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The health benefits of ghee for detoxification, cooking, and skin

Ghee for healing and detoxification

Ghee (Ghrta or Ghritam) is cultured, clarified butter (the milk solids and water are removed leaving just the fat). Ayurvedically, ghee is used extensively in cooking and therapeutic applications, both internally and externally. It is the most Ojas or vitality-enhancing substance according to the Charaka Samhita and being Sattvik in nature, improves the clear, blissful state of our body, mind, and spirit. The health benefits of ghee are so versatile that ghee butter, as it is also called, is considered an elixir of liquid gold in Ayurveda!

The history of ghee

Ghee originated in India and has been used there for thousands of years. With portions of the country experiencing intense heat, storing butter for prolonged periods was impossible without spoilage. A way to create stability was needed, so butter was boiled to remove the milk fats and water, leaving only the fat. Ghee was born.

Since Vedic times cows in India have been revered. No cows were forcibly impregnated nor were any calves killed. And only after the calf was satisfied, was leftover milk used. Cultured butter made from such milk was then clarified to produce truly cruelty-free ghee.

Hindu mythology offers a more interesting story for the origination of ghee. The myth centers around Prajapati, Lord of Offspring. According to the story, Lord Prajapati created the first ghee by rubbing or “churning” his hands together. He then sprinkled the ghee into a fire creating his descendants. The story can be interpreted as an enactment of creation with the ghee symbolizing semen and the “churning” the sexual act or formation of the child in the womb.

Healing skin with ayurvedic ghee

The many health benefits of ghee

There are many benefits of Ghee. It helps kindle all types of Agni (digestive and metabolic fire). Ghee is a very nourishing fat. It penetrates all tissues and is said to cross the blood-brain barrier and has therapeutic properties by itself and in its numerous formulations. It is also Yogavahi (it absorbs and transmits therapeutic properties of herbs to all tissues). Ghee pacifies the Vata and Pitta doshas but can mildly increase Kapha so it is only given in the Nirama stage (when Ama or toxins are digested). But a word of caution, not all ghee is therapeutic, it must be cruelty-free, organic, cultured, and clarified! Additional health benefits of ghee include:

  1. Nourishing, strengthening, immunity building, and rejuvenating, Ghee nourishes and protects all the tissues starting with the Rasa Dhatu. Ghee is the single most Ojas-enhancing substance and is considered an anti-aging tonic that rejuvenates and promotes longevity.
  2. Aides in digestion by kindling Agni and supporting enhanced nutrient absorption.
  3. Provides lubrication internally and externally. Ghee improves luster, enhances complexion, reduces dry skin, dry colon, and stiffness in joints.
  4. Ghee is Yogavahi or the best medium for delivering Ayurvedic formulations as it assumes their characteristics and ensures they penetrate all tissues. It is a good Anupaan (medium) for many Pitta/Vata formulations.
  5. Improves eyesight, strengthens sense organs, and voice clarity.
  6. It is good for mental health conditions, and improves brain health, concentration, cognitive function, intelligence, and memory. 
  7. Enhances the reproductive tissue and improves libido.
  8. Ghee is anti-inflammatory and rich in linoleic acid, Vitamins (A, K2, and E), and Omega-3 fatty acids. And it’s a source of butyrate acid, a short-chain fatty acid that promotes gut health.
  9. Aids in cleansing and detoxification at a physical and mental level. Ghee penetrates every Dhatu (tissue), loosens and binds with toxins, and brings them to the gut for elimination.
  10. Heals the gut and supports the liver, heart, and kidneys.
  11. Promotes healing of wounds, traumatic injuries, and skin infections.
  12. Relieves burning in the skin and is used after Kshar Karma, a para-surgical procedure with significant efficacy in managing piles and fistulas.
  13. Ghee is good for pregnant and lactating mothers. 
  14. Promotes healthy elimination and when added to milk can help relieve constipation.
  15. Ghee is fattening and can aid in degenerative conditions and emaciation.

Contraindications - when ghee should not be used

During the Ghee making process all casein, whey, and lactose should be removed but in the case of those with dairy allergies, Ghee consumption is advised against as a precautionary measure. Additionally, Ghee should not be consumed by those following a vegan diet, individuals with unbalanced Kapha or Ama (except for Shatpala Ghritam), hepatitis, fatty liver, congestion, fever, obesity, indigestion, and/or diarrhea.

