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Sesame Oil
Latin Name:

Sesamum indicum



CTFA name:

Sesame (Sesamum Indicum) Oil


The Sesamum indicum plant is a strong-smelling annual or short-lived perennial with white, tubular, bell-shaped flowers often tinged pink and spotted,1  and small, sausage shaped pods containing numerous tiny pear-shaped seeds that can be white, yellow, brown, or black.2  African in origin, sesame has been cultivated in India and the Near East for thousands of years and is now widely naturalized and cultivated throughout the world.1  

History and Cultural Significance

Sesame plants were grown in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Babylonia,1  and were cultivated at least four millennia ago in Mesopotamia.3  Egyptian Ebers papyri (around 1500 BCE) mention what is probably the sesame plant.1  Sesame, cited by ancient Greek writers, was cultivated for oil in ancient Babylon.2  As one of the oldest vegetable oils, it is pressed from the seeds.4  Archeologists have uncovered sesame seeds and elaborate oil extract equipment dating around 900-600 BCE near Yerevan in Armenia.1  While the seeds and leaves are also used, all uses mentioned in this overview focus on sesame oil.

Modern Research

Sesame oil is an important traditional cooking oil in Asian cuisine and macrobiotic cooking.2,4  As a culinary oil, it is flavorful, free of unwanted odors, very stable and resists becoming rancid.1,2,4,5  Sesame oil is used in the manufacturing of margarine, lubricants, soaps, salad oils, and good quality cooking and seasoning oils.1,4,5,6  Sesame oil is nutrient dense, high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, and a natural antioxidant.2,5  

Future Outlook

Sesame oil is currently used as a solvent3  by pharmaceutical companies in injected drug or intravenous-drip solutions.1,7  It is mainly used in the cosmetics industry as a carrier oil.7  In agriculture, sesame oil has been used in coating stored grain to prevent weevil attacks.8  The oil also has synergy with some insecticides.9  


1  Bown D. The Herb Society of America New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd.; 2001.

2  Davidson A. The Oxford Companion to Food. London: Oxford University Press; 1999.

3  Bruneton J, ed. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants. 2nd ed. Paris: Lavoisier; 1999.

4  Onstad D. Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers & Lovers of Natural Foods. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company; 1996.

5  Wood R. The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Resource for Healthy Eating. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Inc; 1999.

6  Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Vol. 1. New York: Dover Books; 1971.

7  Burden D. Agricultural Marketing Research Center: Sesame Profile. Available at: Accessed September 09, 2005.

8  Lewis WH, Elivin-Lewis MPF. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Human Health. 2nded. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc; 2003.

9  Tucker AO, Debaggio T. The Big Book of Herbs. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press; 2000.

10  Kapoor L, ed. Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1990.

11  Alakbarov F. Aromatic Herbal Baths of the Ancients. HerbalGram. 2003;57:40-49.

12  Johnsen J, Bratt BM, Michel-Barron O, Glennow C, Petruson B. Pure Sesame Oil vs Isotonic Sodium Chloride Solution as Treatment for Dry Nasal Mucosa. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2001;127:1353-1356.

13  Sankar D, Sambandam G, Ramakrishna Rao M, Pugalendi KV. Modulation of blood pressure, lipid profiles and redox status in hypertensive patients taking different edible oils. Clin Chim Acta. 2005;355:97-104.

14  Economic Research Service: United States Department of Agriculture. Mexico: outlook. Available at: Accessed September 09, 2005.

15  Duhoon SS, Jyotishi A, Deshmukh MR, Singh NB. 4th International Crop Science Congress: Optimization of sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) production through bio/natural inputs. Available at: Accessed September 09, 2005.

16  Kolanu TR, Kumar S. Greening Agriculture in India: An Overview of Opportunities & Constraints - Green Outputs Market Trends & Potentials in India. Available at: Accessed September 12, 2005.

17  EnterpriseWorks Worldwide. Sesame Processing & Marketing. Available at: Accessed September 09, 2005.