Why Ghee?

ghee (2)

Ghruta (sanskrit for ghee, which is the modern Hindi word that is used widely), is an essential substance to those following Ayurveda.

Ghruta is the best oil for the body and is used generously as a medicine and as cooking oil. One text equates ghee with life itself.The root of this idea may lie in the process of making ghee. Ghee is the most refined essence of cow's milk after several 'sanskaras' or processes imbuing the ghee with special properties.

Imagine living in 200 BC in India; to get your daily dose of ghee you (or most likely your grandmother) milk a cow, then boil the milk. After cooling a culture is added to make the yogurt clabber. This takes a day. Then the fat is skimmed off and churned until you have butter, then the butter must be cooked gently until all the water is gone. The golden liquid is filtered and when only the high quality oil remains you have ghee.  Not a small feat and not a substance to take for granted.

The classical ayurvedic texts all expound the beneficial qualities of ghee. Here is what Charak Samhita says:

sastam dhi smrtimedhagnibalayuhsukracaksusam 
balavrddhaprajakantisaukumarya svararthinam 37
ksataks i napar i sarpasastragniglapitatmanarn
vatapittavisonmadasosalaksm ijvarapaham 38
snehanamuttamam sitam vayasah sthapanam param
sahasraviryam vidhibhirghrtam karmasahasrakrt 39

The texts say ghee should be consumed daily. It strengthens the mind, memory, intelligence, and decision making.  Ghee fuels the digestion. It is good for the eyes. It supports the reproductive/productive vitality of the body. It is an excellent 'Rasayana' or life maintaining remedy and has been described as 'Vayahsthapana' or inhibiting the aging process. It makes the body strong and attractive. Ghee is good for the throat, voice, and complexion. It is good for the young as well as the old. It is used in treating imbalances of both Vata and Pitta. Vaidyas (ayurvedic doctors) also use ghee in treatments for specific conditions involving poison, wounds, madness, pain, and fever. But of course this is not recommended home use.

The qualities of ghee are: sheeta/cooling & snigdha/oily. Despite these seemingly dampening qualities ghee is the best for improving digestive fire when taken in manageable doses. Ghee has the specific ability to increase the good qualities of the foods or medicines that are taken with it and so is commonly medicated with herbs. Ghee is very stable (therefore bringing stability to the body); it has a long shelf life, no need for refrigeration, and an extremely high smoke point (heat doesn't denature it). Ghee is taken internally as food, but can also be used externally where roughness and dryness are a problem.

Ghee doesn’t increase the cholesterol in the body if taken in proper doses; 1 1/2T per meal, per person, is not too much.

ghee cooking

How to make Ghee!

  • Place unsalted butter in a good sized, heavy bottomed pan. 2 Lbs of butter will get you 1 Qt of Ghee.

  • Heat gently until butter melts, then turn heat up to medium.

  • When boiling turn down to a low heat again. Let it simmer gently. Stir from time to time.

  • You are evaporating out all the water and drying the milk solids—so only the refined butter-fat remains. Do not cover the pot or you will interfere with this process.

  • When it is nearly done it will start to smell 'pop-corny' and turn golden. You will see the milk solids will be granular or clotted together and slightly browned.

  • Remove from heat at this point and cool slightly.

  • Pour through a cloth-lined sieve or fine strainer into a dry jar.

  • There will be milk solids at the bottom of the pan. Some people discard this. In India they add sweetener and spices for a delicious treat.

  • Ghee has a long shelf life and does not need to be kept in the fridge. Just make sure that you don’t get any moisture into the jar by scooping with a wet spoon etc.