Ghee for detoxification and Ayurvedic applications

Ghee is sweet, cooling and pacifies Vata and Pitta. It can be recommended in food, therapeutically by itself, in formulations, or as an Anupaan (medium in which formulations are given). It is often used during cleansing and detoxification and various other Ayurvedic therapies.

Kerala medicated brahmi ghee

Herbal formulations/Ghritams

Medicated Ghritams are best for internal oleation, rejuvenation, and addressing many imbalances. They are used for oral intake, Vasti (medicated enemas), or for numerous other therapies.

Ghee can be given based on an assessment of Agni and imbalances (ie. Dadimadi Ghritam) and the usual dosage is 1-2 tsp(s) at bedtime or early morning. An example of a therapeutic Ghee is Indukāntha Ghritam (Ref: Sahasrayogam). This is indicated in Vāta disorders, degenerative disorders, ascites, spasms, gastritis, duodenitis, intermittent fevers, and for enhancing immunity.

Many Ghritams are also used in neurological and psychiatric disorders and for enhancing mental health like Saraswatha Ghritam, Kalyanaka Ghritam, Lasunadi Ghritam, and Brahmi Ghritam. Examples of these Ghritam formulations include Mahatiktakam Ghritam, Sukumara Ghritam, and Panchatiktakam Ghritam. These can be used in Shamana (as formulations to correct imbalances, along with dietary and lifestyle suggestions) or in Shodhana (cleansing modalities).

ghee for cleansing treatments

Snehapana: Use of Ghee for cleansing and detoxification

Ghritams can be used in Panchakarma or seasonal cleanses. Ghee ingested during the Snehapana phase of cleansing dissolves and digests Ama at the tissue level and carries wastes to the Koshta or intestinal tract to be expelled.

In seasonal cleanses, the supervising Vaidya assesses every client through personalized consultation and determines their current imbalances. All their formulations, including the Ghritam to be given during the cleanse, are decided based on this assessment.  During a cleanse increasing amounts of Ghritam are given over a 3-, 5- or 7-day period. The quantity of Ghritam to be taken and its impact is monitored daily.

Ghee uses for Ayurvedic therapies

Ghee is also used for Pratimarsha or daily Nasya. Typically, two drops of lukewarm, melted Ghee are applied in the nostrils in the morning. This can be done as part of Dinacharya or one’s daily regimen, or therapeutically under the guidance of a Vaidya. Additional therapeutic uses include use in oil pulling, herbal smoking, and as a lubricant in the case of rectal suppositories.

Netravasti or Netra tarpana is an Ayurvedic therapy used in multiple eye disorders. A dam is created with flour and filled with a Ghritam (Triphala Ghritam is commonly used). It is a specialized procedure for eye health that should be done under the guidance of a qualified Ayurvedic professional.

Ghee can also be used for Vasti (medicated enema) in a personalized cleanse. Vasti is known as ‘Ardha Chikitsa’ or equal to the worth of half of all Ayurvedic treatments because of how valuable they are in helping with many imbalances of all Doshas, primarily Vata.

Melting cultured butter to make ghee
Making ayurvedic ghee
Straining ayurvedic ghee
Making ayurvedic ghee

Cooking with ghee

The aroma of clarified butter or Ghee butter wafts through many Indian kitchens! It is used extensively in cooking due to its high smoke point. Ghee or ghee combined with spices, like Turmeric Ghee, adds taste and flavor to all food, from rice pulaos to lentils to vegetables. It enhances the benefits of herbs and spices and aids their absorption. And it’s easy to make.

How to make Ghee: Start with unsalted, cultured butter (homemade or store-bought). Heat the butter, uncovered, at medium heat until it melts. Cook for another 10-15 minutes at low to medium heat as it gently boils and bubbles. You will notice the milk solids begin to separate and turn orange or light brown as they sink to the bottom of the pan. Watch closely so that it does not burn. Once the crackling sound subsides and melted butter foams with a beautiful golden color, remove from the heat and let cool. Strain the Ghee through a cheesecloth or sieve into an airtight, glass container.

Jar of ghee for healing skin

Ghee, liquid gold for the skin

You can reap the benefits of Ghee on the skin by applying it topically or ingesting it (Thikthaka Ghritam helps optimize skin from within)! Here are a few of the many benefits for your skin.

