- Anti-aging – sesame oil has powerful anti-aging nutrients !
- Skin regeneration – promotes repair and regrowth of skin cells.
- Cicatrizant – moderate wound healing property.
- Sunscreen – sesame oil has natural SPF, although mild. It doesn’t compare to sunblocks, but it can be used in natural sunscreen formulations.
- Anti-rheumatic – used in Ayurvedic oil formulations as base oil to infuse herbs. These are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
- Anti-cholesterol – improves lipid profile of people who use it.
- Detoxifying – one of the few massage oils known to remove toxins from the body.
- Warming – creates a warming sensation upon massage.
- Laxative – quickly provides relief from constipation.
You can’t help but ponder that ancient people revered this oil because of its healing properties. There are many more of its uses and properties mentioned in those books, but they have become difficult to decipher and understand. Hopefully, in due course of time, we can get to know many more beneficial medicinal properties of sesame oil and bring it back to its glory.
Uses and Health Benefits
We have seen the properties of this oil, now let’s put it to use. These are the ways in which one can use sesame seed oil at home, cold pressed of course.
1. Sesame Oil For Face Care
Sesame oil should be applied directly to the facial skin. It improves the skin texture, making it softer and smoother. Because of its emollient properties, it moisturizes the skin. Applying a small amount of sesame seed oil can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. This effect is because of a special micronutrient called sesamol. It can also lighten sun spots and irregular pigmentation. Because of its antioxidant and sunscreen properties, it provides double protection from UV – B induced skin damage.
2. As Massage Oil
Sesame oil, despite being slightly heavier than other massage oils, can still be used for a massage. It is preferable used for detoxifying the body through the skin. Here is how to correctly massage using sesame oil.
Warm sesame oil till it is just as warm as tepid water. Now apply it in copious amounts on the skin. The idea is to bathe the skin in this oil. Massage it firmly into the skin. Keep the oil on the skin for about 15 – 30 minutes. Wash the oil down with water. This is ideal for an early morning massage before the shower, although one can use it any time.
This massage takes away many environmental toxins and internal toxins ( released by the liver to the skin ), leaving the body detoxified. In fact, skin is the largest organ on the body and a prominent means of releasing toxins for the body. On the contrary, we absorb toxins from the skin, many of which are trapped inside the skin. This massage also improves the blood circulation of the skin, making the skin perform better.
According to Ayurveda, sesame oil is to used daily in the morning for a self massage , called Abhyanga . This massage is aimed to strengthen the tissues of the body, reduce physical stress, improve the appearance of skin and protect from advancing old age. Sesame is renowned for its ability to neutralize “Vata” disorders.
Infant Massage – Although the dominant oils for infant massage are olive oil and mustard oil. But, sesame oil too can be used for this purpose.This study  found out that applying sesame oil on baby’s skin promotes growth in them. Babies massaged with sesame oil registered an added increase in height, weight and circumference of their arms, although serum levels of nutrients remained the same. It also boosted sleep after massage.
3. Sesame Oil For Hair Growth
Just as for skin, sesame oil makes a great massage for scalp. It deep conditions the scalp and improves the health of hair follicles. These are the health benefits of sesame oil for hair health.
- Sesame oil treats damaged hair. Our hair gets damaged due to use of chemicals, like from soaps, shampoo, conditioners, hair colors and even from high heat of the rollers and straighteners. Sesame oil returns hair back to its original health ( to some extent ). It dissolves away many toxins that accumulate on the scalp. It can also dissolve many oil soluble vitamins and minerals which may have deposited on the scalp. This usually happens because of bathing in sea water or water that has TDS ( total dissolved solids ).
- Sesame oil hot oil treatment – Apply warm sesame oil on the scalp as part of hot oil treatment. This makes hair softer and detangles them. Hot oil treatment is done for deep conditioning.
- Provides nutrition to hair follicles – Sesame oil has a good essential fatty acid profile which boosts health of hair follicles.
- Scalp psoriasis – Sesame oil help in scalp psoriasis as it eliminates flakiness and dryness. That is why it also combats dandruff.
- May prevent hair loss – Sesame oil may be useful in preventing hair loss that occurs because of a fungal scalp infection. Sesame oil is a potent anti-fungal and it kills the fungi to keep scalp fungi free.
- Quick shine – Going out and need some shine to dull hair ? No problem. Just take 4 – 5 drops of sesame in your palm and run them through hair. Enjoy the shine. Massaging at the ends gets rid of split ends.
- Get rid of lice – Add few drops of lavender oil and rosemary oil to sesame oil and apply as hot oil treatment on scalp. Lice is gone. Use a nit comb to extract their eggs.
4. Calm depression
Sesame oil , when taken internally or as massage helps to manage depression better. Research has identified that sesamol from sesame oil helps inhibits the production of cytokines ( like TNF – α ) . This reduces the risk of developing clinical depression because of stress.
5. Oil Pulling with Sesame Oil
One may be familiar with the ancient practice of oil pulling. For those f you who don’t know, oil pulling is the act of swishing oil inside the mouth. Commonly, coconut oil is popular for this practice. Sesame oil can also be used for oil pulling.
Take a mouthwash amount of sesame oil. Swish it inside the mouth for about 5 minutes. It kills bad bacteria in the mouth, fungi species like candida that cause oral thrush, protects teeth and gums. This practice is also helpful in gingivitis. 
