Ghee – An Ayurvedic Perspective:
The milk of cows is considered to possess the essence or sap of all plants and Ghee is the essence of milk… When we consider Ghee, we are in the company of superlatives. In India, Ghee has been so highly regarded for so many things, for so long… This is what we have heard…
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”. Maya Tiwari calls Ghee the “single most ojas producing food on earth”. Ghee is known to increase intelligence–Dhi, 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.
It is traditionally considered, that the older 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 a substance that gives longevity… This is because it has opposite qualities (heavy, slow, oily, liquid, dense, soft), and thus pacifying effects, to the light, dry and rough qualities of Vata dosha. It is the increase of the qualities of Vata that are synonymous with aging. Ghee, in a very sure and steady way, slows the aging process by balancing the living one.
Ghee has the quality of snigda, oiliness, and unctuousness. It is smooth, lubricated and nurturing. Ghee is thought 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… When a surgeon cuts open a body, he only does so knowing that the body will be able to heal itself. The surgeon cannot do this. 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 of both fire and chemicals. Once, I accidentally got some sandalwood oil in my eye. It burned intensely and I was unable to wash it out with a variety of eyewashes. I spent hours in pain and finally I remembered to use Ghee. Almost immediately, the Ghee pacified the burning and the eye irritation ceased.
Just recently, a friend of mine who is a yoga instructor had a pressure cooker blow up in his face, giving him second and third degree burns. He immediately put some Ghee on his face and went to the emergency room. They told him that he would be scarred for life, that the burns would take several months to heal and that he should take steroids to help him (the body shuts down the production of testosterone after burns). He declined to take the steroids and continued to put on the Ghee, twice daily. After six days, he was completely healed without scarring.
Those with obesity should be very frugal in their use of Ghee and those with high ama should not take Ghee at all.
Ghee increases the overall strength, luster and beauty of the sarira-the body. Let us look at a variety of ways:
Used on the skin, Ghee softens and strengthens, protects and nourishes. Up until the last generation in India, there used to be men who gave Ghee massages on the street. It was always the preferred substance for the skin, but since it was more expensive than oil it has come to be used only for internal purposes. For generations, Indians have used Ghee for cooking and as an added measure on top of their food and as a medicine. In India, medicinal ghee is passed on from one generation to the next. It was used for old and young, for new babies (Mothers in India will massage their children with Ghee) and for those in the last days of their life. I massaged my Father’s body with it before he died- He loved it. Sometimes, when he could not sleep, I rubbed it on his feet and temples and it soothed his agitation. It is considered it one of the best substances for self-massage-Abhyanga.
Many Uses of Ghee
- For Body 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. It is said that 60% of what is placed on the skin is absorbed into the body. We literally “eat” what we put on our skin. Western science has discovered that massaging the skin creates endorphins or peptides, which enhance the body’s immune system. Peptides are thought to be the vehicle that the mind and body use to communicate with each other, a literal chemistry of emotion. According to the 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 spoonfuls 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. In India, it is said that food is incomplete without the use of Ghee.
- Ghee is excellent for a gargle-gandush, to improve the health of the teeth and gums.
- Ghee can be used as a bath oil. Take two tablespoons of Ghee and mix with several drops of an essential oil of your choice.
- Ghee is excellent for scrapes and both chemical and heat or fire burns. Ghee can be used in the eyes for tiredness or fatigue.
- Ghee is an exquisite facial moisturizer.
- In India it is said that if a few drops of ghee are placed in the nostrils then nosebleed can be checked. If this is done twice in a day, then headache can be relieved.