Ghee – The Golden Elixir

Ghee is the clarified butter of Ayurveda. In European regions, it is often also called clarified butter. Ghee is food and medicine in one. Compared to butter, ghee has interesting advantages. Ghee can also be used both internally and externally and is an indispensable part of Ayurvedic healing in both forms. In Ayurveda, ghee – the golden elixir – is used in particular for detoxification, but can also be used – prepared with special herbs – against psoriasis, increased Cholesterol levels, arteriosclerosis, and much more help.

This is ghee

Ghee is also known as butterfat, clarified butter, or clarified butter – simply because, unlike normal butter, ghee contains neither protein nor lactose and hardly any water.

Ghee is almost 100 percent pure fat. (Butter, on the other hand, is only 80 percent fat.) All other butter components are removed during the production of the ghee.

This gives ghee completely new properties, namely those that distinguish it from butter:

The three advantages of ghee over butter

  • Ghee can be heated to a high temperature: Ghee can be heated to a high temperature without any problems and can therefore also be used for searing or deep-frying. (With butter, the water would splash in the pan and burn the protein.) The fatty acids in the ghee remain stable up to 190 degrees Celsius. This means that the fatty acids do not oxidize, no free radicals are formed and therefore no oxidative processes take place in the body.
  • Ghee has a long shelf life and is easy to store: In contrast to normal butter, ghee has a much longer shelf life, and ghee can even be stored without refrigeration for weeks. This advantage results i.a. from the fact that the water content of ghee is almost zero and therefore no microbial contamination can arise. (Butter should be stored refrigerated, otherwise, it will go rancid.)
  • Ghee can be consumed by people with lactose intolerance: The lactose content of ghee is zero, which is why ghee can be consumed without any problems if you are lactose intolerant. However, many lactose-intolerant people can also tolerate normal butter. Although their lactose content is not zero, it is very low, so only very sensitive lactose intolerant people react to butter. However, they can then fall back on ghee.

Fatty acids and vitamins in ghee

In addition to the predominantly saturated fatty acids (60 percent), ghee also contains about 30 percent monounsaturated fatty acids and about 5 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids.

In addition, the fat-soluble vitamins A, vitamin D, and vitamin E are contained in the ghee (of course also in the butter.)

However, one would have to consume plenty of ghee so that its vitamin content could make a noticeable contribution to covering the daily requirement for vital substances.

100 g of ghee (per day, of course) would cover 30 percent of the daily vitamin E requirement and 10 percent of the vitamin D requirement.

It only contains enough vitamin A that 20 g of ghee would cover more than 20 percent of the daily vitamin A requirement – but only if the butter from which the ghee was made was also rich in vitamin A. And it was only that if it came from the milk of grazing cows.

Saturated Fat – Good or Bad?

However, if ghee is so high in saturated fat, how can it be healthy? In the eyes of most people, saturated fatty acids are still considered the ultimate bad guys and the cause of cardiovascular problems including heart attacks and strokes.

We now know that demonizing saturated fats was a fallacy.

A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people on a low-carb diet (low-carb but high in saturated fat) had better cholesterol levels than people who ate low-fat but high-carb. So what happened here was exactly the opposite of what experts have been preaching for decades.

When consuming ghee, you can safely save yourself from worrying about a possible deterioration in cholesterol levels or blood lipid levels. On the contrary, ghee improves cholesterol levels – at least medicinal ghee does.

Ghee – the health effects in Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda, ghee has many more health properties. However, very few of these have been scientifically confirmed, but the experience of the at least 5,000-year-old Ayurvedic healing system speaks for itself.

And also Ayurveda enthusiasts who regularly visit the numerous Ayurveda clinics – whether in India itself, in Germany, or in another country. Ghee obtained in a wide variety of preparations confirms its fantastic effects again and again.

