Sesame oil

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Oil, sesame, salad or cooking
Sesame seed oil in clear glass vial
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 3,699 kJ (884 kcal)
Carbohydrates 0.00 g
Fat 100.00 g
- saturated 14.200 g
- monounsaturated 39.700 g
- polyunsaturated 41.700 g
Protein 0.00 g
Vitamin C 0.0 mg (0%)
Vitamin E 1.40 mg (9%)
Vitamin K 13.6 μg (13%)
Calcium 0 mg (0%)
Iron 0.00 mg (0%)
Magnesium 0 mg (0%)
Phosphorus 0 mg (0%)
Potassium 0 mg (0%)
Sodium 0 mg (0%)
Percentages are roughly approximated
using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Sesame oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds. Besides being used as a cooking oil in South India, it is often used as a flavor enhancer in Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Korean, and Southeast Asian cuisine.

The oil from the nutrient rich seed is popular in alternative medicine – from traditional massages and treatments to the modern day. The traditional Indian medical practice of Ayurveda uses sesame oil to pacify stress related symptoms.[1] Ongoing research also indicates that the rich presence of antioxidants and polyunsaturated fats in sesame oil could help control blood pressure.[2]

The oil is popular in Asia and is also one of the earliest known crop-based oils, but world-wide mass modern production continues to be limited even today due to the inefficient manual harvesting process required to extract the oil.


Sesame oil is composed of the following fatty acids:[3]

Fatty acid Nomenclature Minimum Maximum
Palmitic C16:0 7.0% 12.0%
Palmitoleic C16:1 trace 0.5%
Stearic C18:0 3.5% 6.0%
Oleic C18:1 35.0% 50.0%/lino
Linoleic C18:2 35.0% 50.0%
Linolenic C18:3 trace 1.0%
Eicosenoic C20:1 trace 1.0%

Sesame oil:Specifications

Test value
Density at 300C / 300C 0.915-0.919
Refractive Index(400C) 1.4645-1.4665
Saponification value 188-193
Iodine value 103-120
unsaponifiyable matter % max 1.5-2.0%
Bellier turbity temp.0C max 220C

The lignans sesamin and sesamolin are minor components of sesame oil.[4]


White sesame seeds, mostly unshelled.

Sesame was cultivated during the Indus valley civilization and was the main oil crop. It was probably exported to Mesopotamia around 2500 BC and was known in Akkadian and Sumerian as 'ellu' (in Tamil also Sesame is called "ellu"). Sesame seeds were one of the first crops processed for oil as well as one of the earliest condiments. In fact, the common word for vegetable oil in many Dravidian languages like Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada literally means sesame oil (in Tamil, எள் - sesame + நெய் - ghee/fat -> எண்ணெய்) .

The Hindi word for oil (Tel (तेल)) is also derived from sesame oil (from Sanskrit Taila (तैल), which means obtained from Tila (तिल) Sesame).The Telugu word for sesame seeds is నువ్వులు. Prior to 600 BC, the Assyrians used sesame oil as a food, salve, and medication, primarily by the rich, as the difficulty of obtaining it made it expensive. Hindus used it in votive lamps and considered the oil sacred.[5]

Manufacture of sesame oil[edit]

Manufacturing process[edit]

Making sesame oil at Moran Market, Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.
Oil pressing at a Tamil village, India

Sesame seeds are protected by a capsule which only bursts when the seeds are completely ripe. The ripening time tends to vary, so farmers cut plants by hand and place them together in an upright position to continue ripening until all the capsules have opened. The discovery of an indehiscent (nonshattering) mutant by Langham in 1943 began the work towards development of a high yielding, shatter-resistant variety. Although researchers have made significant progress in sesame breeding, harvest losses due to shattering continue to limit domestic US production.[6]

Sesame seeds are primarily produced in developing countries, a factor that has played a role in limiting the creation of large-scale, fully automated oil extraction and processing techniques.[7] Sesame oil can be extracted by a number of methods, depending on the materials and equipment available.

In developing countries, sesame oil is often extracted with less-expensive and manually intensive techniques such as hot water flotation, bridge presses, ram presses, the ghani process, or by using a small-scale expeller. In developed countries sesame oil is often extracted using an expeller press, larger-scale oil extraction machines, or by pressing followed by chemical solvent extraction.[7]

Sesame oil can also be extracted under low-temperature conditions using an expeller press in a process called cold pressing. This extraction method is popular among raw food adherents because it avoids exposing the oil to chemical solvents or high temperatures during extraction.

While some manufacturers will further refine sesame oil through solvent extraction, neutralization and bleaching in order to improve its cosmetic aspects, sesame oil derived from quality seeds already possesses a pleasant taste and does not require further purification before it can be consumed. Many consumers prefer unrefined sesame oil due to their belief that the refining process removes important nutrients.

Sesame oil is one of the more stable natural oils, but can still benefit from refrigeration and limited exposure to light and high temperatures during extraction, processing and storage in order to minimize nutrient loss through oxidation and rancidity. Storage in amber-colored bottles can help to minimize light exposure.

