Related entry: Sesame Oil
Sesamum. Sesamum indicum L. (Fam. Pedaliaceae.)—The benne plant of our Southern States is annual, with a branching stem four or five feet high, and bearing opposite, petiolate leaves, varying considerably in their shape. The flowers are reddish-white, and stand solitarily upon short peduncles in the axils of the leaves. The fruit is an oblong capsule, with small, oval, yellowish seeds.
There are some ten or twelve species referred to the genus Sesamum, the majority of which are natives of Africa. In India one or two species occur wild, one of these, Sesamum indicum L. (S. orientale L.), has been cultivated from time immemorial in various parts of Asia and Africa. From the latter continent it is supposed that seeds were brought by the negroes to the United States, where, as well as in the West Indies, it is now cultivated to a considerable extent. The plant above described will grow as far north as Philadelphia. The seeds are employed as food by the negroes, who parch them over the fire, boil them in broths, make them into puddings, and prepare them in various other modes. By expression they yield a fixed oil, which was introduced into the Pharmacopoeia at the revision of 1880 and is official in U. S. IX. Berjot obtained from the seeds 53 per cent. of oil by means of carbon disulphide. Rautenberg reported a series of severe poisonings from the intestinal injection of sesame oil. (J. A. M. A., xlvii, p. 1962.) These accidents, he believes, are due to adulteration of the oil.
Benne Leaves.—These abound in a gummy matter, which they readily impart to water, forming a rich, bland mucilage, much used in the Southern States as a drink in various complaints to which demulcents are applicable, as in cholera infantum, diarrhea, dysentery, catarrh, acute cystitis, strangury, etc. The remedy has attracted attention also in the North, and has been employed with favorable results in Philadelphia. One or two fresh leaves of full size, stirred about in half a pint of cool water, will soon render it sufficiently viscid. With dried leaves hot water is used. The leaves also serve for the preparation of emollient cataplasms.