The tiny flat oval Sesame seeds develop in the fruit of the tropical annual plant Sesamum indicum from the genus Sesamum. It is a flowering herb growing up to 3 feet tall with opposite lanceolate leaves which have an entire margin. The flowers are tubular, 1-2 in long with a 4-lobed mouth. They range in colour from white to purple.
The seeds also differ in colour from creamy-white to black. They mature in the pods, which crack open when ripe. Sesame seeds have nutty taste and are rich in oil beneficial for the human health.
Numerousspeciesof Sesame are known to grow wildly in the tropics of Africa – in sub-Saharan areas - and in India (where, by the way, it was first domesticated). It is nowadays cultivated in Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda, China – in the countries with warm climate, preferring warmth and sunshine.
Centuries ago Sesame seeds were the symbol of immortality and the food worthy of gods. By humans they were at first used for oil and wine. However, it is assumed that they became the first known condiment used in cuisine.
Medicinally they were used as anti-venom against the bite of the spotted lizard. Later people started to discover other sesame health benefits, and these days herbalists treat even more conditions than before adding the seeds of Sesame into their preparations.
There are mainly whole dry roasted seeds or ground ones and Sesame seeds oil in the form of liquid or capsules on the market. The seeds can be hulled or unhulled. Whole seeds are recommended to be chewed well for the body to get the most benefit from their nutrients.
Sesame seeds are first of all valued as a rich source of oil and proteins (it explains why they are in such favour of vegetarians). They also contain significant amounts of vitamin E and vitamin B group and such minerals as zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus and iron.
The most valuable constituents of Sesame seeds, as it is believed today, are lignans (they belong to fiber) sesamin and sesamolin. They are said to possess antioxidant and anti-cancerous properties. Lignans are also capable of lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The latter benefits are also traced to the presence of phytosterols in Sesame seeds.
A number f health conditions can be relieved with supplementation of Sesame seeds. For example, several recent studies confirm they lower blood pressure and fight high level of bad cholesterol. They are a good option if one seeks to preserve general health, since they have antioxidant effects. In addition, cosmetology uses sesame, being sure it helps maintain beautiful skin preventing wrinkles.
Mineral content in Sesame seeds ensures bone health, fights off arthritis and osteoporosis, lessens migraines, pre-menstrual syndrome and menopause symptoms, keeps liver healthy, and may even be of help in cancer prevention.
Vegetarians should be especially optimistic about consuming Sesame seeds, since this condiment is capable of supplying human body with different elements, which may be lacking in the vegetarian diet.
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