Sesame oil is polyunsaturated (PUFA) semi-drying oil. Commercial sesame oil varies in colour from light to deep reddish yellow depending on the colour of the seed processed and the method of milling. Provided the oil is milled from well-cleaned seed, it can be refined and bleached easily to yield a light-coloured limpid oil. Sesame oil is rich in oleic and linoleic acids, which together account for 85% of the total fatty acids. Sesame oil has a relatively high percentage of unsaponifiable matter (1.5-2.3%) in India and in some other countries of Europe. It is obligatory to add sesame oil (5-10%) to margarine and generally to hydrogenated vegetable fats which are commonly used as adulterants for butter or ghee. It had longer shelf life compared to other conventional oils. It is more stable oil as frying oil.

Sesame seed market[edit]

As of 2012, sesame seeds sold on the global market for roughly US $0.67/lb.[8] This relatively high price reflects a worldwide shortage. Though the market for sesame seed is strong, domestic US production awaits the development of high-yielding nonshattering varieties.


There are many variations in the colour of sesame oil: cold-pressed sesame oil is pale yellow, while Indian sesame oil (gingelly or til oil) is golden, and East Asian sesame oils are commonly a dark brown colour. This dark colour and flavour are derived from roasted/toasted sesame seeds. Cold pressed sesame oil has a different flavour than the toasted oil, since it is produced directly from raw, rather than toasted, seeds.

Sesame oil is traded in any of the forms described above: Cold-pressed sesame oil is available in Western health shops. Unroasted (but not necessarily cold pressed) sesame oil is commonly used for cooking in the Middle East and can often be found in halal markets. In East Asian countries, different kinds of hot-pressed sesame oil are preferred.[9]



Despite sesame oil's high proportion (41%) of polyunsaturated (Omega-6) fatty acids, it is least prone, among cooking oils with high smoke points, to turn rancid when kept in the open.[10] This is due to the natural antioxidants present in the oil.[11]

Light sesame oil has a high smoke point and is suitable for deep-frying, while dark sesame oil (from roasted sesame seeds) has a slightly lower smoke point and is unsuitable for deep-frying. Instead it can be used for the stir frying of meats or vegetables, or for the making of an omelette. East Asian cuisines often use roasted sesame oil for seasoning.

The Chinese use sesame oil in the preparation of meals for women during postpartum confinement[citation needed].

Sesame oil is most popular in Asia, especially in Korea, China, and the South Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, where its widespread use is similar to that of olive oil in the Mediterranean.

Traditional uses in India[edit]

In South India, sesame oil is used in almost all pickles and condiments. It is often mixed in with a special spice powder that accompanies Idly, dosa as well as rice mixed with spice powders ([Paruppu Podi]). It is used particularly in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh mixed in with foods that are hot and spicy as it neutralizes the heat. It is not used for frying as the oil is heavy by itself.

Sesame oil is reputed to penetrate the skin easily and is used in India for oil massage. Sesame oil (Til Tel) is specially used for massaging as it is believed to rid the body of heat due to its viscous nature upon rubbing. It is also used for hair and scalp massage.[12] Sesame oil is used in the manufacture of Ayurvedic drugs.[13] It is also used in many cosmetic applications, including as a carrier oil.

In Hinduism, sesame or "til" oil is used in deepa or oil lamps kept in front of shrines for the Deities. Sesame oil is used for performing puja in Hindu temples.[13] Also, particularly in South India, sesame oil is applied to the stone deities in the temple's shrines. It is only used on Deities made of black granite.

Industrial uses[edit]

In industry, sesame oil may be used as

  • a solvent in injected drugs or intravenous drip solutions,
  • a cosmetics carrier oil,
  • coating stored grains to prevent weevil attacks. The oil also has synergy with some insecticides.[14]

Low grade oil is used locally in soaps, paints, lubricants, and illuminants.[15]

Alternative medicine[edit]

Vitamins and minerals[edit]

Sesame oil is a source of vitamin E.[16] Vitamin E is an antioxidant and has been correlated with lowering cholesterol levels.[17] Sesame oil also contains magnesium, copper, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B6. Copper provides relief for rheumatoid arthritis. Magnesium supports vascular and respiratory health. Calcium helps prevent colon cancer, osteoporosis, migraine, and PMS. Zinc promotes bone health.

Besides being rich in vitamin E, there is insufficient research on the medicinal properties of sesame oil. However, the following claims have been made.

Blood pressure[edit]

Sesame oil has a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids[18] (omega-6 fatty acids)—but it is unique in that it keeps at room temperature. This is because it contains two naturally occurring preservatives, sesamol and sesamin. (Normally, only oils predominately composed of the omega-9 monounsaturated oil, like olive oil, keep at room temperature.)

It has been suggested that due to the presence of high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in sesame oil, it may help to control blood pressure. It could be used in cooking in place of other edible oils and to help reduce high blood pressure and lower the amount of medication needed to control hypertension.[19]

The effect of the oil on blood pressure may be due to polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and the compound sesamin, a lignan present in sesame oil. There is evidence suggesting that both compounds reduce blood pressure in hypertensive rats. Sesame lignans also inhibit the synthesis and absorption of cholesterol in these rats.