Before we turn to the actually scientifically examined ghee properties, first the properties described by Ayurveda:

  • Ghee is easily digestible, according to Ayurveda it is easier to digest than butter or other fats and oils.
  • Ghee has an anti-inflammatory effect. According to Sushruta Samhita – a script from ancient Ayurveda – ghee is one of the ultimate anti-inflammatory foods.
  • Ghee for external medicinal and cosmetic purposes: Ghee can prevent the formation of scars and blisters and promote wound healing. In facial care, it is just as ideal for removing makeup as it is for the care of irritated and reddened skin.
  • Ghee is considered a panacea, the golden healing elixir that can be used in Ayurveda for almost any problem:
  • To rejuvenate the skin
  • To regenerate digestive functions: Ghee can heat up the digestive fire. The result is better digestion and a faster metabolism.
  • To strengthen the immune system
  • To purify the blood
  • To improve sleep: applied to the soles of the feet in the evening, ghee is said to promote peaceful and healthy sleep
  • To harmonize the hormone balance
  • To improve memory and even to promote intelligence
  • To regenerate the stomach in the case of gastric ulcers and intestinal inflammation
    Ultimately even to extend the lifetime

Yogis also use ghee because they say it moisturizes the connective tissue and therefore makes the body more flexible.

According to Ayurveda, the detoxifying effect of ghee is particularly well-known:

Ghee for detox

In the Panchakarma cure, the heart of an authentic Ayurvedic therapy, the three-day drinking of warm (heated for many hours) ghee with a special herbal mixture (this Ghee Amalkadi Ghrita is called) is an important measure that no Ayurveda practitioner can avoid and which very often leads to such severe nausea that the person concerned can hardly move during the ghee days.

However, one must not lie down either, otherwise one would break the cup of liquid ghee again.

The primary purpose of drinking ghee is to dissolve and eliminate fat-soluble toxins and waste products and thus relieve the liver.

In order to achieve a particularly intensive and lasting detoxification of the body and brain, the so-called medical ghee used for this is produced in an extremely complex process.

According to an old Ayurvedic recipe, the ghee is mixed with various medicinal herbs that have been prepared according to special guidelines and gently simmered for around 100 hours.

This procedure – it is said – intensifies the effect of the medicinal herbs and the cleansing effect of the ghee on the body.

So far, however, no Ayurveda expert has been able to explain exactly how ghee has a detoxifying or cleansing effect, i.e. how it is supposed to be able to remove toxins from the body or even the brain.

Here one again refers to the fact that Ayurveda cures simply feel better after the cure or that this has been done for thousands of years and that excellent health results are achieved.

Ghee against arteriosclerosis?

Ghee is also said to be able to remove deposits from the blood vessel walls. But how – one might ask – is a fat person supposed to do this?

Experts from the European Academy of Ayurveda answered the question as follows:

“Ayurveda describes the entire circulatory system as srotas. The srotas also include the blood vessels.

Many diseases – rheumatism, allergies, asthma, or cardiovascular diseases – are caused by deposits in the srotas.

It is therefore an important healing principle in Ayurvedic medicine to free the Srotas from their blockages and to improve the circulation flow. Ghee can help a lot with this because it has the quality of Anuloman!

All anuloman substances have the ability to regulate the flow of movement (vata) through the channels and thus compensate for disturbances in peristalsis and spasms of the vegetatively controlled muscles. Likewise, anuloman substances stimulate the functions of the rectum and are characterized by a laxative effect with the elimination of waste products.

Another positive quality of ghee for balancing deposits in the blood vessel walls is its anti-inflammatory, easily digestible, and anti-toxic effect, with which it has a very good effect on all cardiovascular problems.”

The conventional ghee that is commercially available as a foodstuff is of course produced in a much less complex way than Panchakarma ghee, which is cooked for a hundred hours, and can also be prepared by anyone in their own kitchen from butter – as described below under “Ghee itself made” is described.

Ghee or raw milk butter?

Now one or the other may be wondering how it is possible that food or medicine that has been cooked for 100 hours can still have any special value – especially with regard to the fact that fats are usually considered, to heat them as little as possible or, at best, to eat them cold-pressed.

And since there are now suppliers of raw milk butter from grazing cows again, it is difficult to understand from the point of view of vital food – in which as little as possible is heated – how something that is cooked for days should be healthy or even better than the raw natural product.

There are no logical or scientific explanations for this since the Ayurvedic point of view is different and looks at things from a different angle.

According to the European Academy for Ayurveda, Ayurveda always assesses the effect of food in relation to its digestibility and not – as we do today – in relation to its ingredients. In the case of ghee, a kind of transformation process takes place through simmering, in which many healing effects unfold in the ghee.

