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Ghee is like mother. It is nourishing and healing. It is steady and dependable and always supportive of life and living. It brings an excess of goodness wherever and whenever it is appreciated and used.
The ingestion of ghee is like offering the finest of fuels into the fires of digestion-Agni. In accord with this, ghee builds the aura, makes all the organs soft, builds up the internal juices of the body-Rasa, which are destroyed by aging and increases the most refined element of digestion-Shukra or Ojas, the underlying basis of all immunity and the “essence of all bodily tissues”. Ghee is known as the “single most Ojas producing food on earth”. It is known to increase intelligence & refine the intellect-Buddhi and improve the memory-Smrti.
Although Ghee kindles or increases the digestive fire- Agni, on which all nutrition depends, it does so without aggravating Pitta- the elemental functioning of fire within the body. In fact, Ghee cools the body, essential in much of today’s world in which everything is overheating.
Ghee causes secretions and liquification in the dhatus-bodily tissues that dissolve wastes allowing the functional intelligences of the body-doshas to carry away toxins-ama (also known as aam). The ingestion of ghee is used in Panchakarma specifically to first penetrate into and then dissolve ama in the dhatus, allowing the wastes to be then carried to the intestinal tract and then expelled. Those with obesity should use ghee sparingly and those with high ama should not consume ghee at all.
It is traditionally considered, that the older the ghee, the better its healing qualities. 100-year-old ghee is highly valued in India and fetches a very high price. Such Ghee was often kept in temples in large vats and families often pass on aged ghee to their next generation
to be used as medicine.
Qualities of Ghee
Ghee is known as to promote longevity because of its heavy, slow, oily, liquid, dense, soft qualities, and thus pacifying effects, to the light, dry and rough qualities of Vata dosha. An increase in Vata paces up aging. Ghee, in a very sure and steady way, slows the aging process by balancing Vata.
Ghee has the quality of snigda, oiliness, and unctuousness. It is smooth, lubricated and nurturing. It is known to make the voice soft and melodious.
Ghee is Guru, heavy. It increases the qualities of Kapha and decreases Pitta and Vata, which are both light.
Ghee has the quality of Mrdu, softness. In Ayurvedic Panchakarma treatments, ghee is the oil used on the eyes. In Netra Basti, a small dam is built around the eyes and filled with warm Ghee. Then, you open your eyes to its soothing softness. It seems after that treatment, that you see the world though a soft diaphanous curtain of love and loveliness.
Healing properties of ghee
- In ancient India, wells full of Ghee were especially for those who suffered wounds. Ghee is known for the quality of Ropana- healing, and its effectiveness in facilitating recovery from wounds.
- In Ayurveda, when a person has a chronic peptic ulcer or gastritis, ghee is used to heal that ulcer inside the intestinal tract.
- Ghee works wondrously on bedsores for the elderly or debilitated.
- It can be applied for broken bones and bruises.
- It is highly effective for all sorts of skin rashes.
- It is also used on burns (including 2nd and 3rd degree burns)from both fire and chemicals. Apply it regularly till wounds have completely healed, ghee does not cause scarring of burnt tissue.
- Ghee increases the overall strength, luster and beauty of the sarira-the body.
- Used on the skin, ghee softens and strengthens, protects and nourishes. Ghee massages were given to men on the streets until the last generation in India. But since it is more expensive than oil it has come to be used only for internal purposes only.
- For generations, Indians have used Ghee for cooking and as an added measure on top of their food and in and as medicine.
- In India, ghee is used to massage new born babies, new mothers and those in the last days of their lif.
- It is said 60% of what is placed on the skin is absorbed into the body. Ghee is considered one of the best substances for self-massage-Abhyanga. Apply ghee all over the body, rubbing into head, chest, limbs, joints and orifices. This will bypass the digestive system and allow the qualities of ghee to penetrate directly into the deeper tissues. According to Charak Samhita, regular Abhyanga slows the aging process.
- Ghee is used in Purvakarma, (early Panchakarma) where a small amount of Ghee is taken first thing in the morning by the practitioner to oleate the internal organs and “dissolve” the ama or toxic wastes in the tissues, allowing them to be carried to the digestive tract for elimination.
- Ghee is used as a carrier or “yogavahi” for herbs and bhasmas because of its supreme penetrating qualities and thus ability to carry these substances deep into the dhatus or tissues.
- One or two teaspoons first thing in the morning followed immediately with hot water will promptly produce a bowel movement. It will also warm the body quickly.
- Two spoonful of Ghee in warm (non-homogenized) milk before bedtime is soothing to the nerves and lubricates the intestines and facilitates a bowel movement in the morning.
