The Glory of Ghee

Posted on in Healthy Living by Simone Winter


In India, ghee is the most esteemed of foods. For centuries it has been used as a cooking fat, a food ingredient, and as a part of herbal medication. It has also been used in ritual—as a symbol of purity, it is offered to the gods, as well as in holy lamps and funeral pyres.

Ghee is the essence of milk. In many of the ancient religious scriptures of India, one can find references to this golden oil, indicating that ghee is superb at nourishing the fires (agni) of digestion and promoting longevity. It was also used in rituals and sacrifice, carrying prayers, mantras, and intentions to feed the gods through feeding the fire, while feeding those higher aspects of ourselves.

What Does Science
Say about Ghee?

So how does ghee nourish the digestion and promote longevity? Let’s look at what our modern chemistry and nutritional science have found out about it.

Ghee is the result of boiling cultured butter, and boiling off the milk solids and water, leaving pure butter fat. Browning the milk solids flavors the ghee, but then they are filtered out.

Since it is a pure fat, as opposed to butter, it is a fine food for those who have trouble digesting lactose, or for those who are allergic to dairy protein (casein). Its predominance in saturated fatty acids makes it shelf stable, meaning that it does not need to be refrigerated. If kept clean it won’t go bad or oxidize—oxidation being what makes a fat a threat to health. Ghee is one of the best high-temperature cooking oils because of its 485 degree smoke point.

Ghee offers many nutritional benefits. It contains short-, medium-, and long-chain fatty acids. It contains vitamins A, D (bone health), E, and K, and is the highest natural source of conjugated linoleic acid, which has cancerfighting properties and helps to stop tumor cell growth. Ghee is also a rich source of butyrate, which revives colon cells, supports healthy inflammatory response, and kills bad bacteria in our intestines, while encouraging the performance of good ones. Ghee supports a strong and lean body, increases energy, lowers cholesterol, makes for a strong digestion by stimulating and balancing the production of stomach acid, and helps to deliver the nutrients from our food to our cells. Of course, ghee is only as good as the milk it comes from. Poorly nourished cows won’t produce nutrient-rich milk, let alone ghee.

Fresh Ghee Is Delicious!

Many people complain about the taste of ghee. This is because its taste changes when it gets older, making it stronger and more pungent. This is not a problem; Ayurveda (the original medical science of India) considers 100-yearold ghee to be very medicinal. But it is definitely a taste that not everyone likes. So buy only fresh ghee, from free-range, grass-fed cows, or make it yourself. There are many videos on YouTube that show how to do it. Freshly made ghee smells and tastes like caramel. Using it to stir-fry your veggies will entice even the most difficult eater to get their FDA recommended serving of vegetables.

Ghee Supports Life

According to Ayurveda, ghee increases the memory and intellect, and it counteracts the drying and aging process of the body, reviving the rasa, the “juice” of the body, our blood plasma, and the mucus membranes. The more “juicy” we are, the more resilient and adaptable. Consider that aging and dying are a process of the drying of our tissues, eventually turning us into dust. So understand the ability of ghee to sustain a long, healthy life, as well as support new life, being a tonic for the expecting mother.

Ghee also nourishes the skin, as in a 100-times-washed ghee, where the ghee is massaged with water a hundred times, leaving a white fatty substance that is used as a cream. And it is used to bathe the eyes, nourishing the optic nerve. Ayurveda uses it as a carrier for medicine, activating the lipid-soluble properties of the plants, and providing fast penetration through the lipid membranes of the cells.

Ghee Is Food for Yogis

Charaka, the author of one of Ayurveda’s ancient textbooks, says: “Ghee is one of the most sattvic and wholesome substances.” Sattvic comes from sattva, one of the three gunas (a yogic concept), the qualities of all in life: sattva, rajas, and tamas. Sattva means purity and peacefulness. Ghee can bring these qualities into our body and mind. One way to absorb these qualities is through the practice of trataka, staring into the golden light of a ghee flame to purify the third eye, to strengthen the vision, and to awaken the light of awareness. Another, of course, is through ingestion. Its purity and nourishing quality brings peace to the body. And there is nothing like the smell of ghee in freshly cooked food to inspire the taste buds and to spark a desire to prepare and eat pure and fresh foods, which are sattvic in nature.

Give Ghee a Chance

Ghee has been part of all aspects of Indian life for many centuries, and is slowly starting to penetrate the Western diet. It has made a great difference for my health, and I remember how much more my children would eat their greens when I started sautéing them in ghee. Give ghee a chance; it’s good stuff.

Simone de Winter has practiced Ayurveda in Marin County for 12 years. Her specialties are digestive health and panchakarma therapy. She has a very earthy and grounded approach to healing and pays close, loving attention to all those she works with.

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