Ghee, or clarified butter, is the product of slowly heating cow’s butter to 100°C until the fat, milk protein (casein), and sugar (lactose) separate. The protein and milk are then strained away, leaving only the liquid fat. This special preparation results in a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than traditional grass-fed butter, specifically vitamin E and vitamin A (beta carotene) which are antioxidants known for their ability to neutralize free radicals. Additionally, for those who are lactose intolerant or sensitive, ghee is a great alternative and also generally easier to digest due to the removal of the milk proteins and sugars.
In India, ghee has been consumed for centuries since Ayurvedic practitioners consider the process to make ghee sacred and pure, as well as building life energy (ojas). This adds a spiritual healing component, making it balancing for both the body and the mind (rasayana). Ayurvedic doctors believe that ghee promotes longevity as well as protecting the body from disease. It is their preferred form of fat, as its properties help to aid the digestive fire (agni), strengthening both digestion and assimilation of nutrients from food. Ghee also is known to improve memory and strengthen both the brain and nervous system by lubricating the connective tissues.
Ghee is used in Ayurvedic healing for a multitude of things outside of just digestion and nutrition. It is used as an aid to help relieve allergies, and treat skin and respiratory issues. It also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and a high concentration of monounsatured omega-3s, which both may contribute to a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
Ghee can be used in cooking, consumed on its own, or mixed with other herbs to allow for greater assimilation of the herb’s healing capabilities. When you consume ghee in hot water on an empty stomach upon rising, the digestive fire is awakened, which can be very helpful for those experiencing digestive issues.
Lastly, ghee can be used topically. It can be used in a sacred self-massage (abhyanga) by rubbing the oil over the body to relieve muscle tension and stress. You can find both skincare and haircare with ghee infused in it to relieve dryness, or you can easily make an at-home mask for quick moisture. Ghee can also relieve wounds, burns and redness due to its anti-inflammatory fatty acid content.