- Ghee is excellent for cooking and sautéing or stir-frying. Ghee has one of the highest flash points of all oils and is very difficult to burn.
- Ghee is excellent for a gargle-gandush, to improve the health of teeth and gums.
- Ghee can be used as a bath oil. Take two tablespoons of Ghee and mix with several drops of other essential oils of your choice.
- Ghee can be used in the eyes for tiredness or fatigue.
- Ghee is an exquisite facial moisturizer.
- A few drop of ghee when placed in the nostrils, checks nosebleed. When done twice a day, it relieves headache.
- Cow Ghee is used in lamps in temples and pujas all over India. It is said, light of a ghee lamp wards off negativity and evil influence.
The traditional and effective way of making ghee
In India, ghee making at homes has been an enjoyable, beautiful, peaceful and positive experience. This subtle recommendation is perfectly in line with cooking ghee on an open fire- “it makes a difference”. The sound of softly boiling butter, the pouring of the thick golden liquid into bottles, the wonderful smell permeating the space creates a satvik environment.
The cream or malai is cultured with yogurt, which introduces another form of Fire-Agni into the substance of refining the milk into butter and then Ghee. The butter is heated in stainless steel or enamel pot till it begins to boil. It is best to make ghee in stainless steel heavy pots, rather than aluminum because of the toxicity. It is best even to avoid thin stainless steel. This is because a heavier pot will distribute the heat of the fire more evenly, surrounding the Ghee. Always try to use real fire rather than an electric range (This is again in the realm of subtlety and sattva). There is a quality of fire-Agni that lends itself and pervades a substance cooked on flame that is not there when cooked on electricity.
Once the Ghee begins to boil, turn it down to the lowest flame at which it will continue to boil. As it boils, moisture evaporates off it and it will begin to “clarify”- the butter will turn from cloudy yellowish liquid to a more golden color. Whitish cloudy milk solids will rise to the top and sink to the bottom. Do not stir it. After an hour and half to several hours, depending on the amount and the size of the pot and the amount of ghee compared to the flame, ghee will be ready. The moment ghee is “ready” is very critical. If you cook the ghee too little, you will be left with moisture in it and it will lack the exquisite taste and qualities that it can develop, also, it will tend to spoil or sour. If you cook it too much, it will burn and impart a certain nutty flavor.
Once done, the liquefied ghee is skimmed. The top light crust of whitish milk solids and the heavier ones stuck at the bottom of the pot are removed (sieved) and traditionally used to make sweets. Children in India love the crusty solid remains and always plead with their mothers to have the leftovers when ghee is made.
Then pour the golden, sweet-smelling liquid ghee through layered cheesecloth- to catch any last impurities into a bottle, leaving the slightly burned milk solids (caramelized lactose) on the bottom of the pot you cooked it in (Ghee has no lactose or milk sugars in it). Be sure to not close the glass jar into which you pour the hot ghee until it comes to room temperature. The reason for this is that there should not be any moisture from condensation that may form on the inside of the jar. It is moisture that spoils ghee, allowing a mold to grow and causing it to go bad. This is the reason that you always use a clean and dry spoon to take ghee out of its container. It is also a reason not to refrigerate it. One, because it is not necessary and two, it causes condensation to form inside the jar as you take it in and out of the refrigerator.
Time and Season
Ghee is best made on the waxing fortnights of the moon as the moon represents the Mother and nurturing and all the best qualities of milk and butter are energized at this time. The quality and appearance of ghee changes with the time and season and the diet of the cows. The more the cows graze in the fields on grass, the more yellow is the Ghee. This “yellow” is the result of more chlorophyll in the butter.
Why cow ghee over buffalo ghee?
In India, ghee is made from both cow and buffalo milk. If we consider qualities of both the animals, we can see why ghee from cow milk is preferred. When compared physically, buffaloes are heavily muscled and denser in their makeup. Cows have a more moderate make-up of fat. Cow ghee is in liquid form at room temperature. Buffalo ghee is slightly solid and grainy. Buffaloes eat almost any food, even spoiled food, while cows in their natural environment, turn away from such fare. Buffalos are often quite dirty and smell more strongly than cows. Cows tend to be clean and like less dirt on their bodies. Cows always smell good and are slow and peaceful to human touch. There is a striking difference in the temperament of cows and buffaloes. Cows are far gentler in nature. Buffalos are comparatively more stubborn and aggressive. Because of these qualities and more, buffalo ghee is considered more dulling-tamasic, while cow ghee is considered pure and purifying-sattvic.