By Hwaa Irfan
Radiation, plastics, cigarette smoke, chemicals in soft drinks, pesticides, and many more common substances have all been found to damage our DNA. Our cells become inhibited in producing what our bodies need and our bodies become challenged in re-growing healthy cells. Sesamum indicum is one of nature’s blessings that assists in DNA repair.
Sesame seeds can take for granted if it wasn’t for the distinctive flavor they present, especially in the delicious thick sauce tahina which can bring any unappetizing meal alive, and the sweet, halawa/halva always tastes like a luxury!
Believed to be native to Africa, and India, Sesamum indicum belongs to the Pedaliaceae family of the plant kingdom. It was introduced to the U.S. from Africa, in the 17th century.
There are 30 species of this white, brown, or black seeds known as Juljulan, Zelzlane, Simsim (Arabic) Zhi ma, Hu ma, (Chinese-Mandarin), wangila (Swahili), bene (Malay) sesame seeds can be dried/dried and toasted to bring out that distinctive nutty taste. In fact, Sesamum indicum is one of the oldest known oil crops with a 5,000 year history in cultivation, and is still used as a cooking oil today in Africa and India as the seeds contain 50%-60% odorless, and colorless oil.
Requiring little water the herbaceous Sesamum indicum still grows as a wild flowering plant today in Africa. The plant prefer sandy, loamy, and clay soils, as it requires good drainage. It does not like the shade. Sesamum indicum grows annually up to 100cm. The lanceolate/ovate leaves grow opposite to each other, and are protected by short hairs.The tubular flowers have four-lobed mouth, and can be yellow, white, blue or purple with downy white hairs. Flowering in July, the plant is self-pollinating as the flowers are hermaphrodite. The fruit is like a capsule/pod with rectangular features that culminate in a triangular beak, and can be as long as 8cm. The expression “Open Sesame” from the tales of the Arabian Nights arises from the sudden release of seeds as the fruit bursts open, splitting top to bottom. The seeds are ovate, slightly flattened and somewhat thinner at the eye of the seed. The seed’s coat may be smooth or ribbed.
Popular in the modern food and confectionary industry, the domesticated variety originated from India. Sesamum indicum is grown in over 50 countries with the quality crops cultivated by China, India, Myanamar, Sudan, and Uganda. Refined sesame oil is common in Europe and the U.S., from which margarine is made. The trick with sesame oil is it remain stable at high temperatures, so it is great for the unhealthy cooking method of frying. Cold-pressed is also available in the West amongst the health shops, but in Asia the hot-pressed oil is preferred. Hot-pressed is cheaper, produces high yields from the high temperature, and what is left can be reprocessed to produce more oil
Chemical Properties includes:
- Aspartic acid
- Glutamic acid
Antioxidant – Sesamol is a strong antioxidant which has been found to protect against DNA from gamma radiation–induced damage.
Antibacterial – The oil has been found to effective in the treatment of bacterial infections such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and skin fungi lie athlete’s foot.
Cholesterol – The oil is also known to maintain high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) and lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL).
The seeds of Sesamum indicum is an astringent, emollient, lenitive, nutritive, tonic (liver and kidneys), diuretic, and a lactagogue. The oil is a demulcent, emollient, diuretic, emmenagogue, lactagogue and laxative.
The linoleate in triglyceride content selectively inhibits malignant melanoma growth.
Sesamin and Sesamolin reduces high blood pressure, and protects the liver against oxidative stress.
In aromatherapy, the essential oil is used in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis, and mature skin.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, black sesame seeds, hei zhi ma is used as a yin tonic for the liver-kidney meridian, visual disturbance, dizziness, tinnitus, vertigo, and premature graying of the hair, as well as convalescence from a long illness, , but is contraindicated in patients with loose stools and/or diarrhea due to Spleen Qi Deficiency. The ripe sesame seeds of autumn are harvested, and then dried in the sun.
A rich source of protein, calcium and other minerals, Sesamum indicum contains:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Omega-6 fatty acids
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B₁
- Vitamin B₆
- Vitamins B₁₂
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
When buying buy from a store that has a high turnover of products in order to ensure freshness, and that the containing packet is air tight without evidence of moisture. Store in a cool, dry place.
In the Philippines roasted seeds with honey are used in the treatment of chronic constipation, the juice from the plant is used to treat head lice, burned stalks are used as a poultice in the treatment of haemorrhoids, and a poultice of grounded seeds is applied to burns and scalds. A decoction of the seeds with linseed is used for coughs, and as an aphrodisiac, while the seeds alone are used in the treatment of constipation in children.
In India, the seeds are used as a poultice to heal wounds.
In the Yucatan, the seeds are used as a laxative for children, and as an emmenagogue for women.
In Africa, a decoction of the leaves are used as an aphrodisiac, and a decoction of the plant is used in the treatment of malaria. Powdered leaves are applied to snake bites, and a decoction of the seeds are used for haemorrhoids, and to regulate the menses.e He gave us everything we needed, but as for what we want!
Akbar, F et al. “Genetic Diversity of Sesame (Sesamum Indicum L.) Germplasm From
Pakistan Using RAPD Markers.” Pak. J. Bot., 43(4): 2153-2160, 2011.
“Black sesame seed (Heizhima).” http://www.epharmacognosy.com/2012/04/black-sesame-seed-heizhima-sesamum.html
Gopakumar Gopinathan Nair and Cherupally Krishnan Krishnan Nair. “Cancer Biotherapy & Radiopharmaceuticals”. December 2010, 25(6): 629-635. doi:10.1089/cbr.2010.0803.