- Sesamum indicum
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orientale, 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.
- 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*Key to grades:
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Adults (18 years and older)
- For bowel and intestinal disorders, 150 milliliters of sesame oil has been given once through a tube entering the nose and going into the stomach.
- To reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, a sesame breakfast bar with 25 grams of sesame has been used daily for five weeks.
- For high cholesterol, 4.5 grams of sesame oil has been taken by mouth daily for two months. Nine capsules of sesamin (a sesame lignan), each containing 3.6 milligrams of sesamin, has been used daily for four weeks, followed by 18 capsules daily for another four weeks.
- For high blood pressure, capsules containing 60 milligrams of sesamin has been taken by mouth daily for four weeks.
- For nasal discomfort, Nozoil™, a sesame oil-based nasal spray, has been used in each nostril three times daily for 14-20 days. Nozoil™ nasal spray has also been used for two weeks in some patients with sleep apnea (a condition in which breathing briefly stops during sleep).
Children (under 18 years old)
- For cough, 5 milliliters of sesame oil has been taken by mouth at bedtime for three consecutive nights.
- For infant development and neonatal care, daily massage with 20 milliliters of sesame oil has been used for four weeks.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
- Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or sensitivity to sesame or any of its constituents, or poppy seed, nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, or peanuts), buckwheat, soybeans, kiwi, or flour. Symptoms can be severe and include hives, asthma, welts under the skin, and anaphylactic shock. Sesame allergy is common and appears to be increasing. Many people with sesame allergy are also allergic to peanuts.
Side Effects and Warnings
- Sesame may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
- Sesame may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
- Sesame may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients with low blood pressure and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that lower blood pressure.
- Drowsiness or sedation may occur. Use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.
- Use cautiously in patients with cardiovascular problems, diarrhea, or with skin, eye, or lung sensitivity.
- Use cautiously in patients taking anabolic steroids, cholesterol-lowering agents, hormonal agents, weight loss agents, tamoxifen, or agents that are processed by the liver’s cytochrome P450 system.
- Use cautiously in combination with progesterone following in vitro fertilization (IVF).
- Avoid injecting drugs solubilized in sesame oil unless directed by a physician.
- Avoid obtaining sesame products from untrusted sources, due to the risk of contamination with fungi, bacteria, toxins, and pesticide residues.
- Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or sensitivity to sesame or any of its constituents, or poppy seed, nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, or peanuts), buckwheat, soybeans, kiwi, or flour.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- Sesame products are likely safe for food uses when taken by mouth in amounts normally found in food by individuals who have no allergy or sensitivity to sesame or any of its constituents.
- Sesame is not recommended for medicinal purposes in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Interactions with Drugs
- Sesame may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
- Sesame may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
- Sesame may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
- Sesame may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants, and alcohol. Caution is advised.
- Sesame may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver’s cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may change in the blood and change the intended effects. Patients taking any medications should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
- Sesame may also interact with acetaminophen (Tylenol®), alcohol, anabolic steroids, angiotensin II-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin-converting enzyme receptor blockers, antacids, antiacne agents, antianxiety agents, antibiotics, anticancer drugs, antifungal agents, anti-inflammatory agents, antiulcer drugs, blood vessel dilating agents, cholesterol-lowering drugs, cisplatin, drugs that affect the immune system, drugs that may damage the liver, drugs that prevent nausea and vomiting, estrogens, fertility drugs, gentamicin, ibuprofen, laxatives, neurologic agents, painkillers, tamoxifen, weight loss agents, and wound-healing agents.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
- Sesame may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
- Sesame may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
- Sesame may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
- Sesame may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements.
- Sesame may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver’s cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may change in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements potentially may have on the P450 system.
- Because sesame contains estrogen-like chemicals, the effects of other agents believed to have estrogen-like properties may be altered.
- Sesame may also interact with antiacne herbs and supplements, antianxiety herbs and supplements, antibacterials, anticancer herbs and supplements, antifungals, anti-inflammatory agents, antioxidants, antiulcer herbs and supplements, beta-carotene, blood vessel dilating herbs and supplements, borage seed oil, calcium, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, conjugated linoleic acid, fertility herbs and supplements, fish oil, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), herbs and supplements that may affect the immune system, herbs and supplements that may damage the liver, herbs and supplements that prevent nausea and vomiting, hormonal herbs and supplements, iron, laxatives, linseed oil, neurologic herbs and supplements, painkillers, vitamin C, vitamin E, weight loss herbs and supplements, and wound-healing herbs and supplements.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
- This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().
- Amara AA, El-Masry MH, Bogdady HH. Plant crude extracts could be the solution: extracts showing in vivo antitumorigenic activity. Pak J Pharm Sci 2008;21(2):159-71.
- Anagnostis A, Papadopoulos AI. Effects of a diet rich in sesame (Sesamum indicum) pericarp on the expression of oestrogen receptor alpha and oestrogen receptor beta in rat prostate and uterus. Br J Nutr 2009;102(5):703-8.
- Grougnet R, Magiatis P, Mitaku S, et al. New lignans from the perisperm of Sesamum indicum. J Agric Food Chem 2006;54(20):7570-4.
- Harikumar KB, Sung B, Tharakan ST, et al. Sesamin manifests chemopreventive effects through the suppression of NF-kappaB-regulated cell survival, proliferation, invasion, and angiogenic gene products. Mol Cancer Res 2010;8(5):751-61.
- Hu YM, Wang H, Ye WC, et al.[Flavones from flowers of Sesamum indicum]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi 2007;32(7):603-5. Chinese.
- Hu YM, Ye WC, Yin ZQ, et al.[Chemical constituents from flos Sesamum indicum L]. Yao Xue Xue Bao 2007;42(3):286-91. Chinese.
- Jamarkattel-Pandit N, Pandit NR, Kim MY, et al. Neuroprotective effect of defatted sesame seeds extract against in vitro and in vivo ischemic neuronal damage. Planta Med 2010;76(1):20-6.
- Kiran K, Asad M. Wound healing activity of Sesamum indicum L seed and oil in rats. Indian J Exp Bio. 2008;46(11):777-82.
- Liu Z, Saarinen NM, Thompson LU. Sesamin is one of the major precursors of mammalian lignans in sesame seed (Sesamum indicum) as observed in vitro and in rats. J Nutr 2006;136(4):906-12.
- Nahar L, Rokonuzzaman. Investigation of the analgesic and antioxidant activity from an ethanol extract of seeds of Sesamum indicum. Pak J Biol Sci 2009;12(7):595-8.
- Nasirullah, Latha RB. Storage stability of sunflower oil with added natural antioxidant concentrate from sesame seed oil. J Oleo Sci 2009;58(9):453-9.
- Sukumar D, Arimboor R, Arumughan C. HPTLC fingerprinting and quantification of lignans as markers in sesame oil and its polyherbal formulations. J Pharm Biomed Anal 2008;47(4-5):795-801.
- Suresh Kumar P, Patel JS, Saraf MN. Mechanism of vasorelaxant activity of a fraction of root extract of Sesamum indicum Linn. Indian J Exp Biol 2008;46(6):457-64.
- Visavadiya NP, Soni B, Dalwadi N. Free radical scavenging and antiatherogenic activities of Sesamum indicum seed extracts in chemical and biological model systems. Food Chem Toxicol 2009;47(10):2507-15.
- Visavadiya NP, Narasimhacharya AV. Sesame as a hypocholesteraemic and antioxidant dietary component. Food Chem Toxicol 2008;46(6):1889-95.
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to . Selected references are listed below.