What are the health benefits of ghee?
In India, ghee has been highly regarded for so many things for so long, it is hard to think of a circumstance where ghee is not useful to the wellness of the body and mind. Ghee is made from butter, which, of course comes from the milk of cows. Cow’s milk is believed to possess the life force and essence of all plants, and taking this into the body in its various forms channels this divine energy, prana, along with its vital nutrients. Ayurveda calls ghee the first and most essential of all foods, nourishing each tissue layer of the body, increasing bodily intelligence, refining intellect, and improving memory.
Taken as a food, ghee is known to support the digestive process by providing butyric acid which is the preferred source of energy for the cells of the large intestine (colon) and allows these cells to stay supple and function optimally. Butyric acid is typically produced by bacteria that populate the GI when they are provided with fiber, so including ghee in the diet is a wonderful way to support GI integrity for those with compromised digestive systems, or who have trouble taking in enough fiber.
Ghee also supports healthy hormone production, stabilizes blood sugar, and helps the body absorb conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which increases lean muscle mass and reduces body fat. The ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats in ghee is very close to the ideal ratio needed to support human health, as is the ratio of omegas 3:6:9. Ghee helps the body with its natural, daily cleansing process by stimulating the liver to produce new bile, flush out old bile, and remove toxins from the body.
What are the beauty benefits of ghee?
The magic of ghee works both from the inside out and from the outside in; not only is ghee used as a food, but as the base for many medicines (ingested or topical) and beauty products. Ayurveda suggests that if you cannot eat something, you should not use it on your skin. Ghee, then, can almost be considered ‘food’ for your skin. It moisturizes and lubricates, softens, protects and nourishes. It is one of the best substances to use for abhyanga, an Ayurvedic self massage technique. Self-massage with oil is a wonderful technique to restore hydration, suppleness, strength and luster to the skin.
The Sanskrit word for Ghee is ghritam; it comes from the root ghr which means ‘to shine’. Ghee is considered to be the finest of fuels for the fire of our digestion, agni, so including this healthy fat in your diet or applying it topically is literally to ignite your internal flame, boost your radiance and brilliance, build your aura and help your light shine.
Do you have any ghee face/body treatments you recommend?
The best ghee to use for body treatments is called Shata dhauta ghrita or ‘100 times washed ghee’. This is a highly purified ghee prepared by mixing ghee with purified water in a copper vessel literally 100 times (while chanting mantras). Water is whipped into the ghee then the excess is poured away, carrying impurities away with it. The whipping action splits and hydrolyzes the fat of the ghee to yield free fatty acids and glycerols, which causes the once pure butterfat to become water-infused. The water in 100x washed ghee penetrates the skin more easily than oil alone, which may simply sit on top of skin without being absorbed. Preparing this in a copper bowl actually increases the copper content in the emulsion, which can have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects on the skin. This is an excellent product that calms irritated skin, acne, rosacea, eczema, any sort of burns, fades sun spots and blemish marks, and is generally anti-aging, filling and soothing wrinkles.
If you can’t find your own 100x ghee, regular ghee can also be applied directly to the skin! Ghee is a great moisturizer for dry skin, especially in the winter. A mask can be made by blending together equal parts raw milk, chickpea flour, and ghee, then applying this paste to the face and neck for 15-20 minutes. Once it is dry, rinse off with cool water. Otherwise for a quick fix, simply mix equal parts ghee and water in your palm and gently massage into to face (or any part of the body). This works especially well for relaxing tired eyes and reducing under eye circles. When I feel like my eyes need a little extra love, I apply a dime size amount to each eye before bed and rinse off with cool water in the morning.
How do you make ghee? Why is it better for you than butter?
Butter is made from churning the cream that rises to the top of fresh, whole milk. Then, to clarify the butter, it is gently heated over a low flame (fire! not electric heat!) just until water evaporates from the butter and the milk solids separate from the milk fats and sink to be ultimately strained out. This process is relatively quick (15 minutes for 1 pound of butter). Clarified butter is transparent, not opaque like butter, and contains no milk solids (casein), only butter fat.
Ayurvedic ghee is more than just clarified butter. Traditional ghee is made from whole milk that has been mixed with yogurt and allowed to ferment at room temperature for 4-5 hours into yogurt. During this culturing process, lactose sugars are converted into lactic acid making ghee much easier to remove. The cultured milk is churned into butter, then heated for many hours over a flame to completely remove all the moisture content while milk solids caramelize on the bottom of the pot before final straining.
The browning of the milk solids at the bottom of the pan is another crucial difference between ghee and clarified butter. Golden ghee that results has a nuttier taste than sweet clarified butter and a longer shelf life. Both clarified butter and ghee have far longer shelf lives, higher smoke points (making them better for high heat cooking) and much less saturated fat than butter and also little to no lactose or casein.