Ghee plays a special role in Ayurvedic medicine. It is both medicine and food and is one of the most important fats in Indian and Pakistani cuisine. In Ayurveda Ghee is given an important meaning as an "elixir of life". We explain what effect on health is attributed to fat, whether ghee is healthier than butter and how you make ghee yourself.
What is Ghee?
Ghee is, to put it simply, the Indian form of clarified butter or butterfat. For its production, butter is heated and its foam is skimmed off - leaving behind the pure fat. Usually cow's milk butter is used, but the milk of goats, sheep, camels or elephants is a possible basis.
Ghee has a yellowish-white color. The taste depends on the type of production. In the traditional Indian desi method, for example, the slightly sourish butter is melted over a fire, so the ghee assumes a slight smoke flavor. In Ayurveda, on the other hand, ghee is obtained exclusively through a boiling process, for which the butter is first cut into small pieces and washed off.
Unlike butter, which contains about 80 percent fat, ghee consists almost entirely of fat. All other components of the butter, such as protein, milk sugar and water, are removed during the production of the ghee.
Effect of ghee on health
Although fats are generally not considered healthy foods, Ghee can certainly score with some positive health effects:
- Ghee, unlike other oils, does not form free radicals in the cells.
- The fat can lower the levels of inflammation in the body.
- Daily intake of ghee can improve cholesterol and blood lipid levels, which has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system.
- Also on alleviating the symptoms of psoriasis (psoriasis), a study provided evidence.
- In animal experiments Ghee also seemed to slow the development of cancer.
Ghee in dry eyes
For dry eyes, an eye bath with warm ghee may help. This increases the amount of fat in the tear fluid so that it does not evaporate so quickly.
So you can treat a dry eye with ghee:
- Heat the ghee to exactly 33 degrees Celsius using a thermometer in a water bath.
- Put two to three tablespoons of fat in an eye bath.
- Bathe your open eyes one at a time for about 10 minutes each.
Repeat the eye bath twice a week to treat dry eyes. Incidentally, ghee is also valued in Ayurveda for its anti-inflammatory effect. Therefore, in the Indian healing eye baths with the fat are recommended for eye irritation.
Ayurveda: meaning as a remedy
In Ayurveda, ghee has long been considered an important remedy. It is said to have many beneficial effects on the health, especially of the cells, nerves and skin.
According to the Indian Health Doctrine, Ghee is said to:
- detoxify the body
- promote digestion and metabolism as well as help with constipation
- stimulate the appetite
- promote concentration
- Lower fever
- support wound healing and prevent scarring
- to help against anemia
- support the immune system
- Cells regenerate, rejuvenate and extend life
In addition, Ghee should keep the three known in Ayurveda life forces Vata, Pitta and Kapha in balance and supply the body tissues nutrients.
Application of ghee in Ayurveda
In Indian healing, ghee is used both internally and externally. Therefore, it is not only used in Ayurvedic cooking as an ingredient in cooking and baking, which should make the food easier digestible. It also serves as the basis for Ayurvedic ointments and as a carrier for various remedies that helps the active ingredients enter the cells.
Warm ghee massages are also used to treat dry and irritated skin. Corresponding foot massages are supposed to relieve headaches and sleep disturbances as well as have a calming or invigorating effect.
In Ayurvedic therapy, warm ghee is also used in the form of a three-day drinking cure designed to detoxify the body. For this purpose, so-called medical ghee is used, which is cooked in a complex procedure for 100 hours with various medicinal herbs.
Ghee: nutrients, calories
Since substances such as water, milk sugar and milk protein are removed in the production of ghee, the purified fat even contains a slightly higher concentration of the original vitamins and minerals compared to butter.
The more nutritious the butter that makes up the fat, the healthier the final product. Like butter, ghee contains vitamins A, D, E and K as well as sodium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. The contained butyric acid is considered good against intestinal problems.
Despite the healthy effect, it should not be forgotten that ghee is a fat that is equivalent to other fats in terms of calories - with about 900 kilocalories, ghee can hardly be described as a slimming product. It should therefore not simply be taken in addition to normal food, but replace other fats.
Essential fatty acids in ghee
Ghee contains predominantly saturated fatty acids, which are often suspected of having a negative effect on cholesterol levels. However, the healthy effects of ghee, and in particular its cholesterol-lowering effect, contradict the common assumption that higher levels of saturated fat are detrimental. This supports the newer view that saturated fat is healthier than previously thought.
Ghee and butter in comparison
Ghee, or clarified butter, used to be very popular as a frying fat - today this industrially produced product is less frequently used in the kitchen. It offers some advantages over butter:
- Thanks to its low content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can cause harmful trans fats when heated, ghee is ideal for frying and deep frying - in contrast to butter. This not only injects in the pan, but the contained protein burns quite fast.
- If ghee is kept airtight and dry, it can also be kept for a long time due to its low water content - even if it is not stored in the refrigerator. Butter, on the other hand, always has to be refrigerated, otherwise it quickly becomes rancid.
- Since the milk sugar is removed from the butter during the production of ghee, the fat is lactose-free and can also be eaten by people with a lactose intolerance.
- In Ayurveda, ghee is also preferred over unchanged butter, because it is considered easier to digest.
Storage and durability
Ghee does not necessarily have to be stored in the refrigerator, but this prolongs its shelf life. At room temperature Ghee holds about nine, in the refrigerator about 15 months.
Ideally, always remove ghee with a clean spoon to avoid contamination. If the fat smells rancid, it should no longer be used.
Tips for buying ghee
When buying ghee you should value quality - because the higher the butter from which it was made, the healthier is the ghee. Therefore, be sure to buy ghee from organically produced butter, ideally from free-range or pasture cows.
For medical purposes, only medicinal ghee is used in Ayurveda.
Incidentally, vegans can buy herbal ghee (Vanaspati) in the health food store - but caution should be exercised with regard to the formation of trans fatty acids. Another vegan alternative, albeit slightly different in taste, is coconut oil, which is highly heatable without the formation of trans fat.
Make ghee yourself
Ghee is also easy to do yourself. Whether you use sweet or sour cream butter as a base makes no difference to the quality of the ghee. However, sweet cream butter has the advantage of less flocculation. In any case, it is recommended to use unsalted butter.
For the production of ghee you should allow about one hour of cooking per kilogram of butter. The gentler the ghee is made, the better the result.
Recipe: This is how you make ghee yourself
- Slowly warm the butter in a saucepan without a lid at low temperature until lightly simmering. Do not stir it.
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop up the milk protein foam that forms on the surface.
- Repeat this until no more foam is formed and the mass in the pot is golden yellow and very clear.
- Pour the mass through a fine sieve, a coffee filter or a cloth.
- Put the finished ghee in a tightly closed container, preferably made of glass or clay, and allow it to cool.
Other recipes are to let the butter briefly boil up after careful melting or to skim off the foam, but to strain the entire mass through a cloth. Just try out which preparation the ghee tastes best with.