By Sayer Ji
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
Tahini, made from toasted, ground sesame seeds, is a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidant lignans, vitamins and minerals.[i] Its rich, earthy and slightly nutty flavor is a mainstay in traditional hummus recipes, but both tahini and the sesame seeds from which it’s made have been enjoyed for hundreds of years.
Tahini is so versatile it can be mixed with lemon juice and salt and used as a dip for raw veggies. You can blend it with olive oil and apple cider vinegar to make a tasty salad dressing.
Or use it to make Tarator — a sauce that contains tahini, garlic, lemon juice and parsley that’s especially good with poultry and vegetables.[ii] You can feel great about enjoying tahini morning, noon and night, as it’s not only delicious — it’s incredibly good for you.
5 Reasons to Eat Tahini
Tahini and the sesame seeds that it’s made up of have more than 70 pharmacological actions, including antioxidant, pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. You can learn about 139 diseases that sesame seeds are useful for via our GreenMedInfo.com sesame seed research database. Here’s just a sampling of why tahini and sesame seeds are so good for you.
1. Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Endothelial Function
Sesame seeds are known to have antihypertensive, lipid-lowering and appetite-controlling properties that may benefit heart health. In a study of 20 men, eating just 50 grams of tahini — about 3.5 tablespoons — led to a significant decrease in diastolic blood pressure and pulse rate four hours later.[iii] Endothelial function, a “key regulator of vascular homeostasis,”[iv] also improved.
“This is the first study to report that tahini consumption can lower blood pressure and pulse rate and improve endothelial function,” the researchers wrote, “suggesting a healthy snack in place of others with a less desirable lipid profile.”[v]
Previous research found similar benefits from sesame oil. Men with high blood pressure consumed sesame oil with a meal and then daily for 60 days. Flow-mediated dilatation, a measure of endothelial function, improved significantly after sesame oil consumption, both two hours after the meal and in the long-term over two months.
“This is the first study to show that sesame oil consumption exerts a beneficial effect on endothelial function and this effect is sustained with long-term daily use,” the team explained.[vi]
2. Relieve Pain and Bruising
Tahini contains a wealth of nutrients, including calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, antioxidants and vitamins B, C and E. It’s also composed of more than 50% sesame oil, which has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial effects.[vii] The antioxidants in sesame oil, which include sesamol and sesamolin, are beneficial for the skin.
“Actually, the natural anti-oxidants have the intrinsic capabilities to prevent lipid peroxidation, which is suggested to be closely related to aging, mutation, cancer and several other diseases,” according to scientists from Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Iran. “Also, this substance is useful for the prevention of oxidative damage, cardiovascular diseases, and skin tumor.”[viii]
The team tested the topical use of sesame oil extracted from tahini on people with traumatic limb injuries. Pain severity, pain sensitivity and heaviness of the painful site all decreased with the sesame oil — significantly more so than in the placebo group.[ix] Plus, there were no adverse effects. Not only did the sesame oil from tahini relieve pain on the skin after bruising, but it also helped prevent skin discoloration.[x]
3. Help for Knee Osteoarthritis
Sesame’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects are also valuable for knee osteoarthritis. Fifty adults with the condition received either 40 grams of sesame seed (about 2.3 tablespoons) or 40 grams of placebo powder daily for two months, along with standard medical care.[xi]
Those in the sesame seed group had a significant decrease in inflammatory markers, including malondialdehyde and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.
Another study compared topical sesame oil with diclofenac gel, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug, in patients with knee osteoarthritis. The topical treatments were applied three times a day for four weeks.[xii] Sesame oil worked as well as diclofenac to reduce pain and improve some indicators of knee function.
4. Boost Memory
When sesame seeds are roasted and pressed to extract the oil, the leftover material is known as sesame oil cake (SOC). While considered a byproduct, SOCs contain sesaminol glucoside and lignans, including sesamin, sesamolin and sesaminol.
