Ghee(Clarified butter) has always occupied the center stage of Indian tradition and Indian cuisine since time immemorial. It has been regarded as an auspicious element that draws positive energies into the household and our lives. Ghee has been used for thousands of years for the Vedic Practice of Agnihotra – offerings made to Agni Dev– the God of Fire every day during sunrise and sunset for welcoming positive energies, prosperity and tranquility into the household. A staple in Indian cuisine, Ghee has a hoard of health benefits.
Like most other Ayurvedic diet principles, Ghee treads off the beaten path! Ghee has been berated by the contemporary nutrition gurus due to its high saturated fat content. However, Ayurveda has placed Ghee at the Pinnacle of healthy diet. Acharya Charaka has proclaimed that Ghee made from Cow’s milk as the superior most unctuous substance (others being oils, fat and marrow). It has been used for facilitating detoxification in Ayurvedic Panchakarma (Five cleansing/detoxification therapies). Ghee has been prominently used for countless Ayurvedic classical preparations for the core therapy of diseases ranging from fever, skin diseases; joint disorders to various psychological disorders and rejuvenation therapies (Rasayana Chikitsa). When taken in moderation (10% of total daily calories i.e. not more than 2 tbs. /day), it does not increase serum cholesterol and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.1
Ghee has a high smoke point as compared to other cooking oils. It enriches the flavor of food and also makes it healthy. Ghee synergizes the medicinal qualities of other herbs and even food. The nutrients in food, especially fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D E and K are better absorbed in the presence of healthy fats like Ghee.
Ghee pacifies Vata, Pitta dosha and is an ideal for individuals and disease conditions dominant in these two doshas. When taken in moderation it helps in nourishing Kapha and Meda (fatty tissues). However, excess Ghee consumption can overtly increase Kapha and Meda which may lead to imbalance and diseases. Hence individuals with Kapha dominant body type; those who are over-weight or obese should consume Ghee in moderation. Also, exercise is a must for people who consume Ghee on daily basis, to keep its Kapha and Meda increasing qualities under check.
For gastronomic reasons or as a health-conscious decision; Ghee is a ‘must-have’ ingredient in your kitchen. Here are ten reasons why –
- Boosts Digestion: Drizzling 1-2 tsp. Ghee over food, (soups, salads, rice, lentils, daals, roti, naan, pita breads etc.) helps in stimulating appetite and digestion. It is also improves healing of gastric or peptic ulcers, relieves hyperacidity and acid reflux (using excess Ghee can induce acid reflux hence use in moderation).
- Enhances Strength and Vitality: Ghee enhances Ojas– the quintessence of purest and healthiest body tissues that sustains our health, strength, immune system, vitality and life. Ghee and Ojas have strikingly similar qualities. Metaphorically, the way Ojas is the purest essence of our tissues; Ghee is the essence of milk!
- Laxative: Ghee is a potent laxative. 1-2 tsp. Ghee with a cup of warm milk taken at bedtime helps in relieving constipation and soothes nerves.
- Nasal massage: Dipping our little finger in Ghee and gently applying it to the inner surface of our nostrils, once or twice a day (best done at bedtime or early morning) helps in reducing headaches, nasal allergies, nose-bleeds and strengthens eyesight.
- Brain Tonic: Ghee rejuvenates and promotes intellect, memory and concentration in children as well as adults. Using Ghee in cooking, instilling Ghee into nasal passages (errhine therapy or Nasya) or using Ghee as an adjuvant with Ayurvedic nootropic (Medhya) herbs like Brahmi, Mandookparni, Yashtimadhu, Shankhapushpi, Guduchi etc. helps in improving memory, concentration and allows intellect to function to its best abilities.
- Chapped lips and Mouth Ulcers: Massaging lips with Ghee helps in soothing dry chapped lips. Also, applying Ghee over mouth and tongue ulcers helps in reducing pain and promotes healing.
- Burn healing: Ghee is the best treatment for burns caused by heat, chemicals or electricity. Apply Ghee to the affected area to reduce pain, reduce blistering; promote healing and to prevent scarring. Ghee is also good for sunburns. Applying Ghee to sunburnt skin helps in reducing pain and enhances skin repair.
- Piles and Fissures: Apply Ghee for relieving pain and burning sensation associated with anal fissures and piles. Also, Ghee taken internally helps in softening stools and relieving constipation- one of the chief causes for piles and fissures.
- Ghee Massage: Ghee is excellent for massage. Body and face massage with Ghee is especially beneficial for those with dry and sensitive skin. It moisturizes the skin, helps in slowing down premature aging and improves complexion.
- Anticancer Properties: Ghee has special kind of fats like the conjugated linoleic acids a.k.a. CLA, which prevents cancers like malignant melanoma, breast and colorectal cancers.2
Put away some Ghee in a clean and dry glass container with a secure lid and allow it to age. The medicinal properties of Ghee are enhanced with aging. Ghee that has aged 10 year, 100 years has tremendous healing potential. Although this Ghee cannot be used for cooking, it is useful in number of health conditions ranging from epilepsy to uterine pain. It is also a powerful antidote to poisons. Older the Ghee, better it is!
- Matam Vijaya Kumar, Kari Sambaiah, Belur R Lokesh, Effect of dietary Ghee—the anhydrous milk fat, on blood and liver lipids in rats, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Volume 10, Issue 2 ;96-104, February 1999
- Peter W. Parodi, Cows’ Milk Fat Components as Potential Anticarcinogenic Agents, J. Nutr. vol. 127 no. 6 1055-1060, June 1997