I think of ghee like that super cool older sister, who teaches you everything from how to put makeup on and how to roll your first joint. Reliable, consistent, and so good for the soul. I first heard of ghee several years ago, around the time when paleo was the newest fad food diet. I went down the long, windy rabbit hole of nutrition and discovered that people were putting it in their coffee and making the claim that butter was “healthy.” Living in Los Angeles, a place where trends are made as fast as they die, I shelved ghee somewhere in my brain and quickly moved on. I thought, “it’s not as easy to find and it seems too hard to make (but it’s actually quite simple, here is a how to guide *link*).” After a few years passed, I went to a dinner party with friends and a certain musty, dank smell was wafting through the air - he was making edibles. I, being the cannabis newb that I was, asked “How are you making it?” He explained to me that they were using ghee and that ghee was his favorite way to extract THC. Clearly, there was more to ghee than I thought and I would learn to discover that its use and history are quite extensive.
Ghee is revered in Ayurvedic cooking for not only its use in traditional recipes, but also its ability to be a great carrier for medicines and herbal remedies. Traditional ayurvedic texts make the case that it is a highly “sattvic” food, meaning that it is abundant in life-force energy, also known as prana. It is said that sattvic qualities boost and harmonize physical vitality, promotes well-being and a peaceful mind. It has been said that ghee can be very supportive to digestion, soothes inflammation and fights free radicals. Its high amount of omega-3s can also be supportive to cognition when consumed in appropriate amounts. While there have not been many case studies in western science directly proving that ghee can resolve all the above and should not be solely substituted for organic, whole foods, ghee, in my opinion, shouldn't be overlooked. Ghee's ability to be incredibly versatile makes it a strong candidate for your next pantry staple if it isn’t already.
So, what exactly is ghee? The short answer is that it is a type of clarified butter. And what does it mean for butter to be clarified and why should you care, you ask? The process of clarification strips the milk protein, lactose, and trace minerals, making it a much friendlier alternative to those who are sensitive to dairy. Since refrigerators were not a part of daily use like it is today, the ability to prolong its shelf life especially in warmer climates, was surely a game changer. When heating up butter until the water content evaporated and the milk solids separated, this fatty ally has a sweet, rich yet cleaner flavor and holds a nutty, caramelized taste. Ghee is traditionally simmered at a lower temperature, in order to maintain its nutrients and vitamins. It is popular among chefs because of its high smoke point (465º F as opposed to its primitive form, butter, which holds around 300º F). While ghee has become widely more known and utilized, its history dates thousands of years ago from India. This golden, silky ayurvedic superfood is considered a symbol of nourishment as well as auspiciousness for ceremonies such as funerals or weddings. It is even still used as an offering to the Hindi God of Fire, Agni, in fire rituals. Derived from the Sanskrit word, ghrita, meaning “to shine,” it bolsters a sense of radiance for the body.
High quality fats are essential to a healthy body and mind and ghee has tons of it! Good quality fats are important to maintaining a balanced lipid homeostasis. Unsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids are widely regarded as cardio protective. Ghee, just like other fats, can increase bioavailability of vitamins and other active ingredients. It is also one way to increase your vitamins A, E, and K as well as your omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In layman's terms, these specific vitamins promote a healthy immune system, are helpful for bone health, are supportive for hair, skin and eyes, and are a powerful antioxidant. Butyric acid, a fatty acid that plays a huge role in gut health is also found in ghee - consider it like a natural probiotic. This acid supports a healthy insulin level. Although, those who are diabetic should approach with caution - too much CLA, a type of omega-6 fatty acid known to be anti-inflammatory and antiatherogenic can exacerbate insulin resistance and intake of ghee should be monitored. According to ayurvedic texts, ghee is also wonderfully supportive to those who undergo a therapeutic method of purification and detoxification called panchakarma - most toxins are fat soluble. It is said that as ghee travels through our physiology, it absorbs and ushers them to move it out of the system. Dr. Vasant Lad, one of the leading ayurvedic physicians and founder of the Ayurvedic Institute, claims that ghee is also known to moisturize connective tissues, promoting a more flexible body and alleviates constipation and dryness.
However, even though ghee can be seen as golden nectar spewing from the fountain of youth, it is undoubtedly still, a fat. An unbalanced approach to incorporating fats in your diet can be harmful to your cholesterol and may lead to obesity. In the right amount of fat needed for your own consumption to maintain healthy vitals, it can be a great companion for your everyday needs. I believe in treating the body as a whole and it would be a much more lasting resolution if we worked to bring awareness to where our energy goes and what we take in. Natural remedies such as incorporating more ghee into your life definitely isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. Rather, used in conjunction with choosing to eat whole foods consciously, managing stress, and even holding yourself accountable to getting proper sleep all add up to a healthier you. While some may be skeptical to these more holistic points of view and the effects felt may be labeled as placebo effect, education is key. Learning the ins and outs of your own body (even genetic predispositions) and understanding the cause and effect of what you intake can assist you in engaging more effectively in whatever lifestyle you uphold. Part of building a relationship to your physiology is considering and being your own guinea pig with new things and learning how you respond to them can only call for interesting experiences and lead to creative possibilities!
Learn more what you can do with ghee here!
How to Make Ghee
Put 1 lb of unsalted, organic butter in a medium-sized pan and melt over medium heat.
Once butter is liquified, lower heat until butter starts to boil and bubble. Keep uncovered.
White curds (milk solids) will burst to the surface of the foam, and eventually float to the bottom of the pot. You can also skim off the foam and discard.
Once it stops foaming and bubbling, you will see the bottom of the ghee. Make sure it is clear. Process will take about 20 minutes per lb of butter, but keep an eye on it. It might vary depending on heat.
Remove from heat and let it cool before straining through a cheese cloth into a glass container.
Store in airtight container with lid. It will set after several hours on the counter.