The seeds are often chewed on their own for medicinal value, tasting bitingly hot and bitter, leaving the tongue numb for a while. Cooking ajowan mellows it somewhat. When crushed, they have a strong and distinctive thyme-like fragrance.
Sesame seed is one of the oldest oilseed crops known, domesticated well over 3000 years ago. Sesamum has many other species, most being wild and native to sub-Saharan Africa. S. indicum, the cultivated type, originated in India.