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Common Name

Latin Name Family Country/Origin
Sesamum indicum Pedaliacea India and Africa

Some cultures believe that sesame seeds and oil are as old as the world itself. The Assyrians believed that when the gods met to create the world they drank sesame seed wine and sesame oil.

According to drawings found in ancient Egyptian tombs, sesame seeds have been used for at least 4,000 years. The earliest Egyptian drawing depicted sesame seeds being added to bread dough, the seeds were prized for their medicinal properties as well.

In India, sesame seeds symbolized immortality. In ancient Greece soldiers ate sesame seeds to increase energy during warfare. The Romans mixed sesame seeds with cumin to make a hummus-like dip. African slaves brought sesame seeds to the Americas in the 17th century. The common turn of phrase 'open sesame' originated in fiction's "The Thousand and One Nights" and refers to the popping noise made by sesame pods when touched.

Sesame seeds and sesame oil come from Sesamum indicum, a tropical plant that grows up to six feet tall. The seeds are found encapsulated within the plant's bell shaped, purple flowers. Hand picked, the beige to white seeds are dried and have a nutty taste and aroma that is amplified with toasting.

Over four billion pounds of sesame seeds are harvested annually, making sesame the most sought after seed in the world.

Purported Medicinal Qualities*

Oil derived from sesame seeds has been used for millennia to treat a variety of ailments. Sesame was one of the first crops to be harvested specifically for its oil. Sesame seeds also have many reported health properties and are extremely high in calcium. Sesame seeds have three times more calcium than an equal quantity of milk.

Historically, sesame seeds has been used to:

  • Lower cholesterol
  • As an emollient
  • As a source of calcium
  • As a source of copper, zinc, magnesium, iron, fiber, and vitamin B1
  • As a demulcent
  • As an antibacterial
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Fight viruses
  • As an anti-oxidant
  • Regulate blood pressure

*Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming, inhaling or otherwise ingesting any non-prescription or prescription natural or homeopathic substance or pharmaceutical. is not recommending, suggesting, inferring or otherwise endorsing the use of any herb or spice as a medication.

Culinary/Suggested Use

Both sesame seeds and sesame oil can be used for cooking. Seeds are generally sprinkled over a dish before serving or ground and mixed in with other sweet or savory ingredients. Seeds can be toasted to enhance their flavor and will 'jump' when ready. Sesame oil will keep for long periods of time without going rancid as is often associated with Asian cuisines.  Food for thought:

  • Add ground sesame seeds to homemade hummus
  • Mix sesame seeds into bread dough and sprinkle some over before baking.
  • Top stir fries, noodles and pasta with sesame seeds
  • Add sesame seeds to green salads
  • Use sesame oil in place of olive oil for an Asian inspired dressing
  • Roll fish, poultry or meat in sesame seeds before cooking
  • Add sesame seeds to mayonnaise and spread on sandwiches or burgers
  • Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on steamed or sautéed vegetables
  • Use sesame paste on bread or toast as a healthy alternative to butter

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