Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils so that they can be applied to the skin. Carrier oils are typically extracted from nuts, seeds or the kernel of a plant. They tend to have mild aromas and are quite neutral so they can dilute stronger oils making them suitable for use as massage oils or moisturizing lotions. Sesame oil is a popular massage oil that has many health-promoting benefits of its own.
The History of Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is well known as an ingredient in Asian cuisine, and it is also used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is an edible oil that is rich in omega-6 fats, and that is highly regarded for its health-promoting benefits. Sesame has been cultivated throughout history, even going back as far as the Greek and Roman times.1 In fact, it is one of the first recorded plants that was used for its seeds.2
There is a legend from the Chinese Qing dynasty which says that a governor was sent to the lands that are now known as Japan to find a medication that would bring about immortality. It is said that he returned with sesame seeds, and asked the emperor to consume the seeds as well as their oil in order to enjoy longevity.3 Traditional Chinese Medicine supports the use of sesame seeds and their oil, and today it is enjoying renewed popularity as a form of carrier oil for other essential oils.
Sesame oil is one of the most commonly grown crops, ranking number nine out of the 13 crops that account for around 90 percent of the vegetable oil produced in the world.4 It is rich in minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and sodium. It also contains high levels of fatty acids including oleic and linoleic acids, as well as palmitic and stearic acid.5
Uses for Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is light and gentle enough that it can be applied directly to the skin. It can act as a moisturizer and help to temporarily smooth out fine lines and wrinkles and it has good emollient properties. In addition, it can also lighten sun spots and reduce uneven pigmentation. It contains a micronutrient called sesamol, which is good for your skin.6 It also has sunscreen-like properties, as well as being a strong antioxidant, which means that it can protect your skin from UV-B related damage. Studies show that sesame oil resists as much as 30% of UV rays.7
Sesame oil is a little heavier than some other popular carrier oils but it is still very useful as a massage oil. If it is gently warmed (until it reaches a similar level to tepid water) and then applied to the skin it can be used for a relaxing, energizing massage. With some other massage oils, the idea is to rub some into the palm of your hands and then massage the skin. Sesame oil works best when applied in copious amounts directly onto the skin, “bathing” the skin with the oil. Massage the oil firmly into the skin and leave it for about 20 minutes, then rinse it off in the shower.
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The oil will absorb into the skin can work well for lifting unwanted dirt, debris and grease off the pores, improving the consistency of the skin. At the same time, the massaging action helps to improve circulation.
Sesame oil works well as a conditioner for your hair and your scalp. It is rich in nutrients itself and is also able to dissolve soluble minerals that have been deposited on your scalp.8 So, if you have had a day at the beach and your hair is looking dull after exposure to saltwater, using sesame oil as a hair conditioner could help to improve its shine.
Sesame oil, and indeed many other carrier oils, are rich in fatty acids that can be helpful for treating dandruff and for promoting good hair growth, even to the extent of reducing hair loss in some cases.9,10 Sesame oil can be used in small quantities as a leave-in conditioner, it can also be used as a treatment for dry scalps, and can even be mixed with lavender or rosemary oil to make a treatment to eliminate head lice.
Traditionally, people would use coconut oil for ‘oil pulling’. This is a practice that involves taking a small amount of oil (a few milliliters, similar to what you would use with normal mouthwash) and swilling it around the mouth for five minutes. Do not swallow the oil. The idea is that the oil will kill off bacteria and also protect your teeth and gums. It can help to prevent gum disease.11 If you normally use an alcohol-based mouthwash and find that it dries your mouth, then perhaps switching to using a more natural oil would be a good option for you.
Some people do argue that frequent use of commercial mouthwashes can cause cancer, but the evidence supporting this is questionable at best.12 Proper dental hygiene is important for overall health.
Ingestion of sesame oil has been found to decrease mental stress and cortisol levels.13 The researchers examined the blood cortisol levels of two groups of people, one group was fed 5mL of sesame oil per day, while the other group was given a placebo instead. The group that was taking sesame oil saw reduced levels of cortisol compared to the control group. This suggests that there is a physiological component to the stress reduction, although the study concluded that more research is necessary to determine if there is a psychological element to the stress reduction too.
Use Before/After Swimming
Have you ever noticed that your hair starts to turn greenish if you go swimming frequently? This is caused by the chlorine in the pool reacting with any copper found in the water. The oxidation process is what causes the copper to turn green. The reason that your hair turns green is that the oxidized copper binds to the proteins of your hair. Applying a small amount of sesame oil to your hair before swimming can stop this. If you don’t want to swim with oil on your hair you can comb sesame oil through your hair after swimming and it will strip the copper from your hair, making it look fresh and clean again. Most people don’t experience the green change unless they swim regularly, and getting into the habit of treating your hair after each swimming session can help to prevent it from becoming an issue.
The linoleic acid in sesame oil makes it a good skin barrier and makes it useful for topical treatments for a number of common skin conditions.14 It can be used to treat everything from eczema to psoriasis. Studies show that the oils can have a therapeutic effect both by acting as a skin barrier, and also providing nutrients that can be useful for wound healing.
If you are struggling with skin conditions, then it is worth talking to a doctor about treatments because some skin conditions do need to be treated using steroid creams or antibacterial creams. however, for conditions which are primarily due to dryness or skin irritation, it is often possible to reduce the soreness and allow your body’s own natural healing processes to take over by simply using a carrier oil as a cream. Sesame oil is often used to soothe the pain from sunburn, for example, and this can help the skin to heal more quickly. Sunburn is a serious issue, though and should not be taken lightly. Using sun cream to prevent sunburn in the first place and limiting sun exposure is a much better option.
