Sesame oil is one of the most widely and commonly used products in Ayurveda. Sesame oil has also been esteemed for thousands of years by Mediterranean and cultures known for their longevity. The nutrient rich sesame seed itself is a symbol of prosperity and health in ancient folklore. The benefits of sesame oil are highly touted in various Ayurvedic regimens, the most popular being for massage.
Benefits of Sesame Oil
The sesame seed, Sesamum indicum, is a tiny gem that packs a mighty punch. Each sesame seed is protected by an outer shell that naturally opens when the seed ripens (giving rise to the phrase “Open Sesame”.)2 At this time the seeds are ready to be pressed into light golden sesame oil. Sesame seed is rich in a number of nutrients, including calcium, copper, manganese, iron, zinc, thiamine, and magnesium.2 It also contains a good bit of dietary fiber, supporting a healthy colon. Sesame oil has been used to support numerous healthy systems in the body, including the nervous system, bones and muscles, skin and hair, the digestive tract including the colon, and the male and female reproductive system.1
Sesame Oil and Ayurveda: Traditional Uses
The sesame seed, from an Ayurvedic perspective, is sweet, pungent, astringent, and bitter, and has a heating effect.1 Its greatest benefit is in balancing vata. The heating nature of sesame can also be good for kapha, though you must be careful in cases of excess kapha as it is also heavy and building. It grows in a dry climate, and in turn, is beneficial when the dry quality is in excess.1 Nourishing, calming and warming, sesame oil is a fundamental part of the nurturing Ayurvedic massage tradition of India. Self-massage with sesame oil is highly recommended for these benefits:
- Bolsters your ability to handle stress
- Promotes physical strength
- Nourishes muscles & bones
- Supports comfortable joint movement
- Promotes sound sleep patterns
- Supports the intellect & nervous system
- Nourishes skin and hair
In addition to massage, traditional Ayurvedic uses of sesame oil include the following:
- Swish in the mouth to support strong teeth and gums.3 It has also been shown in a study to reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth.4
- Used to lubricate and support the bowel and soften the stool.1
- As a vaginal douche to help maintain healthy vaginal balance.3
- Used for local massage to reduce vata. For example, warm massage on the abdomen can help reduce imbalanced vata in the abdomen.
- Warm oil in the ear helps support ear health.
How to Use Sesame Oil
To use sesame oil as a part of your massage routine, follow these instructions:
- Place the sesame oil in a squeeze bottle. Place the bottle in a pot of warm water to warm the oil. Test the oil before using to make sure it is not to hot.
- Undress and stay in a warm room, using a towel that you don’t mind getting oily.
- Pour small amounts of oil in your palm, and start massaging your scalp and face with circular strokes. Be sure to massage the ears and place some warm oil in the ears.
- Massage the rest of the body. Use long strokes on the limbs and long areas of the body, like the back and flank. Start at the extremities and move towards the center of the body. Use circular strokes on the joints, and don’t forget to give attention to the small joints. Also use circular strokes on the chest and abdomen.
- After you have completed the self-nurturing massage, enjoy a warm shower of bath, taking care not to slip with oily feet.
Learn more about the detailed benefits of a daily warm oil massage from our article by Dr. Claudia Welch on Abhyanga.
To promote healthy sleep patterns, massage the scalp and soles of the feet with sesame oil before bedtime. And to use sesame oil as a part of your daily oral routine,5 take one tablespoon of oil in the morning, and swish around in the mouth. Do not gargle, and do not swallow. Swish for 20 minutes (you may need to build up to this), allowing the oil and your saliva to make a yellowish mixture in your mouth. Spit, and rinse out the mouth with warm water. You can follow by rinsing with a mouthwash or brushing to remove any leftover residue.
Sesame seeds and sesame oil have been the subject of a number of studies around the world, including those which show potential benefits on maintaining healthy blood glucose levels6 and appropriate blood pressure,7 as well as having antioxidant properties.6 Studies have also shown a beneficial effect for the liver.7
Sesame seed and oil should be avoided from an Ayurvedic perspective if there is excess heat in the body, as well as high ama (toxic build up) or congestion.
Buying Sesame Oil
Banyan Botanicals Sesame Oil is:
- USDA Organic (free of chemical herbicides and pesticides)
- 100% Expeller Pressed, a natural method for extracting oil
- Unrefined, allowing for maximum nutrition
- Refined for a lighter, milder product
As sesame oil is known to easily enter the skin and carry its nourishing and soothing properties deeply, Banyan Botanicals uses it as the base of our therapeutic herbal oils including:
- Mahanarayan Oil (muscle & joint massage oil)
- Ashwagandha/Bala oil (nourishing massage oil)
- Neem Oil (cooling massage oil for skin)
- Bhringaraj Oil (for healthy hair and sleep)
- Vata, Pitta, and Kapha Massage oils (in combination with other appropriate oils)
- Nasya Oil (for nasal passage nourishment)
1 Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. Churchill Livingston, 2006. 277-278.
2 The George Mateljan Foundation http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=84
3 Acharya Balkrishna. Secrets of Indian Herbs for Good Health. Divya Prakshan, Hardwar: 2008. 401-404.
4 T. Durai Anand, PG Department of Microbiology, V. H. N. S. N. College, Virudhunagar, India. http://www.oilpulling.com/oilpullingresearch.htm
6 Ramesh B, Saravanan R, Pugalendi KV. Influence of sesame oil on blood glucose, lipid peroxidation, and antioxidant status in streptozotocin diabetic rats. J Med Food. 2005 Fall; 8(3):377-81.
7 Ray Sahelian, MD http://www.raysahelian.com/sesame.html