Oil pulling[edit]

Sesame oil is one of the few oils recommended for use in oil pulling.[20] (Sunflower oil is the other oil recommended.)

General claims[edit]

While not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, sesame oil is reputed to have a number of therapeutic uses.

It is suggested that regular topical application and/or consumption of sesame oil should mitigate effects[21] of anxiety, nerve and bone disorders, poor circulation, lowered immunity and bowel problems. It is suggested such use would also relieve lethargy, fatigue, and insomnia, while promoting strength and vitality, enhancing blood circulation. There are claims that its use has relaxing properties which eases pain and muscle spasm, such as sciatica, dysmenorrhoea, colic, backache, and joint pain.

Sesame oil when used in infant massage, it is claimed, helps to calm babies and lull them to sleep and improves growth of the brain and the nervous system.[22] These are claims similar to other therapeutic medicines, that its having antioxidants explains beliefs that it slows the aging process and promotes longevity. A 2000 medical study showed that infant massage with sesame oil improved the weight, length, and midarm and midleg circumferences of infants at a statistically more favorable rate than all other oils tested.[23]

It is suggested that sesame oil, when consumed and/or topically applied, should relieve dryness both externally and internally. Sesame oil is sometimes recommended to alleviate the dryness associated with menopause.[24] It is believed that its use "restores moisture to the skin, keeping it soft, flexible and young looking". It is suggested that it relieves "dryness of joints" and bowels, and eases symptoms of dryness such as irritating coughs, cracking joints, and hard stools. Since "dryness of joints" is not a medically classifiable condition, it would be difficult to medically comprehend or verify these claims of panacea.

Other uses include as a laxative, as a remedy for toothaches and gum disease[25] and in the treatment of blurred vision, dizziness, and headaches.[14]

It is suggested that sesame oil could be used in the treatment of dry nose, reduction of cholesterol levels (due to presence of lignans which are phytoestrogens), anti-bacterial effects, and even slowing down certain types of cancer (due to the anti-oxidant properties of the lignans).[26]

Adverse effects[edit]

Like the sesame seeds it is derived from, sesame oil may produce an allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis. Approximately 1% of the population are allergic to sesame-derived food products.[27][28][29]

Because of its laxative effects, sesame oil should not be used by people who have diarrhea.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "WHY SESAME SEED OIL IS KNOWN AS THE QUEEN OF OILS". Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  2. ^ "Sesame and rice bran oil lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol". 
  3. ^ "Fatty acids found in sesame oil". Essential oils. Retrieved 2006-10-07. 
  4. ^ Comparative analysis of sesame lignans (sesamin and sesamolin) in affecting hepatic fatty acid metabolism in rats. Lim JS, Adachi Y, Takahashi Y and Ide T, Br J Nutr., January 2007, 97(1), pages 85-95, PubMed
  5. ^ "Origin of Sesame Oil". Vac Industries Limited. 
  6. ^ Sesame
  7. ^ a b Kamal-Eldin, Afaf; Appelqvist, Lars-Åke (1195). "The effects of extraction methods on sesame oil stability". Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society 72 (8): 967–969. doi:10.1007/BF02542076. Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
  8. ^ "Sesame seeds import price". Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
  9. ^ Spice Pages: Sesame Seeds (Sesamum indicum)
  10. ^
  11. ^ Growing Sesame: Production tips, economics, and more
  12. ^ Hair and Scalp Massage by Shreelata Suresh
  13. ^ a b Traditional uses of Sesame Oil
  14. ^ a b Food, Industrial, Nutraceutical, and Pharmaceutical Uses of Sesame Genetic Resources. 
  15. ^ Sesame Products and uses in Nigeria. 
  16. ^ "Cooking Oils That Are Good For You". CBS News. 2004-07-26. 
  17. ^ Correlations between Cholesterol, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K1 in Serum: Paradoxical Relationships to Established Epidemiological Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
  18. ^ Kimchi Healthy
  19. ^ Sesame oil helps reduce dose of blood pressure-lowering medicine
  20. ^ The Daily Routine by Vasant Lad, MASc
  21. ^ The Therapeutic Value of Sesame Oil
  22. ^ Benefits of Baby Massage
  23. ^ Agarwal, KN; Gupta, A; Pushkarna, R; Faridi, MM; Prabhu, MK (2000). "Effects of massage & use of oil on growth, blood flow & sleep pattern in infants". Inian J Med Res. 112 (212): 7. PMID 11247199. 
  24. ^ "Sesame oil". Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2001. 
  25. ^ Idhayam
  26. ^ Youthing Strategies Medical References
  27. ^ "Canadian Food Inspection Agency: Sesame Allergy". 
  28. ^ "The Anaphylaxis Campaign:Common Food Allergens". 
  29. ^ "All Allergy: Sesame Allergy".