The Ayurvedic Corner: sesame oil and tahini

An excellent ingredient for keeping the body warm and balanced is sesame oil.

by Kevin Afuso — 

As we settle into winter, the cooling, drying elements of the season begin to emerge. An excellent ingredient for keeping the body warm and balanced is sesame oil.

Sesame oil is derived from sesame seeds and, ayurvedically, it has a sweet and bitter taste that is heating in its digestive action. It nourishes, strengthens and lubricates, pacifying the vata dosha. Vata is the dosha most likely to be out of balance this time of year. Sesame oil, rich in linoleic acid, has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Massaging yourself daily (abhyanga) with sesame oil from head to toe before your morning shower is an excellent way to keep the hair and skin moist, soft, supple and protected. You can also massage the oil into the legs and the soles of the feet before bedtime — a luxurious way to ground the vata dosha.

Applying and massaging the oil into the nose (nasya) with your little finger and then sniffing sharply will lubricate, protect and clear mucous out of the sinuses. Gargling with a few ounces of sesame oil for a couple of minutes draws out further mucous and has been shown to reduce gum disease and tartar buildup.

Cooking with toasted sesame oil is very popular when distinctive Asian flavors are desired. Add it at the end of your Chinese, Korean, Indian or Southeast Asian-inspired dishes to enhance flavor. Cold-pressed, raw sesame oil is usually colorless and odorless, and completely different in flavor from the toasted varieties.

Tahini, made from ground sesame seeds, has similar properties to sesame oil and is a popular ingredient in Western vegetarian and vegan cooking. It also is an invaluable nutrient in a raw food diet. Nutritionally, sesame seeds are high in protein and contain calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin B and iron.

Tahini dressing is a wonderful way to add sesame to your diet. Pour over your favorite salad or use a thicker version as a dip. The following tahini recipe uses only raw ingredients.

Tahini Ginger Dressing


  • 9 tablespoons raw tahini
  • 6 tablespoons raw, cold-pressed sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh, peeled ginger, minced (more to taste, if desired)
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar or other raw, natural sweetener
  • 3 tablespoons Nama Shoyo (raw, aged soy sauce) or natural sea salt (more to taste, if desired)
  • Pinch of black pepper (more to taste, if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds (optional)


Place the first six ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Add water until mixture reaches desired consistency. Place in a water-tight container. Add black seeds and shake well. Makes 1 cup.


Kevin Afuso is the chef for the Ayurvedic Kitchen at 7 Centers Yoga Arts, the oldest yoga center in Sedona, Ariz. He both educates and nurtures the teachers and students with ayurvedic meals during yoga trainings. or 877-603-4400.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 1, February/March 2007.

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