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Sesamum.—Benne.

Botanical name:

Related entry: Oleum Sesami (U. S. P.)—Oil of Sesamum

The leaves and seed of Sesamum indicum, Linné.
Nat. Ord.—Pedaliaceae.
COMMON NAMES: Benne, Sesame leaves, Sesame seeds.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 198.

Botanical Source.—Sesamum indicum is an annual plant, with an erect, pubescent, branching stem, 2 to 4 feet in height. The leaves are ovate-lanceolate, or oblong; the lower ones trilobed and sometimes ternate; the upper undivided, irregularly serrate and pointed. The flowers are of a pale-purple color, axillary, and borne on short glandular pedicels. The fruit is an oblong, mucronate, pubescent capsule, containing numerous small, oval, yellowish seeds (W.—Wi).

History and Description.—There were formerly thought to be two species of this genus, the S. indicum, and the S. orientale, both of which were originally from India, and are now much cultivated in several parts of Africa, West Indies, and in the southern United States. That growing in the south is the S. indicum, and flowers in August. The latter species is now regarded as identical with the former. The parts used are the leaves and seeds. The seeds are rather small, sulphur-colored, sometimes very dark, and contain a large quantity of a sweetish, odorless oil, of a light-yellow color, mild to the taste, of specific gravity 0.9191, and which may be obtained by expression (see Oleum Sesami). It does not readily acquire rancidity, and forms an excellent substitute for olive oil. The negroes of the south make considerable use of the seeds as an article of diet. The leaves are ovate-oblong, narrowed at base, with margin irregularly toothed, or entire, the lower ones often having tridentate lobes or leaflets. They are smoothish, or pubescent, and strongly veined underneath. The fresh leaves contain a large amount of mucilage, which may be procured by macerating them in water and precipitating with alcohol.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—A fresh leaf or two added to 1/2 pint of water forms a pleasant, demulcent drink, very useful in catarrhal affections, acute diarrhoea and dysentery, summer complaint of children, and affections of the bladder, kidneys, and urethra. It may be drank freely. When the leaves are dried, their mucilage will be best extracted by water at 100° C. (212° F.). The mucilage forms an excellent soothing application in ophthalmia, irritations, cutaneous affections, etc.; but is inferior to slippery elm. The oil may be used topically in eruptions of a scaly or bran-like character, or, it may be given internally in the same manner as olive oil to produce a laxative effect. It is stated that the natives of India employ it as an abortive, and to promote the menstrual discharge. It is much used as a perfumed oil for the hair.


King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.



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