Black sesame seeds

Chinese: 黑芝麻

Pinyin: Hēi Zhī Mɑ

Parts used: Dried seeds

TCM category: Laxative herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: KidneyLiver

Scientific name: Sesamum indicum

Use of black sesame seeds (Hēi Zhī Mɑ) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Harvest the plants in autumn. Take the seeds, remove the impurities and dry them.

Dosage: 9 - 30 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Nourishes the Liver and Kidney Yin. Nourishes Blood. Lubricates the Intestines.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which black sesame seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Impaired vision Tinnitus Dizziness Premature graying Constipation Hair loss

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with diarrhea.

Common TCM formulas in which black sesame seeds are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind black sesame seeds' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), black sesame seeds are plants that belong to the 'Laxative herbs that drain downward' category. The herbs in this category are those whose main purpose is to treat constipation. They're called 'laxative' because they're often rich in oils. This allows them to lubricate the Intestines in order to help it remove the stools from the body.

Furthermore black sesame seeds are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that black sesame seeds typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin excess. The Neutral nature of black sesame seeds means that you don't have to worry about that!

Black sesame seeds also taste Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like black sesame seeds tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such black sesame seeds are thought to target the Kidney and the Liver. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on black sesame seeds

Sesame consumption produces reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.1

Studies on sesame seeds report a reduction of oxidative stress markers and lipid peroxidation.2

Sources:

1. Khosravi-Boroujeni H, Nikbakht E, Natanelov E, Khalesi S (2017). "Can sesame consumption improve blood pressure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials". Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 97 (10): 3087–3094. doi:10.1002/jsfa.8361.

2. Gouveia Lde A, Cardoso CA, de Oliveira GM, Rosa G, Moreira AS (2016). "Effects of the Intake of Sesame Seeds (Sesamum indicum L.) and Derivatives on Oxidative Stress: A Systematic Review". Journal of Medicinal Food. 19 (4): 337–345. doi:10.1089/jmf.2015.0075.

Use of black sesame seeds as food

Black sesame seeds are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Black Sesame Panna Cotta.