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Sesame and Health
Sesame seeds and sesame oil have been used as medicine for thousands of years. According to Ayurveda, there is no better or more therapeutic oil than sesame. It has been documented as a food and medicine in ancient Egypt, Babylon, Rome, and India.
Almost all Ayurvedic massage oils are a blend of vitamin E-rich sesame oil and a particular set of herbs. The sun’s rays deplete the vitamin E from the surface of the skin quite quickly, which leads researchers to investigate the best way to restore adequate vitamin E levels. Just one cup of sesame oil massaged into the skin delivers more than 15% of the body’s daily requirements.4
Abhyanga with Sesame Oil
As giving oneself a daily sesame oil massage has been the Ayurvedic tradition for thousands of years, I am often left asking, “How did they know thousands of years ago that pressing sesame seeds into an oil and then rubbing that on the skin daily could supply needed nourishment?”
An important microbe for the skin, Staphylococcus epidermidis, has been shown to cleanse, beautify, and correct the appearance of the skin.1
Staphylococcus epidermidis can be isolated from sesame oil,2 suggesting that daily application may support the healthy proliferation of S. epidermidis!
Other beneficial microbes that live on the skin feed on a triglyceride-rich fatty acid, sebum, which is naturally produced by the sebaceous glands of the skin.
Studies evaluating the constituents of sesame oil found that it is very rich in triglyceride fatty acids, suggesting that the daily application of sesame oil may actually feed the skin’s microbiome.3
Ayurvedic Massage Oil
While the benefits of sesame oil may beautify and change the appearance of the skin, these changes take place mostly on the surface. According to Ben Fuchs, the cosmetic chemist I collaborated with to co-develop our LifeSpa Ayurvedic Skin Care line, vegetable oils (such as sesame) will not penetrate and therefore not moisturize the skin. Sesame oil, he noted, contains too large of a molecule to penetrate the phosolipid layer of the skin, and thus is not able to penetrate the skin itself.
The Ayurvedic solution to this is to gently and slowly, over a long period of time with low heat, cook moisturizing skin- and lymph-supporting herbs into the pure sesame oil. In some cases, this could take 30 days! In fact, in India, you will almost never find someone giving themselves a daily massage with pure sesame oil. Classically, Ayurvedic massage oils are cooked with herbs to support their effectiveness.
The theory is that the oils carry the herbs to the phospholipid layer of the skin and then the herbs (smaller molecules) penetrate the superficial layers of the skin. This allows the oil to not dry out the skin and be more effective.
Our Lymphatic Massage Oil is made with a USDA-certified organic blend of Ayurvedic herbs and oils. Regular massage is shown to stimulate the skin-associated lymphoid tissue (SALT) and feed the natural microbiome on the surface of the skin. In Ayurveda, lymph is called rasa; it drains and removes waste from every muscle, joint, skin, and organ of the body and nourishes every cell.
Our Lymphatic Massage oil combines herbs slowly cooked in a sesame oil base. It is traditional in Ayurveda to use many herbs in such a formula. For example, our Lymphatic Massage oil consists of shatavari, manjistha, cinnamon, camphor, arjuna, ashwagandha, bala, punarnava, bilva, dashamula (ten roots), turmeric, calamus, licorice, tulsi, ginger, gokshura, vidanga, fenugreek, valerian, guducchi, shyonaka, kashmarya, musta, phyllanthus, brahmi, and many more minor herbs.
Our Tri-Dosha Massage Oil is for all body types in all seasons. It is our all-purpose Ayurvedic massage oil. Studies show that regular self-massage supports natural oxytocin production, an important hormone for stable mood and mentality.
The Tri-Dosha Massage Oil is made with USDA-certified organic sesame oil and Ayurvedic herbs, such as ashwagandha, bala, passionflower, bhringaraj, licorice, lemon verbena, tulsi, shatavari, and valerian.
In Ayurveda, a healthy daily routine would include massaging the body with sesame oil, sniffing sesame oil into both nostrils, dripping it into the ears, swishing it in the mouth (oil pulling), and, during a detox, a sesame oil enema. While I do not expect you to do all of this, you might think twice next time before brushing those seemingly meaningless little sesame seeds off your bagel.