Sesame seed is just irreplaceable
Sesame oil or tila in Sanskrit, is one of the most widely used ingredients in Ayurvedic treatment. It is safe to say about 40 percent of Ayurvedic formulas are based on sesame seeds. Used in multiple recipes as powder, paste, or oil, sesame seeds, the black variety, are indeed a wonder herb, as the products are for both external as well as internal applications - over the eyes, nasally, rectally, and so on.
The celebrated Ayurvedic masters Charaka and Vagbhata explain that in a formula, if the type of oil to be used is not specified, but just taila or oil is mentioned, sesame oil is considered by default. This is because of all the oils, sesame oil is considered the best. Wide-ranging Benefits Sushruta Sutrasthana describes the Ayurvedic properties of sesame, and mentions some essential uses. First, the author says that sesame oil is agni janana, it improves the digestive power; meda janana, improves intelligence; and vrana sodhana, cleanses wounds.
He suggests sesame seeds to be taken as a pathya, which gives relief by usage as a diet regimen. It is, therefore, one of the widely used oils for cooking in our households. As part of culinary preparations, many households use sesame seeds in the form of small balls, or laddu, or make khichdi out of the seeds by mixing with a little rice, green gram and black gram. Secondly, the seeds are an excellent medium to improve the quality of skin and hair and their overall strength.
Sesame oil is used as the base for most of the herbal oils. Sesame calms vata and kapha, and slightly increases pitta. Sesame oil is used for massage and shirodhara (the healing technique that involves someone pouring the oil onto your forehead), which are the procedures that help to calm the mind and induce deep relaxation. It is a safe oil for massage of babies and children, and helps to strengthen bones, muscles and joints. Thirdly, as the medium to heal wounds, sesame has some significant attributes. It is made into the form of a paste and traditionally applied over wounds for quick healing.
The oil is used for oil pulling to heal mouth ulcers. The seeds are also good for your teeth. Patients with severe tooth pain are advised to apply sesame paste at the pain point. In conditions such as tingling of teeth, weak teeth and afflictions of the mouth caused by vata imbalance, a procedure known as Gandusha treatment is followed, where water is mixed with sesame seed paste and held in the mouth for about five minutes. Sesame seeds and oil are also excellent laxatives.
Sesame Oil and Head Massage
The use of sesame oil for head massage is an age-old practice. Ayurveda affirms that oil on his head regularly does not suffer from headache, baldness, greying of hair, or hair fall. His sense organs work properly, and the facial skin remains bright. Regular head massage with sesame oil produces sound sleep and overall wellness. Many people tend to compare the benefits of massaging with sesame oil and coconut oil.
While sesame or gingelly oil does all the good things to hair that the coconut oil does, the issue with coconut oil is that it is coolant in nature, thereby contributing to increase in the kapha in the body. Hence, for those prone to allergies, cold, cough, and asthmatic symptoms, massage with coconut oil may worsen the condition.
Many people living overseas in cold climates complain of hair fall due to regular application of coconut oil, because the coldness of coconut oil worsens the vata condition in such climates. Such a problem is not seen with sesame oil which is vata balancing. Here is a simple tip for using sesame oil for massage. It is better to follow the massage with a hot water bath, which helps to calm vata (and to get rid of oil in the skin). It is preferable to schedule such a bath at least about half an hour after the massage to maximise the effect.
Another point is that anything applied on the skin surface, in order to get absorbed well, needs to have some hotness. Skin absorption is handled by a type of pitta called Bhrajaka Pitta. Skin absorption is also a type of digestion, which happens in hot conditions. In preparing hair oils, sesame oil is added with water and a few herbs, boiled till the entire water evaporates. This is done to get all the useful nutrients from the herbs into the oil.
Hotness of sesame oil is useful for better absorption of herb nutrients into the scalp skin. The slight hotness is balanced out by the usage of ingredients such as milk and amla, to ensure that the overall hotness is not too much to cause pitta increase. Charaka Samhita mentions that for women having delayed periods (what is known as amenorrhea), a tablespoon of sesame seeds is soaked in water overnight.
Next morning, the seeds taken out of water are mixed with half a tablespoon of jaggery to make it a paste and administered to the person. The process is repeated for up to 5-7 days before the expected date for periods. Our scriptures favour usage of sesame oil for lighting lamps at home and prayer halls as opposed to other oils. In sum, sesame oil is the most commendable of all oils, as per Sushruta Samhita
- Dr. Janardhan V.Hebbar