As Indians, we are known for our love of oils. While the western cuisine and culture can’t get enough of their butter, our kitchens are replete with cans or bottles of oils. Oils are ubiquitous in our households, kitchens, even dressers! From cooking oil to hair oil – we just can’t seem to do without it – and for good reason!
Our ancestors figured out early on that oils – particularly nut and seed oils – are one of nature’s most bountiful gifts. Rich in nutrients, easily absorbed and having multiple uses, oils were not just a luxury, but an essential part of our lives. The use of the right type of oil – pure, unadulterated and fresh – could make us healthier, better-looking and also cure many ailments and diseases. Passed on from generation to generation, this wisdom has remained intact to date.
One of the many oils that our forefather revered for its goodness is sesame oil. In fact, not just the oil, but the entire plant – from roots to flowers and seeds – provides all kinds of benefits. The seeds and oils in particular are considered extremely sacred – used in many Hindu rituals and customs. Sesame oil itself is greatly beneficial to the skin, eyes, ears, nasal passages, hair and digestive system. It is used in a variety of Ayurvedic medicines and treatments including enema, massage, oil-pulling and others. Many of these uses are simple enough to be performed at home and can bring good health at very little cost.
Few of the many ways sesame oil can be used at home-
- Sesame oil has been traditionally used in ‘abhyanga’ – a therapeutic Ayurvedic massage that cleanses the body of toxins, aids lymphatic drainage, and relieves muscle tension and joint pains. Sesame oil increases ‘pitta dosha’ i.e. promotes body heat. This is extremely beneficial for those suffering from aches and pains, as well as slow metabolism.
- Use sesame oil liberally to massage your body with gentle strokes. Keep the strokes in one direction, away from the centre of the body.
- Similarly a head massage or shirodhara with sesame oil can relieve headaches, stress, tension, alleviate premature greying of hair and also bestow a sound night’s sleep.
- Babies and toddlers can also be massaged with sesame oil. Sesame oil is great for protecting a baby’s delicate skin from diaper rashes, increase muscle tone and strength, imparting slight Pitta to the body that aids development and motor skills.
- Sesame oil calms the ‘vata dosha’, so for those suffering from sinusitis or other respiratory track ailments, sesame oil can greatly help relieve mucous membranes and keep them well lubricated. This is also an excellent way to protect small school-going children from contracting cold and cough infections from other children.
- Apply a little sesame oil inside each nostril with a clean finger or an ear bud, pinch the nose tightly and inhale deeply. Experienced users can also use sesame oil for ‘nasyam’ or nasal irrigation.
- Sesame oil is a natural antioxidant, rich in sesamin and also has anti-bacterial properties. It is used in an ancient ayurvedic oral cleansing remedy called ‘oil-pulling’ which helps rid the mouth of bacteria and infections. In case of a bout of cough or sore throat, it can be used to gargle
- Take a capful of sesame oil in the mouth and swish it around for 10 minutes, ensuring it is supplied to the inner reaches. Spit it out when done, and rinse the mouth with clean warm water. Do this early morning on an empty stomach. Ayurvedic texts credit this remedy with healing cavities, removing stains, alleviating gingivitis and bas breath. It also removes toxins from the body and promotes healing.
- Being a ‘hot’ oil, sesame oil is great for stimulating blood circulation and imparting much relief to tired and sore muscles. It is absorbed quickly and it works as a potent antioxidant on tissues underneath the skin. For this reason, sesame oil is great for getting a youthful appearance, minimising wrinkles and pimples, and giving skin a youthful glow.
- Lightly massage the eyelids and under-eye area with good quality sesame oil. This will take care of dark circles, bags or under eye wrinkles. If you use computers for long periods, this will also relieve tiredness and improve vision
- Contrary to popular belief, sesame oil is very beneficial to teenage skin that is suffering from pimples. The antioxidants neutralize the pimple-causing bacteria and also promote healing of eruptions on the skin. Apply regularly to see an improvement in the texture of skin.
These are just a few of the many benefits of sesame oil. Ayurvedic preparations make extensive use of sesame seeds, oil and plants for their healing properties. Ensure that you always have a bottle of sesame oil in your almirah or armoire – it can be your go-to medicine for all minor ailments!