Versatile Health Benefits of ‘Ghee’ Part – I

Ghee is a healthiest source of edible fat which is suitable for all age groups. It is sweet and has a nutty flavor. Among the different cooking oils, ghee is considered as the best nourishing substance. References about Ghee can be seen in Rig Veda which makes us understand the importance of ghee in Vedic literature. Ghee has been used since time immemorial and has many uses beyond cooking. If you are already using ghee or planning to start using ghee, then read this article to understand its health benefits.

When & how to take ghee?

Since ghee is heavy to digest and cold, it is preferable to take it during the daytime. However, in people suffering from sleep issues or anxiety / stress, ghee can be taken in evening hours.

Ghee can be taken with lukewarm food items or liquids. It should not be taken with cold water or cold food items as it is heavy to digest. If done so, it may cause indigestion.

What is the Shelf-life of Ghee?

Ayurveda says older ghee has immense health benefits. The therapeutic efficacy of one year old ghee is more and is recommended in the treatment of various diseases. Ayurveda mentions one year old, ten-year-old and even hundred-year-old ghee. So, when prepared in the proper way, ghee can be kept for a longer period of time.

Ayurvedic Way of Making Ghee

Although there are different methods of making ghee, the Ayurvedic way is the best as the different steps involved in the process makes ghee lighter for digestion and enhances its nutrient density. Boil cow’s milk and let it cool down to room temperature. Then collect the creamy layer formed on the top and refrigerate it. Keep collecting cream of milk like this for a period of one week to ten days. When sufficient cream in collected, remove it from refrigerator and add a spoon of curd to it and leave it at room temperature overnight in summers or for two nights in winters. Now churn it using a manual hand churner for 5 minutes. Then add cold water and churn again to extract the butter. Discard the water. Heat the butter on a moderate flame in a thick bottom vessel. Keep stirring in between. After sometime you will start seeing milk solids getting separated. When the milk solids turn light brown or golden color, the ghee is removed from fire and filtered using cheese cloth. When it cools down to room temperature, it is stored in a moist-free, airtight glass container at room temperature.

Ayurveda Properties of Ghee

Rasa (Taste) – Madhura (Sweet)

Guna (Qualities) – Guru (Heavy), Snigdha (Unctuous), Mridu (Soft)

Virya (Potency) – Shita (Cold)

Vipaka (Post digestive effect) – Madhura (Sweet)

Health Benefits –

· Best among all fats.

· Congenial to the body right from birth.

· Does not cause a burning sensation unlike some oils such as mustard oil.

· Prevents the body against recurrent infections, enhances immunity and lifespan.

· Improves appetite, supports digestion and helps relieve constipation.

· Nourishes all organs – strengthens eyes, improves voice, nourishes muscles, lubricates joints, softens skin, increases the chances of conception.

· Nourishes the mind, promotes sleep, improves memory and intelligence.

· Ghee has a unique property of taking the property of herbs / spices it is processed with but without leaving its own inherent property. Being a healthy lipid, it is best for transporting properties of herbs / spices to their target organs.

Dosha Karma (Action on Doshas) – Vata Pitta Hara (Reduces Vata and Pitta), Kapha Kara (Slightly increases Kapha)

· Due to the unctuousness, ghee mitigates Vata.

· Due to the cooling effect, it decreases Pitta.

· When processed with herbs / spices, it decreases Kapha.

Common Myths & Facts about ghee

Myth: Ghee is not good for people who are lactose intolerant.

Fact: Ghee is completely safe for people suffering from lactose intolerance as the milk solids are removed.

Myth: Ghee should be refrigerated

Fact: As the milk solids from butter are removed, ghee does not need refrigeration. It can be stored in a moist-free glass or steel container at room temperature for longer period.

Myth: Ghee is bad for health

Fact: Cooking with ghee is very safe. It does not break down into free radicals when heated to a high temperature or used for deep frying as it has a high smoke point. Whereas many cooking oils have low smoke point and can break down into free radicals causing many diseases or deterioration of health.

Myth: Ghee causes weight gain

Fact: Ghee is a healthy fat that keeps us full for a longer period of time hence reducing hunger pangs in people with obesity and diabetes. Ghee is packed with antioxidants and has the fatty acid, conjugated linoleic acid which reduces the risk of diabetes and obesity.

Myth: Ghee increases cholesterol

Fact: The omega-3 fatty acids in ghee helps lower cholesterol and supports heart health. Ghee is a healthier source of energy that is metabolized in the liver easily. 

Author: Vd. Lakshmi Anoop, Consultant Physician & Head of Panchakarma Department