  1. Moisturizes the skin, gives it a glow and luster and is excellent for use in abhyanga or self-massage.
  2. Ghee can be used in face packs or for spot treatments and helps with dark spots and dark circles under the eyes.
  3. Heals minor wounds and is great for chapped skin, lips, and dry elbows and heels.
  4. With its antioxidant properties, Ghee helps deliver nutrients to the skin, hair, and scalp.
  5. Formulations like Shata Dhauta Ghritam can moisturize and heal burns, herpes, mild burning in the anus, and chicken pox scars.
  6. For pregnant women, ghee is applied below the umbilicus if there is bleeding and can be applied to soothe cracked nipples in lactating women.

Ghee: A legacy, not a Fad

From cooking to cosmetic and religious applications to deeply therapeutic ones, Ghee has so many benefits it’s impossible to list them all! You can add it to your latte, apply it on your toast or smear it on your face. Ghee is a vital, staple part of the Vedic legacy. No wonder it’s considered the golden elixir of Ayurveda!

Kerala Ayurveda golden lotus logo

References:

  1. (PDF) Ghee: Its Properties, Importance, and Health Benefits (researchgate.net)
  2. (PDF) Shata – Dhauta – Ghrita – A Case Study (researchgate.net)
  3. Ghee Benefits for Skin: 9 Ways to Soothe Skin Woes (healthline.com)
  4. (PDF) A Review Paper: Current Knowledge of Ghee and Related Products (researchgate.net)
  5. Ashtanga Hridayam 8/43, 9/27, 10/22, 29/36 (also chapter 5), Charaka Samhita 25/40
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ghee#Benefits-of-ghee
  7. List of WebMD’s research – https://www.webmd.com/diet/ghee-good-for-you
  8. AYU: An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda: “The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation.”
  9. ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Ghee.”
  10. The FASEB Journal: “Anti-inflammatory effects of sodium butyrate on human monocytes: potent inhibition of IL-12 and up-regulation of IL-10 production.”
  11. International Journal of Obesity: “The role of conjugated linoleic acid in reducing body fat and preventing holiday weight gain.”
  12. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Dietary fat increases vitamin D-3 absorption.”
  13. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine: “Beneficial effect of ghee consumption over mustard oil on lipid profile: A study in North Indian adult population.”
  14. The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine: David Frawley, Vasant Lad: 9780941524247: Amazon.com: Books
  15. Effects of dietary supplementation with ghee, hydrogenated oil, or olive oil on lipid profile and fatty streak formation in rabbits – PubMed (nih.gov)
  16. Effects of cow ghee (clarified butter oil) & soybean oil on carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes in rats – PubMed (nih.gov)
  17. Ghee and honey dressing for infected wounds – PubMed (nih.gov)
  18. Effect of hydrogenated, liquid, and ghee oils on serum lipids profile – PubMed (nih.gov)

6 signs it’s time to cleanse

Towards the end of winter and beginning of spring, there may be a general feeling of heaviness, or slowness in the body. This is known as the Kapha season and is marked by an increase of moisture, dampness and accumulation.

Post-winter sluggishness is a result of accumulated toxins caused by:

  • The lethargy of winter – when the weather is damp and cold, our activity levels tend to go down.
  • Increased comfort foods: cold weather results in cravings for creamier, richer foods, especially animal proteins and dairy.
  • Holiday food, drink and partying – disrupting the body’s rhythms with inadequate sleep.

All of this can result in a feeling of not just physical, but emotional heaviness – an unsatisfied feeling of being stuck somewhere. Sometimes there is also an inability to react to the coming of Spring with the get-up-and-go excitement of this renewal period.

The body tells us it needs to detox in many ways. Here are the top 6 signs the body needs to cleanse:

 

1. You have gained weight and it’s not going away

High body toxins slow  metabolism, leading to weight gain. Struggling to manage the high toxin content and prevent the toxins from reaching vital organs, the body expands fat cells to absorb some of the toxic load. Once created, these fat cells are very difficult to eliminate. If you find that even if with careful attention to your food quality and intake, the fat stays on, this is a warning sign your body needs deeper cleansing to trim and purify.

 

2. You feel generally tired or fatigued

In the morning, perhaps there’s no sense of excitement for the day; you drag yourself out of bed. By evening, you feel depleted.

 

3. You don’t have a full night’s sleep

Somehow your body’s clock has gone awry. You toss and turn at night; the sleep you have is light and restless. Your mind churns as you lie awake in the wee hours. You wake up feeling stiff, sometimes with pains in your joints and muscles.

