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Sesame oil has been celebrated as potent way of enhancing beauty and vitality since ancients times. Not just Ayurveda, but civilisations from ancient times the world over used this seed to enhance well-being. Women of ancient Babylon would eat halva, a mixture of honey and sesame seeds to prolong youth and beauty, while Roman soldiers and gladiators consumed a combination of sesame, honey, oats and other herbs to increase strength and heal the body.
Sesame oil with its nutty taste, is acquired from the seeds of Sesamum indicum plant. For thousands of years, sesame seeds have been a source oil – that was consumed as part of food and also applied topically. Sesame has one of the highest oil content of any seed, some varietals exceeding 50 per cent oil content compared to soybean’s 20 per cent. Sesame oil is naturally high in antioxidants – not only making it ideal for cooking, but this property also means sesame oil has a longer shelf life and does not get rancid easily.
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This oil is highly nourishing, healing and lubricating. Other than being used as a flavour-enhancing cooking oil, it has many beauty benefits and works great for the scalp and hair growth. “Sesame oil is full of Vitamin E, B complex, and several potent minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and protein that strengthen the body and give deep nourishment to all cells – including the skin cells and hair cells,” says dietician Kavita Devgan, adding, “It is an excellent substitute for other vegetable oils and therefore can help to lower blood pressure.”
Wellness head at Aahana Spa Resort in Jim Corbett National Park, Ms Ayu Tripathi, says, “Sesame oil is the best oil, as prescribed by Ayurvedic texts for complete hair and skin health. It helps in strengthening the hair shafts by the roots and promotes new hair growth and also reduces the split ends and hair prone to breakage leading to excessive hair fall with its rejuvenating qualities.”
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Besides cooking, sesame oil, also known as gingelly oil is celebrated in ancient Ayurvedic texts for enhancing beauty when applied topically. Most spas use sesame oil for their massages and also as carrier oil for aromatherapy. “Aacharya charak prescribed Sesame as “सर्वेषां तैलजातानां तिलतैलं विशिष्यते” means one of the best oil to impart strength and deep nourishment to skin and hair. Sesame oil is an excellent skin moisturizer and skin softener because of Vyavayi guna i.e. it pervades the body before going through the process of digestion. This property enables sesame oil to cure diseases located in the minutest channels of the body quickly,” says Kavita Devgan, explaining the importance of sesame or gingelly oil in Ayurveda. The Journal of Medicinal Food reports that the Vitamin E contained in the sesame oil acts as an excellent antioxidant and this makes it a useful ingredient in sunscreen lotions. Topical application may also reverse signs of sun damage.
Those with oily skin may not be open to the idea of using an oil for skin treatment, but the benefits of sesame oil for skin are many. Its abilities to remove toxins, improve blood circulation, and protect skin from free radicals are beneficial for all types of skin.
Dr B L Jangid, Delhi-based dermatologist at SkinQure, says, “Gingelly oil or what is popularly known as sesame oil is derived from sesame seeds which has been scientifically proven to contain phytosterols, tocopherols and unique class of lignans such as sesamin and sesamolin all of which are known to be strong antioxidants, so its direct application on skin and hair helps to fight the daily environmental oxidative stress which can be harmful for these body parts, it also acts as a natural sunscreen and thus aids as an anti-aging substance for the skin.”
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Sesame oil also aids in healing the chronic diseases of the skin such as psoriasis due to its natural anti-inflammatory properties. In India, it has been used as an antibacterial mouthwash. Sesame oil is naturally antibacterial for common skin pathogens such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus as well as common skin fungi such as athlete’s foot fungus. It is perhaps for these reasons that sesame oil is used extensively in traditional Ayurvedic massages such as Abhyanga, Kati Vasti, Pizichil, Shirodhara and many more.
Sesame oil is a great makeup remover, especially for those with mature or dry skin. Dr B L Jangid explains the logic and the procedure and says, “The antioxidant sesamol in the oil prevents the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Also, the oil can be used to safely remove toxins from the skin – just leave on some warm oil on your skin for 15 minutes and wash off with plain lukewarm water.”
A few drops of sesame oil can also be added to bath water for those who have dry, sensitive or mature skin.
Sesame oil increases the scalp circulation as it has a high penetration ability, thereby promoting hair growth. Topical application of sesame on the scalp and hair is beneficial in restoring health and vitality to hair damaged by excessive styling or chemical exposure. This is because sesame oil has a good penetrating power. It is absorbed easily by the scalp to nourish hair. In the Southern states of India, sesame oil is the reason why people have darker hair for longer – sesame oil prevents and treats premature greying. Some people believe it actually helps darken hair.
Dr Veda Iyer, a Chennai-based Ayurveda expert says, “Sesame oil acts as a natural sunscreen for hair. It creates a barrier than even ultraviolet rays cannot penetrate. This keeps the hair and scalp healthy. Mixed with just a little bit of lemon juice, it is an effective anti-lice ointment as well.”
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Her views are seconded by Dr B L Jangid, who says, “Sesame oil is has antibacterial properties and regular use of sesame oil on the scalp is great if you want to keep infections caused by bacteria and fungus away. Massage warm sesame oil into the scalp using your fingertips before going to bed and leave it on all night. You should cover every part of the scalp. Wash the hair in the morning. For best results, use sesame oil daily for 30 days and you will never have any dandruff issues.” No wonder actor Shilpa Shetty Kundra swears by the benefits of sesame oil for her tresses, and says, “My mother used to make a home-made oil when I was young. She would add several herbs to sesame oil and massage our hair with it religiously! Even now, I give my hair a hot towel treatment after massaging for 20 minutes with a mixture of sesame oil and lemon. This makes my hair unbelievably soft, conditioned and hydrated. It also revitalizes damaged hair and so hair shines with health.”
Cold-pressed gingelly oil is recommended for use in the Ayurvedic practice known as oil pulling. This exercise effectively pulls out harmful toxins from the body and cures any kind of inflammation. Oil pulling with sesame oil involves swishing or rinsing one whole tablespoon of sesame oil in the mouth for at least 10-15 minutes. After ten minutes, spit it out and then rinse the mouth with warm water. This can be followed by brushing the teeth with plain baking soda. “You should perform oil pulling the first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. It is beneficial for strength of jaws, depth of voice, flabbiness of face, improving gustatory sensation and good taste for food, ” advises Dr Jyotsna Makker, In- house Ayurvedic Doctor for Kama Ayurveda, explaining the importance of sesame or gingelly oil in Ayurveda.
So, apart from its traditional health benefits which are achieved by using it as a cooking oil, its local application provides a wide variety o beneficial effects to the skin and hence it justifies itself to be called the “Queen of oils.”
DISCLAIMER: While we have taken steps to check the accuracy of information & practices shared here; it is not a replacement for a doctor’s opinion. it is important to first always check with your own doctor before trying any medication, practice or suggestion from this site.