Sesame oil can be used as a nail soak, with a small amount of myrrh for extra moisturizing properties, and some lavender to help to fight infection, thanks to its antimicrobial properties.15 This is a great treatment for people who work with their hands who want to make sure that they stay as supple, strong and moist as possible. Cracked, dry nails and cuticles can be frustrating to deal with, but using a nail bath as a part of your regular manicure (or pedicure) routine could help to keep your nails in good condition. If you paint your nails regularly, then it is particularly important to treat them well and nourish them, because some nail varnish removers and other products can be quite drying.
Pairing Essential Oils with Sesame Carrier Oil
Sesame oil pairs well a lot of essential oils. It does have a relatively strong aroma, however, which means that it may not work with ones that are very mild. To get the best results, you should pair sesame oil with a lighter carrier oil so that it provides a nicer massage (or alternatively use sesame oil to ‘water down’ a buttery substance such as shea butter or coconut oil so that it spreads and rubs more easily).
If you are using sesame oil paired with another carrier oil to reduce the aroma, then you may find that it works well with lavender or chamomile to make a relaxing blend, or with ylang-ylang for a focus-enhancing and invigorating blend. You can also use it with peppermint to make a nice ‘pick me up’ or with frankincense and tea tree to make a great pampering skin care treatment. For a great winter massage oil that could help with congestion and soothe the symptoms of colds, try eucalyptus, rosemary and oregano.
If you want to make a great hair care essential oil, then tea tree and peppermint are both good options again because they can help to refresh and invigorate the scalp. The antimicrobial effects of the oil help to keep your scalp in good condition, and will promote better hair growth too. Use a small amount as a leave-in conditioner, or apply some a few minutes before going in the shower and rinse it out to get beautiful, shiny hair that looks thick and healthy – as well as staying nicely frizz-free!
Safety and Precautions
Sesame oil is safe to eat. If you are buying food-grade sesame oil then you can use it in cooking as you would expect. Many people do use sesame oil for cooking stir fries, for example. However, you should use it only in moderation because sesame oil is rich in omega 6, which can increase your risk of heart disease if consumed to excess.16 Some omega 6 and some omega 3 fatty acids are necessary for heart health, but they must be consumed in balance for optimal health.
If you are using sesame oil as a carrier oil then you should take the standard precautions. Take care to store the oil in a sealed container, at a cool and stable temperature. Exposure to excess heat, or leaving sesame oil in an open container, can make the oil go rancid quickly.
Most people tolerate sesame oil quite well, but sesame allergies are not unheard of. Allergic reactions tend to be quite mild and usually appear immediately after exposure but they can take an hour or more to surface.17 You should perform a skin test on any new carrier oil, with a small amount of the oil applied to your forearm, to see whether there are any adverse reactions. Wait a few hours after performing the test to see if any rash or discomfort occurs. If you notice any adverse effects, discontinue use of the oil immediately. If the reaction is severe seek professional medical advice.
Dilutions and Carrier Oils
Sesame oil is quite mild and as such makes a good carrier oil. Essential oils in their pure form evaporate too quickly to be used as a massage oil and many of them are far too strong, so using them directly onto skin could produce serious adverse effects. For this reason, it is important that you dilute oils properly.
Depending on the essential oil that you want to use, dilutions can start at as little as 0.5% of the ‘active’ essential oil. The majority of oils can be used at concentrations of up to two percent. Some oils can be used in dilutions of 10%, but this tends to be used more for substances that are actually ‘safe’ to apply to the skin directly such as peppermint, spearmint or tea tree oil. While you can use these oils neat, they may sting slightly and they will evaporate too quickly to give a satisfying massage, so it still makes sense to mix them into a butter or oil to make them more pleasant to apply.
It can be difficult to measure essential oils out with any precision because different oils have different viscosities. For topical applications, it is usually safe to measure essential oils by the number of drops. Two to three drops of oil in a fluid ounce of carrier oil is enough for a 0.5% dilution. 12 drops of essential oil to a fluid ounce of carrier oil makes a two percent solution.
If you are not sure how much of an essential oil to use, err on the side of caution and opt for a more diluted solution/lotion. It is better to find that the oil is too mild and does very little than to apply too much oil to the skin and risk irritation or other side effects. You can gradually increase the concentration if you feel that the oil is not having a therapeutic effect. Always follow the instructions that are given on the bottle of the essential oil, however, and be mindful of any potential adverse effects or contraindications. If you have broken skin or open wounds, do not apply essential oils in those areas.
Sesame carrier oil is a good choice for people who are just getting started with essential oils. It is readily available, very affordable, versatile, and can be used to create massage oils that genuinely do smell good enough to eat. You can make massage oils out of food grade sesame oil, which is one of the things that makes it such a great option.
Resist the urge to make huge quantities of your massage oil blends, though. Decant a small amount of oil into a bottle and make just a few fluid ounces of your blend at a time. While sesame oil is very affordable, the essential oils that you are using in your blends could be priced, comparatively, like liquid gold. It is better to make small amounts at a time so that the oil stays fresh and you don’t have to waste money by throwing large amounts of unused oils away.
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