By Simone de Winter on April 30, 2015
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 – the very revered offering of the mother cow, making it a very pure substance. In many of the ancient religious scriptures of India one can find references to this golden oil.
The Rig Veda (a 3,500 year-old ancient Sanskrit scripture) says:
This is the secret name of ghee:
“Tongue of the gods”, “navel of immortality.”
We will proclaim the name of ghee;
we will sustain it in this sacrifice by bowing low.
These waves of ghee flow like gazelles before the hunter…
Streams of ghee caress the burning wood.
Agni, the fire, loves them and is satisfied.
It indicates that ghee is superb at nourishing the fires (agni) of digestion, promotes longevity, and was used in rituals and sacrifice, carrying prayer, mantra and intention 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 have a look at what our modern chemistry and nutritional science has 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 the health. Ghee is one of the best high temperature cooking oils because of its 485 degree Fahrenheit smoke point.
Ghee offers many nutritional benefits. It contains short, medium, and long chain fatty acids. It contains vitamins A, D (bon health), E and K, and is the highest natural source of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), which has cancer-fighting 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 supporting the performance of good ones. Ghee supports a strong and lean body, increases energy and sexual vitality, lowers cholesterol, makes for a strong digestion, 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 rich and 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 years old 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 dose.
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 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 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.
Ghee has been part of all aspects of Indian life for many centuries, and is slowly starting to penetrate the Western diet.
I remember how much more my children would eat their greens when I started sautéing them in ghee. I hope that ghee becomes the cooking oil of choice in restaurants and every household.
via So, What Is Ghee? – Ayurveda | Everyday Ayurveda.