As a general cooking fat, it is sufficient if the ghee is simmered on a low flame for between 30 and 60 minutes. However, if the ghee is to be used as a therapeutic agent, its healing effect is increased by the prolonged cooking process, which lasts one hundred hours.

When asked why ghee instead of butter at all, the answer was:

“An important principle of Ayurvedic nutrition is karana, the transformation of food through its preparation.

From an Ayurvedic point of view, cooked food is often more wholesome and easier to digest than untreated food. This also applies to ghee.

Thus, during the ghee-making process, the butter changes from hard to digest (guru) to easily digestible (laghu) and from sour to sweet.

In addition, the Ayurvedic texts describe the different healing properties of butter and ghee in the following way:

Butter is digestive, stimulant, and good for sprue, hemorrhoids, facial paralysis, and loss of appetite

Ghee is the best of all greasy substances and strengthens memory, intellect, and digestive power. It is characterized by a cooling, anabolic effect on the metabolism, benefits the reproductive tissues and specifically helps with toxic conditions, insanity, wasting and fever.”

Ghee from a scientific point of view

But which effects and properties of ghee have been scientifically confirmed?

In addition to the cholesterol-lowering effect of medicinal ghee explained above, there are other properties of Ayurvedic fat that have already been the focus of research:

Ghee for dry eyes

For so-called dry eyes, for example, an eye bath with heated ghee can help. The ghee increases the fat content in the tear fluid so that it does not evaporate as quickly.

This effect was demonstrated in a study at the University Eye Clinic in Graz/Austria.

For the eye bath, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of ghee in a water bath to 33 °C. Be sure to use a thermometer for this, as the temperature should not be exceeded.

Put the ghee in an eye bath and soak your open eye in it for 10 minutes. Then the other eye.

Then dispose of the ghee and clean the eye bath thoroughly. Repeat the application twice a week.

Ghee Against Psoriasis

So-called psoriasis (psoriasis) is said to react positively to ghee.

In the early summer of 2010, researchers at Ohio State University published the results of a study.

Here it had been shown that taking 60 ml of medicinal ghee daily for seven days could have a beneficial effect on psoriasis symptoms. Even with cancer, ghee is said to be a good idea:

Ghee against cancer

Animal studies had shown that consuming vegetable oil (in this case it was soybean oil) could promote breast cancer growth. On the other hand, ghee seemed to delay the onset of cancer.

Of course, ghee of the highest quality should be used, as this also works better the higher quality it is.

High-quality ghee

The quality of the ghee depends on the quality of the butter from which it is made. And this in turn depends on the living conditions of the cow that produces the milk to make the butter.

Therefore, when buying ghee, make sure that it is ghee made from organically produced butter from free-range or pasture-raised cows.

However, you can also easily make ghee yourself. If you want to tackle this, the question automatically arises as to whether you should use sweet or sour cream butter.

Again, the European Academy of Ayurveda responds as follows:

“Fresh cow’s milk is used for the production of ghee in a classic way. This is beaten into butter – so-called white butter – and then boiled into ghee. The yield of milk in ghee is very low. That is why the real, white ghee is also used as a valuable essence valued for physical and mental health.”

Today, butter (from cream) is commonly used as the ghee base. Now there is a lot of discussion as to whether sweet or sour cream butter is better.

Studies at the Faculty of Nutritional and Herbal Therapy at Tilak Ayurveda College in Pune have shown that there is no significant difference in the quality of ghee made from sour cream or sweet cream butter.

However, sweet cream butter flakes less during the manufacturing process and exhibits a creamier sweetness than sour cream butter would.”

Ghee – homemade

The ghee production in your own kitchen works as follows:

You cut the butter into cubes and place them in the widest possible pan. Gently melt the butter in it on low heat.

Once completely melted, increase the heat and let the butter simmer until it starts to foam.

Then reduce the heat to the lowest level and let the butter continue to simmer very slightly.

The protein, which appears as a white foam on the surface, can be skimmed off and disposed of again and again.

Repeat this process until no more foam forms. Depending on the amount of butter used, this can take up to 2 hours. Be patient, because the more carefully the ghee is made, the better its quality.

Finally, the clear, pure butterfat remains.

Now just pour the fat into a clean kitchen towel, a coffee filter, or a tea strainer and catch the ghee in a glass container.

Close the jar tightly and turn it upside down for a moment. The resulting vacuum guarantees a long shelf life.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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