lat. Sesamum indicum


Sesame Sesamum indicum
Sesame Sesamum indicum
Sesame Sesamum indicum
Odor profile: Fragrant note that recalls the sesame seeds of Sesamum indicum, familiar from its use in cuisine all over the world. Comforting, earthy, bread-like and soft.

Botanical Name – Sesamum indicum

Family – Pedaliaceae

Parts Used – Seeds



Sesamum is commonly known as Til (Hindi), Sesame / Gingelly (English), hu ma (Chinese), sesame (French), goma (Japanese), gergelim (Portuguese) and ajonjolí (Spanish).


Sesamum is the most ancient cultivated crops in India. Sesamum seed has been an essential article in Hindu religious ceremonies and referred to as homadhanya and pitrutarpana in ancient scripts. The earliest human migrants perhaps introduced Sesamum into India from Africa. Charred remains of sesame at Harappa excavations (c. 3600-1750 B.C.) indicate that sesame was in cultivation during the Indus Valley Civilization. Widespread cultivation of sesame in Asia and Africa since ancient times has rendered it difficult to ascertain its original home. Africa may consider the primary centre of origin while India is the secondary centre of origin.


Sesame is growing in tropical, subtropical, and southern temperate areas of the world, particularly in India, China, Africa and South Africa. India ranks first, both in the area and in production of Sesamum in the whole world. In India about 80% seeds of total production being use for oil extraction, 2% is retain for planting purposes and nearly 18 percent are utilize for direct edible purposes.


Sesamum is cultivated in the plains as well as on elevations upto 1,200 m. It requires warm climate and cannot withstand under frost, continuous heavy rain or prolonged drought situations. It grows on a light well-drained soil, which is capable of retaining adequate moisture. It thrives best on typical sandy loams.


The plant is erect, simple or branched annual, 60-180 cm. in height. The leaves are opposite below and alternate above. The flowers are zygomorphic, solitary, white bell-shaped, born on the upper part of the stem. Flower color may vary as white, pink or mauve-pink with darker markings. The petals of the flower is tubular, approximately 3 cm long, with an applicate margin slightly bilabiate. The fruit is a capsule, erect and oblong. The capsule contains numerous small ovate seeds.


Two distinct type of seeds are recognized, the white and the black. There is also an intermediate color range are found which varies from red to rose or brown to grey. Sesame seeds contains two unique substances, sesamin and sesamolin whereas after refinement the two phenolic antioxidants i.e. sesamol and sesaminol are formed. Sesame seeds are avery good source of Copper and Maganese. The seeds are also contains Tryptophan, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Phosphorous, Zinc, Vitamin B1and Dietary Fibers.


Sesame seed is used as a nourishing food and as a flavoring agent. It is invariably dehulled for use as food.

The characteristic flavor of sesame seed is developed by dry - toasting the dehulled material. Dehulled seed is an ingredient of a large variety of sweetmeats and confections widely consumed in India.

The Sesamum seeds being used in bread to which they impart an agreeable flavor. It is also an ingredient of porridges, soups, confections and other food preparations consumed in Africa.

In Venezuela, a beverage is prepared from toasted and crushed seed with milk and sugar. In USA and in European countries sesame seed is used as a garnish for bread rolls and bakery products.

Sesamum seeds are considered emollient diuretic, lactagogue and a nourishing tonic. They are said to be helpful in piles, a paste of the seeds mixed with butter being used in bleeding piles.

The Sesamum oil is well digested and absorbed as any other vegetable oil or fat. In respect of aiding calcium and phosphorus, the oil is reported to be superior to groundnut oil.

Sesamum oil is widely used as an ingredient of confectionary and for making margarine. It can be used in the manufacture of soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, insecticides and pharmaceutical products. Small quantity of Sesamum oil is used in the preparation of scented hair oils and also in therapy. It is also used in the formulation of antacids and ointment.

Sesamum cake or meal obtained as a byproduct of the oil milling industry is highly esteemed as a livestock feed. Due to its high methionine content, it is highly valued as poultry feeds.

In the ancient Arab world, people used to have balls made of dry breadcrumbs, dates, almonds, and pistachios, moistened with a few spoonful of sesame oil and coated with sesame before going out for a carvan, which would sustain them through the hot, dry desert and offer nutritional value as well.

In India, sesame seeds used in religious ceremonies and festivals. In the Sandarn Koil Tapasu Festival, sesame seeds are cooked very slowly in sugar creating a sugar coating around the individual seed. The treat is then given to friends and relatives to bring luck in the next year.

In China sesame is sprinkled over rice and red beans and served at the exchange of wedding presents. The slaves in the US brought sesame from Africa and planted it at their doors to bring luck and ward off evil spirits.

Author: Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

Senior Research Fellow
Plant Quarantine Division
National Bearue of Plant Genetic Resources
Pusa Campus, New Delhi





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