Animal studies have found that SOC protects against cognitive impairment, leading researchers with Jeonbuk National University Hospital in Korea to evaluate the effects of sesame oil cake extract (SOCE) on cognitive function in adults with memory impairment.[xiii] After 12 weeks of SOCE intake, levels of amyloid-?, which is associated with cognitive decline, decreased significantly, while verbal memory abilities markedly improved.
5. Improve Rheumatoid Arthritis
Intrigued by sesame’s anti-inflammatory powers, a research team in Iran studied the effects of sesamin from sesame on rheumatoid arthritis, a disease characterized by inflammation.[xiv] Patients received either a placebo or 200-milligram sesamin supplement daily for six weeks. The sesamin group had significant improvements in inflammatory markers along with a reduction in tender joints and pain severity. The team explained:[xv]
“According to the results, it seems that the sesamin, by reducing inflammatory mediators, can relieve clinical symptoms and pathological changes … caused by inflammatory impairment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”
Try This Simple Tahini Salad Dressing
Interested in learning even more about sesame — the superfood behind tahini’s health benefits? Be sure to read the GreenMedInfo.com articles below. Then, if you’re feeling hungry, try the tahini salad dressing recipe, from Minimalist Baker,[xvi] that follows.
- Sesame May Eclipse Flaxseed as the Ultimate Healing Seed
- Open Sesame! 10 Amazing Health Benefits of This Super-Seed
- Five Reasons to Eat Sesame Seeds
Tahini Salad Dressing Recipe[xvii]
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 1 medium lemon, juiced
- 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 clove garlic, minced
Mix together all ingredients except water.
Whisk to combine, then slowly add water to thin to the desired consistency.
Taste and adjust as needed.
[i] Nutrients. 2020 Dec; 12(12): 3678. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7760696/
[ii] Serious Eats October 30, 2029 https://www.seriouseats.com/ways-to-use-tahini
[iii] J Hum Hypertens. 2022 Dec;36(12):1128-1132. doi: 10.1038/s41371-021-00624-2. Epub 2021 Oct 27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34707227/
[iv] Circulation March 13, 2007 https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/circulationaha.106.652859
[v] J Hum Hypertens. 2022 Dec;36(12):1128-1132. doi: 10.1038/s41371-021-00624-2. Epub 2021 Oct 27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34707227/
[vi] Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2013 Apr; 20(2): 202-208. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3683238/
[vii] Bull Emerg Trauma. 2020 Jul; 8(3): 179-185. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468223/
[viii] Bull Emerg Trauma. 2020 Jul; 8(3): 179-185. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468223/
[ix] Bull Emerg Trauma. 2020 Jul; 8(3): 179-185. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468223/
[x] Bull Emerg Trauma. 2020 Jul; 8(3): 179-185. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468223/
[xi] Acta Medica Iranica 2015, Vol 53, No 4 https://acta.tums.ac.ir/index.php/acta/article/view/4905
[xii] Complement Ther Med. 2019 Dec;47:102183. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.08.017. Epub 2019 Aug 22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31780006/
[xiii] Nutrients. 2021 Aug; 13(8): 2606. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8399671/
[xiv] Phytother Res. 2019 Sep;33(9):2421-2428. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6433. Epub 2019 Jul 15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31309643/
[xv] Phytother Res. 2019 Sep;33(9):2421-2428. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6433. Epub 2019 Jul 15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31309643/
[xvi] Minimalist Baker, How to Make Tahini Dressing https://minimalistbaker.com/make-tahini-dressing/
[xvii] Minimalist Baker, How to Make Tahini Dressing https://minimalistbaker.com/make-tahini-dressing/
About the author:
Sayer Ji is the founder of Greenmedinfo.com, a reviewer at the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, Co-founder and CEO of Systome Biomed, Vice Chairman of the Board of the National Health Federation, and Steering Committee Member of the Global Non-GMO Foundation.