Ayurveda Life: The Wonders of Ghee
In honor of National Yoga Month, we are excited to bring you another post in a comprehensive series on the practice of Ayurveda. ‘Ayurveda Life’ will be a weekly series of posts from some of the most influential Ayurvedic authors and organizations. We are proud to partner with Banyan Botanicals and hope that you enjoy and share these posts with your communities.
“Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences that developed together and repeatedly influenced each other throughout history. Yoga and Ayurveda work together to enhance their great benefits on all levels”.
“The link between yoga and Ayurveda is prana, or the life force. Yoga is the intelligence of prana seeking greater evolutionary transformations, while Ayurveda is its healing power…” ~ Dr. David Frawley
I was first introduced to ghee while practicing Yoga in India. Having been a vegan for 19 years my body was stiff and sore all of the time. At that time in India it was common to dribble ghee on your food and friends suggested taking ghee would help reduce stiffness. After exhausting other options and some convincing to stray from my vegan diet, I started adding ghee into my diet daily. In one week I could feel the difference. My digestion and flexibility improved dramatically and I felt great!
Stiffness and Dryness a Growing Problem
After the appearance of fast food in the ’70s many people developed problems that were blamed on ‘fats’. All fats were placed in the same category. Deep fried food and rancid oil do cause health problems. However, we need lubrication in our diet to keep the body juicy and moving easily.
High quality oils in appropriate amounts don’t make us fat or cause heart disease. Rather, they keep us lubricated and unctuous. Without adding high quality oils in our diet, we dry up, becoming stiff in the body and sharp in attitude. The result is imbalance in the body and mind. In Ayurveda this is called dosha imbalance and leads to disease.
Food is considered the greatest medicine in Ayurveda. Ghee is recommended in the ancient texts medicinally, both internally and externally, as well as for all types of food preparation.
So what is ghee and why is it so wonderful?
Ghee, sometimes called clarified butter, is unsalted organic butter cooked to remove the milk solids, leaving what is sometimes called “liquid sunshine.” It is an ancient and sattvic food that has the essence of the plants and animals, enhancing our connection to nature.
Ghee is nourishing and nutrient rich and facilitates the absorption of nutrients in the food it is cooked with. In moderation it is helpful for most imbalances in the constitution (dosha). Here are benefits that are referenced in the ancient texts:
- enhances digestive fire (agni)
- pacifies vata and pitta doshas (air and fire elements)
- enhances the complexion of the face and body
- increases physical and mental stamina
- increases immunity, vitality and longevity
- nourishes and cleanses the blood
- soothes the nerves
Ghee is excellent oil for cooking and has been used for thousands of years. It has an alkalizing effect on the body whereas butter has a slightly acidifying effect. Humans began cooking food to wake up the prana, or life force, in it, rendering the food digestible. Ghee is a significant component in this process.
When you cook with ghee it produces a sweet aroma and takes less than half the amount of other oils for the same cooking while enhancing the flavor of the food.
Consuming ghee will not be a problem for those who have trouble with dairy. Only trace amounts of casein and lactose can possibly remain in ghee, so unless a person has unusual extreme sensitivity, ghee will actually be beneficial. In over 15 years of practice I have found it very helpful to those who do not typically consume dairy, and no one has ever had a problem.
Ghee is used widely in Ayurvedic treatments both internally and externally. The Susruta Samhita, one of the primary Ayurvedic texts, says that ghee is beneficial for the entire body, including the skin, and has a balancing (sattvic) effect on the mind. It is particularly beneficial for reducing inflammation and pacifying pitta dosha (fire element).
Learn How to Make Ghee at Home!
I highly suggest you carve out the time to make your own ghee. It is a sweet, rewarding process, better tasting, and less expensive. The house smells beautifully and fills with love. As with all cooking, it is ideal to chant a mantra or say a prayer to yourself during preparation. Prepare your ghee while the moon is waxing (getting larger) or full. The healing energy of the moon is strongest during this time and will transmit to the ghee.
Bring the sweetness and love of ghee into your life. It is a gift on so many levels. Let it heal your body and soul.
Myra Lewin is an Ayurvedic wellness professional, educator, and highly respected spiritual advisor. She also trains teachers in Raja Yoga internationally, with an emphasis on sustainable conscious practice. See more at halepule.com, Facebook, and Instagram.