Written by Tegan Wallis
Ghee, also known as clarified butter, is prepared by heating butter to remove water content through evaporation and filtering out the milk solids, resulting in a golden medicinal liquid.
Ayurveda has traditionally considered ghee to be the healthiest source of edible fat, and it is highly praised and revered for its healing properties. According to Ayurveda, Ghee promotes longevity and protects the body from various diseases and is famed for supporting self-awareness and intelligence. People with milk intolerance can generally consume ghee as the milk solids that contain the allergenic proteins have been removed.
Ayurveda says Ghee acts as a fuel for our digestive fire (Agni) by aiding the secretion of stomach acids and improving absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Being a fat and high in antioxidants, it promotes cellular health by enhancing nutrient absorption into the cells – especially the fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
Ghee softens and lubricates all our internal organs, body tissues and connective tissues, thereby rendering the body more flexible – excellent for Yogis, athletes and the aging alike. This lubricating effect on the body also aids in combating dry skin and hair, and brittle nails.
Ghee strengthens the energy system of the body, and promotes our inner vitality and glow. Modern science tells us that ghee contains phenolic antioxidants that boost the immune system, and is high in butyric acid – a fatty acid that contains anti-viral properties and is believed to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumours.
Ghee improves memory, intellect and clarity of thought. About two-thirds of our brain is composed of all sorts of fats – all the membranes that cover the neurons are composed of fatty acid molecules and even the Myelin sheath (the protective cover of the nervous system) is 70% fat. The type of dietary fats found in Ghee has a special affinity for these tissues, and provides nourishment and strength to the brain and nervous system.
With regard to the three Ayurvedic doshas (the three organising principles that govern human physiology): Ghee pacifies Vata (Wind) conditions such as anxiety or constipation and is acceptable for Kapha (Earth) constitutions (mucous) in moderation. It is wonderful for decreasing Pitta (Fire) conditions including ailments of inflammation, acidity and heat, both internally and externally.
Now you’re probably thinking ‘but Ghee is a saturated fat so wont it cause weight gain and increase my risk of cardiovascular disease?’ Well, although Ghee is a fat, it contains short-chain fatty acids, which are metabolized quite quickly so they don’t get stored in the body and do not increase cholesterol levels. Results from a laboratory study indicated that ghee-supplemented diets did not have any significant effect on the increase of serum total cholesterol and triglyceride levels (Sharma, Zhang, Dwivedi, 2010).
In fact, studies have shown beneficial effects on serum lipid profiles. The benefits included dose-dependent decreases in serum total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), and triglycerides; decreased liver total cholesterol, triglycerides, and cholesterol esters (Kumar, Sambaiah, Lokesh, 1999).
An ancient Ayurvedic home remedy for decreasing cholesterol is frying a clove of garlic in a small amount of ghee and taking it on an empty stomach daily. But if you have extremely high cholesterol or weight issues then I would still use Ghee sparingly.
Ghee is also an excellent cooking medium. Unlike other oils such as olive, canola and Sesame, which when heated at high temperatures create peroxides and other dangerous free radicals, Ghee has a very high smoke point and remains stable during cooking. This is due to Ghee’s stable saturated bonds, which enable it to hold its natural form during cooking. This makes Ghee excelling for sautéing, stir-frying and baking – it’s generally the best oil to cook with. It also lends a very rich and soothing flavour to dishes, which works well with both sweet and savory foods.
You can find Ghee in most supermarkets and health food stores in the butter section, but some commercial Ghee’s are adulterated with un-pure oils, so making your own Ghee is best for health, taste and value. Always use un-salted and organic butter.
Ayurvedic wisdom believes that ghee is an important part of a healthy diet. Food is medicine. You only need one or two teaspoons of ghee per day in food to provide nourishment and healing to the body itself, and increase the capacity of the body be nourished by other foods.