 

4. You have minor but constant shifts towards imbalance

It could be sudden case of acne, rash or boil on the skin. Perhaps you keep sneezing out of the blue, or a small dry cough. Your skin might be dry and appears to be newly wrinkling. Your hair is suddenly dull or thinning – increasingly. These are signs of toxin overload.

 

5. Your bowel movements aren’t right

Sometimes constipated, sometimes bloated, sometimes too loose. You feel that whatever you eat you are always at risk of indigestion. Increasing the fiber in your food and water intake is generally beneficial, but also keep in mind that the bowels need seasonal detox, especially after the rich foods of winter.

 

6. You don’t feel good emotionally

The fatigue, the lethargy, the possible insomnia – it all adds up and affects your mental and emotional state as well. Do you find it difficult to focus at work? Do you feel ‘low’ even when there is no obvious cause? Easily depressed, perhaps anxious, nervous or insecure or moody? Cleansing could help get you back in the groove!

 

If any of the above describe your condition,  your body is telling you it needs to detox. In cold climates, the spring cleansing period is most important to prepare you for the year ahead.

 

Are you ready to begin a spring detox?

Kerala Ayurveda’s Wellness Center can support you with a Personalized Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse program! Learn more by visiting our Wellness Center website.

The Ayurvedic approach to cleansing: mind, body and spirit

Springtime is when we plant the seeds in our gardens outdoors. To prepare for the year’s crops, we first clear out the soil beds to receive new seed. Likewise, we engage in “spring cleaning” of our homes and welcome warmer weather with a clean slate.

According to Ayurveda, spring is the only appropriate season for cleansing, and is essential for maintaining good health.This seasonal maintenance clears out accumulated toxins and stagnant energy, invigorating our minds, bodies and spirits for a new year.

Physical cleansing to purify the body has gained much popularity for addressing a variety of issues, especially weight loss. Much focus is applied to the diet, though a successful cleanse is a purification of much more than the physical body, and must be done mindfully with care, as cleansing can be very taxing on the system.

 

For a mind, body and spirit Ayurvedic cleanse, here are some of the best practices.

 

Clear the home indoors and out

Stagnation occurs not just in our minds and bodies, but also in our environments. A thorough cleaning of nooks and crannies, as well as weeding out your belongings can provide an invigorating sense of release and bring a sense of clarity and peace to the mind. Starting the processing in the beginning of your cleanse can also be motivational, setting the energetic stage in your space for your activity.

 

Nurture yourself

Detoxing is tough on the body, and cleansing can often be confused with deprivation. Balancing the elimination and cleansing process with plenty of sleep and nurturing activities is essential for a successful cleanse. Bodywork is not just relaxing – it also supports the body’s loosening and elimination of toxins. Spring cleanse is the best time to carve out time for extra self-pampering and emotionally healing activities, such as journaling, retreat and energy work. It’s important to plan for this before you start your cleansing process to ensure you don’t miss out.

 

Daily rituals, or Dinacharya

Ayurveda recommends these rituals every day, though let’s face it – we don’t achieve perfection. Spring cleanse is the perfect time to get disciplined and ensure you check off your daily rituals off each day, as it will maximize your body’s ability to detox. Dinacharya begins at bedtime: getting enough sleep and sleeping at the right time (in bed by 10:30 p.m., awake by 6 a.m.) is the first order of business. In the morning, tongue scraping, warm water with lemon, self-massage with oil, or abhyanga, cold shower and exercise are recommended to start the day right. Learn more: Eight DIY Ayurvedic rituals to jump start your day >>

 

Cleansing diet

For 2 weeks to 21 days, limit or completely eliminate animal protein (dairy, meat, eggs), sugar, caffeine and any additional food sensitivities, such as wheat and soy. Focus on plant-based foods with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. A mono diet of khichadi (see recipe here) for at least 3 days is incorporated in traditional Ayurvedic cleansing. A lighter plant-based diet is easier to digest and therefore removes the energetic burden of processing heavier foods, as well as providing a strong dose of nature’s medicinal scrubbing brushes – fibrous fruits and veggies and cleansing herbs to energize and support the body in sussing out the deeply-seated toxins, or Ama.
Does the above sound good to you? Check out our top 6 signs you need to cleanse to assess your body’s level of Ama.