Ghee is that beautifully golden yellow substance made from butter. Also known as clarified butter or anhydrous milk fat, ghee has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda for cooking and religious ceremonies, as well as therapeutically, both internally and externally.
The ancient seers viewed ghee as more than a food substance. As with all foods, ghee holds a certain energy. Garlic and onions have a heavy, tamasic energy; coffee and chocolate have an active, “can do” or rajasic energy. Ghee, on the other hand, holds a pure or sattvic energy. Sattvic foods are thought to be abundant in prana, the universal life-force. They have a harmonious and peaceful nature. Sattvic foods also support physical strength, a strong and pure mind, good health, and longevity.
Because the sattvic energy is so pronounced in ghee, it is often an integral part of religious ceremonies in ancient Vedic customs. It is said that Prajapati, the Lord of Creatures in Hindu mythology, rubbed his hands together and created ghee. He then poured the ghee into the fire, creating his offspring.
Still today, ghee is offered to Agni (fire) during religious rituals.
In Sanskrit, ghee is known as ghrta. It is derived from the base, ghr, which means “to shine.” It allows the body and mind to burn with a radiant aura and a refined brilliance, fueling dhi (intelligence), buddhi (intellect), and smrti (memory). Its unctuous quality makes all things soft and malleable, creating supple organs and an adjusting and harmonious mind.
To make ghee, milk is first made into butter. Unlike in India and other ancient cultures, today most commercial butter is made by pushing the cream and protein of milk through a fine mesh screen versus churning the milk. This does create a considerable difference, in that the traditional churning process adds a stronger quality of digestive fire (agni), which balances the ghee and increases its sattvic energy.
Nevertheless, the butter still has similar properties to hand-churned butter. To make ghee, you then boil the butter until the milk solids settle to the bottom. This includes, lactose, casein, whey proteins, and trace minerals. Much of this is hard to digest and many people avoid these proteins because of that. This is why ghee is the one dairy product that many with lactose-intolerance or other sensitivities (like casein) can and do eat! Most of the water content in the butter is also cooked off. Because the water content of ghee is minimal (0.03 grams per 1 tablespoon serving, versus more than 2.5 grams per 1 tablespoon of butter)1, ghee stays fresh for much longer than butter.
What remains is a high concentration of fats and other nutrients. In fact, it is said that ghee is 99% fat. Being all fat, it is naturally high in calories, containing 112 calories per 1 tablespoon serving, 12.7 grams of fat, minimal protein, and no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugars. Most of the fat is saturated fat (60-65%)2, with a relatively greater concentration of short and medium chain triglycerides (25%, versus 12-15% in butter)3, which are known to have many health benefits.
With the milk solids removed, most of the calcium is also removed. On the other hand, ghee contains a whopping 108 micrograms of vitamin A (a natural antioxidant) in just one tablespoon! It also contains a considerable amount of butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid, which acts like a natural probiotic (the intestinal bacteria feed off this for energy), supporting digestion and the immune system.1
Of course, this is, at the end of the day, a kapha food. As the ancient tradition of Ayurveda says, it is important to make sure you consume only as much as your agni can handle. It is when we eat beyond the capacity of our agni that we run into various health issues, such as heart challenges or weight gain.
Benefits of Ghee
The unctuous quality of ghee increases the juices of the body (rasa), providing ease of movement and transport of nutrients and wastes. Being a fatty base, ghee increases kapha within the body, and therefore increases the most refined byproduct of kapha—ojas (the essence of immunity and life). Because ghee does fuel the digestive fire, it facilitates the conversion of raw kapha into ojas.
Ghee has fascinating penetrating qualities, and can therefore act as a vehicle to carry substances deep into all seven tissue layers. It is a wonderful anupan (vehicle) for herbs and other medicinal substances. Likewise, it can facilitate the movement of toxins (ama) and other wastes out of the body through the digestive tract.4 For this reason, ingestion of ghee is a core part of cleansing treatments and panchakarma in Ayurveda. It has been found that many toxins have a lipophilic (fat-like) structure, allowing them to easily mix in with the ghee and move out of the tissues and body. In one striking study, it was found that panchakarma reduced mean levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, a common environmental toxin that is lipophilic, by an alarming 46%!5 To learn more about anupans and how they work, see this resource.
Ghee nourishes all tissues when taken internally as well as externally. Externally, ghee will soothe irritated skin. Internally, it soothes and nourishes the digestive tract and any tissue it is carried to, particularly the reproductive tract.
It is of utmost importance to get ghee from organic, grass-fed cows. There is a cheaper type of ghee that you should avoid. It is derived from vegetable oil, which is actually high in trans-fats, unlike cow’s ghee. While the above information presented comes from testing done on cow’s ghee, Banyan Botanicals has not tested our ghee as extensively. We are confident, however, in the quality of our ghee because it is derived from organic, grass-fed cows and most of the above listed benefits hold true for cow’s ghee.
1 “Ghee Nutrition Information.” Livestrong, accessed July 31, 2017, http://www.livestrong.com/article/363779-ghee-nutrition-information/
2 Abdulrhman Al-Khalifah, Hassan Al-Kahtani. “Composition of ghee (Samn Barri’s) from cow’s and sheep’s milk.” Food Chemistry. 46, no 4 (1993):373-375
3 Are Ghee Benefits Better Than Butter?” Dr. Axe Food Is Medicine, accessed July 31, 2017, https://draxe.com/ghee-benefits/
4 Peter Malakoff. “Ghee: A Short Consideration from an Ayurvedic Perspective,” Ancient Organics, accessed July 31, 2017, http://www.ancientorganics.com/ghee-a-short-consideration-from-an-ayurvedic-perspective/
5 John Fagan and Robert Herron. “Lipophil-mediated reduction of toxicants in humans: an evaluation of an ayurvedic detoxification procedure.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 8, no 5 (September 2002): 40-51