Published: 20th May 2008
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Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is a flowering plant in the genus Sesamum. The precise natural origin of the species is unknown, although numerous wild relatives occur in Africa and a smaller number in India. It is widely naturalised in tropical regions around the world and is cultivated for its edible seeds.
The sesame is a well known oilseed. It is probably the oldest of all cultivated seed crops. It has been regarded as a food of high value throughout Asia since ancient times.
Sesame is a variable annual herb, one to two metre tall, covered with glandular hairs and with a somewhat foetid or pungent smell. The seeds are small, smooth, white, red or black.
Sesame seed kernels are a nourishing food. The hard husk of sesame seeds must be removed prior to consumption, for it is abrasive on the intestines and rather bitter, due to its high concentration of oxalic acid. The husk is also very rich in calcium, iron and vitamin B I, but these are unfortunately non extractable by human digestive means.
There are three varieties of sesame seeds; black, white and red. The black variety yields the best quality of oil and is also best suited for medicinal purposes. The white seeds are extremely rich in calcium and are useful in all cases of calcium deficiency. The red variety is exceptionally rich in iron. The seeds are emollient that softens the skin, nourishing tonic, emmenagogue that stimulates menstruation, demulcent or soothing, laxative, diuretic and fattening.
The oil extracted from sesame seeds is of very high medicinal quality. Charak, the great medical authority of ancient India, has said that of all the oils, the gingelly or sesame-oil is the best. It has the finest flavor and a high boiling point. This latter quality is important from the health point of view, for it indicates that less molecular restructuring takes place in sesame oil than any other seed oil.
Sesame seeds are highly beneficial in the treatment of piles. They can be taken in the form of decoction or as sweet?meats. Ground to paste with water, they are given with butter for bleeding piles.
Skin Disorders:
A poultice of the sesame seeds can be applied externally with beneficial results over ulcers, burns and scalds. External application of a mixture of equal parts of sesame oil and lime water is also effective in these conditions. The oil is also used as a substitute for olive oil in pharmaceutical preparations for external uses.
Black sesame seeds, as a rich source of iron, are valuable in anemia. An emulsion of the seeds is prepared by grinding and straining them after soaking them in warm water for a couple of hours. This emulsion, mixed with a cupful of milk and sweetened with jaggery, should be given to patients suffering from anemia.
Dysentery and Diarrhoea:
Sesame seeds are useful in dysentery and diarrhoea. Two tablespoonfuls of the seeds should be lightly roasted on a frying pan. They should then be ground into fine powder and mixed with one tablespoon of cow's ghee. The mass should be divided into three parts. Each part should be used with boiled goat's milk thrice daily for six days by the patients suffering from chronic dysentery or diarrhoea. It acts as an excellent medicine in these conditions.
Sesame seeds are traditionally used as a medicine for causing abortion. One tablespoonful of the seeds should be ground with equal quantity of palm jaggery and used twice daily in the early stage of pregnancy for this purpose. It excites the uterine contractions and thus expells the fertilized ovum.
Respiratory Disorders:
The seeds are valuable in respiratory disorders. An infusion of sesame seeds, mixed with a tablespoonful of linseed, a pinch of common salt and a desertspoonful of honey, should be given once at night with beneficial results, in acute and chronic bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma. It acts as an expectorant.
Menstrual Disorders:
Half a teaspoon of powder of sesame seeds taken with hot water twice daily acts excellently in reducing spasmodic pain during menstruation in young unmarried anemic girls. Its regular use, two days prior to the expected periods, cures scanty menstruation. Warm hip bath containing a handful of bruised sesame seeds should be simultaneously taken along with this recipe.
Hair Disorders:
Crushed leaves of sesame are considered beneficial in the treatment of dandruff. A decoction made from the leaves and root is used as a hair wash. It is said to prevent premature greying of hair and promote their growth.
Sesame is grown for its edible seeds which are the source of gingelly oil. This oil is used as a substitute for olive oil as a salad dressing and in cooking. The fried seeds are eaten in soups and, mixed with sugar, are a popular sweetmeat in Africa and Asia.

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