The cultivation of sesame (Sesamum indicum) seed and the oil derived go back hundreds of years. Sesame seed oil was one of the first oils ever pressed from seeds and it has been traced back to the Assyrians prior to 600 BC. The Assyrians as well as the Hindus that followed used the oil as a food source, a medicinal salve and as an oil to burn in their votive lamps. The oil itself has many uses, in antiquity as well in present day. It is used in industry as a solvent in injectable drugs and IV solutions. It is used in cosmetics and as a natural insecticide against weevil attacks of some grains. Lower grades of the oil are used in paints, lubricants and soaps. Higher grades of sesame oil are used as a culinary oil for cooking and seasoning. And of course sesame seed oil is used in alternative medicine applications, especially in Ayurvedic medicine.
Sesame oil is a good source of vitamin E as well as vitamin B6. Copper and magnesium are also present as is iron, zinc and calcium. Unlike most other oils, sesame (and olive oil) is temperature stable and does not smoke when used to cook in high heat. Additionally, it keeps well at room temperature for months to years without going rancid, as a polyunsaturated (omega-6 fatty acid high content) oil, much like olive oil (but olive is a monounsaturated oil predominantly omega-9). The stability of sesame oil is in part due to its content of sesamol, sesamiline (a glycoside) and sesamine (a complex cyclic ester) which are naturally occurring antioxidant and preservatives.
There is an old Ayurvedic medical practice called oil pulling in which oil is swished in the mouth for 10 minutes or more and said to pull toxins out of your system. Sesame oil is one of only two oils recommended for this therapy. It is also used as a mouthwash to kill harmful oral bacteria and frequently used by massage therapist as a preferred oil in therapeutic massage for its healing properties.
The topical and oral administration of sesame oil is said to treat many disorders such as poor circulation, GI problems, fatigue, inflammation, pain and as an antimicrobial. Due to the presence of lignans it has phytoestrogen properties as well that are helpful in premenopausal women. In modern studies it has shown anti-bacterial effects and in two rather recent studies has anti cancer effects. Maybe that is the reason it has been referred to as the Queen of Oils. Rather inexpensive and full of uses, daily oral ingestion and topical use can enhance wellbeing. I prefer mine in Oriental cuisine and as a base in home made humus (Tahini is a sesame paste heavy with oil and a main ingredient in this tasty dip). But don't go away thinking that you get enough on a sesame seed bun at McDonalds.
Selective growth inhibition of human malignant melanoma cell line by Sesame Oil in Vitro: Malignant melanoma cells would not replicate in sesame oil: Prostaglandins, Leukatrines and Essential Fatty Acids; vol 46: 145, (1992)
Oleic acid found to reduce serum cholesterol levels: Effects of increasing dietary palmitoleic acid compared with palmitic and oleic acids on plasma lipids of hypercholesterolemic men: Journal of Lipid Research; vol 35: 656 (1994)
Sesame Oil significantly more effective in relief of dry nasal membranes than isotonic sodium chloride: Archives of Otolaryngology; vol 127: 1353, (Nov. 2001)
The effect of sesame oil mouth-rinse on the number of oral bacteria colony types; Maharishi Int’l University of Management, Fairfield Iowa, 1992