6. Better Intestinal Health
Sesame oil helps to improve intestinal health. Regular consumption of sesame oil in diet may improve certain inflammatory conditions of the alimentary canal, like IBS, IBD, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease. It is also helpful in treating intestinal obstruction which leads to fecal smelling vomiting. 
7. Maintain a health cholesterol level
Because of the presence of healthy fatty acids, sesame oil can reduce LDL cholesterol all the while keeping HDL cholesterol up. Since concentration of HDL cholesterol ( good cholesterol ) increases, the body becomes healthier. Sesame oil can thus reduce the risk of heart disease.
Sesame oil has been identified as anti-cancer to specific cancers.
- Colon Cancer
- Brain cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Lung cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Renal cancer
- Melanoma ( skin cancer )
The anti-cancer effect of sesame oil is due to a lignin called sesamin. It possesses cytotoxic effect against cancer cells, effectively blocking their proliferation.
9. Anti- Diabetes
Sesame oil shows blood glucose lowering effects in people when sesame is the oil they take in diet. This is of great significance. 
10. Going swimming in the pool, use sesame oil
Many people note that their hair starts turning greenish when they have been swimming regularly in the pool. This effect can be negated by applying sesame oil before or after the swim. It leaches out the chlorine. Applying it on the outer rim of the ear canal also prevents outer ear infection ( swimmer’s ear ).
11. Sesame oil in diet
One can cook with sesame oil. It has got a nice, sweet taste and mild aroma. Sesame oil can added to salads and foods like chicken. One can also use toasted sesame oil, which has a richer flavor and great for additive in recipes.
Generally, cooking with sesame oil is generally avoided. If you have a recipe which calls for toasted sesame oil, and you want a substitute for sesame oil, then use walnut oil or perilla oil.
Side Effects, Safe Dosage and Toxicity Issues
Sesame oil is generally safe, even in moderate dosages. It is not a skin irritant. It is therefore generally safe for massage. It does not make the skin photosensitive, so you can wear it in the sun as well. There is no specifc information about its safe dosage limit or any toxicity problems.
However, people with allergy to sesame seeds should definitely avoid this oil. It should also not be used by people who are prone to chronic diarrhea.
Nutritional and Medicinal Information
Sesame oil packs a punch in terms of nutrition. It is low in saturated fat and consequently high in MUFA ( monounsaturated fatty acid ) and PUFA ( polyunsaturated fatty acid ). 100 gm sesame oil contains –
- Saturated fat – 14.2 gm
- MUFA – 39.7 gm
- PUFA – 41.7 gm
|Palmitic Acid||7 – 12 %||Saturated fat|
|Stearic Acid||3.5 – 6 %||Saturated fat|
|Palmitoleic Acid||0.5 %||MUFA|
|Oleic Acid||35 %||MUFA|
|Linoleic Acid||35 – 50 %||PUFA|
|Alpha Linolenic Acid||1 %||PUFA|
|Eicosenoic Acid||1 %||PUFA|
|Sesamolin||traces||Improves lipid profile|
|Vitamin E||1.4 mg||Vitamin and antioxidant|
|Vitamin K||13.6 μg||Vitamin|
Data taken from USDA National Nutrient Data Base
NOTE – It is surprising to know that the most prominent health benefits of sesame oil are attributed not to the major omega – 6 fatty acid ( linoleic acid ), but to the three sesame specific nutrients – sesamin, sesamolin and sesamin. This asserts that even the micro-nutrients found in trace amounts can hold the key to the strongest and most powerful medicinal effects of foods.
Other important chemical properties of sesame oil.
|Density||0.915 g/ml||great for massage oil|
|Storage temperature||–||No specific requirements|
|Comedogenicity||2||Rated from 0 to 5|
The ORAC ( oxygen radical absorbance capacity ) of sesame oil is not available. However, with more research work, we expect to get this value quickly. It is important to know how potent an antioxidant sesame oil. Based on other inputs and the fact that sesame oil does not go bad for days, it can be assumed that sesame oil is a powerful antioxidant.
Sesame oil possibly has many more yet undiscovered health benefits. It can have ability to boost bone health, heal injuries and also boost longevity. Sesame oil in diet may also have regenrative effect on fat based tissues of the body, thus keeping the mind and body protected from the advances of ageing.
1. Effects of massage & use of oil on growth, blood flow & sleep pattern in infants. Agarwal KN, Gupta A, Pushkarna R, Bhargava SK, Faridi MM, Prabhu MK. NCBI.
2. Neuropsychopharmacological effect of sesamol in unpredictable chronic mild stress model of depression: behavioral and biochemical evidences. Kumar B, Kuhad A, Chopra K.
3. Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Asokan S, Rathan J, Muthu MS, Rathna PV, Emmadi P; Raghuraman; Chamundeswari. NCBI.
4. Therapeutic value of sesame oil in the treatment of adhesive small bowel obstruction. Ji ZL, Li JS, Yuan CW, Chen WD, Zhang YN, Ju XT, Tang WH.NCBI.
5. The lignan, (−)-sesamin reveals cytotoxicity toward cancer cells: Pharmacogenomic determination of genes associated with sensitivity or resistance. Mohamed Saeeda, Hassan Khalidb, Yoshikazu Sugimotoc, Thomas Effertha. Phytomedicine.
6. Influence of sesame oil on blood glucose, lipid peroxidation, and antioxidant status in streptozotocin diabetic rats. Ramesh B1, Saravanan R, Pugalendi KV. NCBI.
7. USDA National Nutrient Database
8. Comedogenic Ratings – Beneficial Botanicals.