Once again your being duped. Real ghee, It is NOT what you are buying in the store.
With the growth of ayurveda, ghee is getting more and more popular these days. Lets look at ghee and milk and how it is made to see what “real” ghee is as well as learn bigger concepts of ayurveda.
In the “americanized” version of what is being called ayurveda, what they are calling ghee is only clarified butter. You take a stick of butter, throw it in a pan, cook out the water and the milk solids and wallah, you have what “they” are calling ghee. This is how it is even written in the Western Ayurveda books as well as what you would learn going to any Western Ayurveda school. This “ghee” is then found in the refrigerator in the dairy section at most whole foods and other stores now.
This is not ghee my friends. It is only clarified butter. Not at all the same thing. It will not have the same properties of ghee and will not have the effects on the body as it is missing essential qualities that are created in the correct process of making it. Real ghee is made from cultured butter. Let’s look at what is the difference and why.
Milk and qualities (gunas)
We need to start from the beginning of the process to realize the depth of why inherent properties of substances are and then why those qualities change. This is what real ayurveda is truly about.
Regular butter is usually made from cow milk. Cows milk is especially sweet (earth and water elements) so it is heavy and hard to digest. After digestion it creates a little moisture in the channels (srotas), the doshas, in the formation of tissues (dhatus) and also in the waste products of excretion (malas). Its energy (virya or over all potency of hot or cold) is cold. It mitigates diseases of vata and pitta.
Cows milk is further broken down into it’s traits dependent upon other factors. The color of the cow: Black cows milk is superior in qualities and mitigates vata. Yellow cows milk is mitigates pitta and vata. White cows milk is increasing to kapha and Red and varied colors cow’s milk mitigates vata.
The land a cow is raised in effects the qualities of the milk as well. A marshy land creates a cow’s milk that is harder to digest and is even more unctuous (oily and greasy). An arid and drier climate will produce a milk that is lighter and easier to digest in comparison and have less of those qualities of the marshy land raised cow’s milk.
The food a cow intakes will have an effect of the milk as well, obviously. Now we are starting to see the depth of the whole picture.
Other animals milk such as water buffalo, goat, deer, mare, camel, elephant and woman’s milk is all expounded upon in the ayurvedic texts, each with its own qualities then also the sub qualities like the examples used in the above paragraph and more delineation.
Other changes in qualities are the processes done to the milk ie. fresh from the utter that is warm or cold, raw milk vs cooking the milk and the varieties of cooking to the milk. Raw milk that is cold increases moisture inside the channels (srotas) and increases kapha (earth and water elements) as well as increases ama (undigested toxic morbid metabolic waste) in the system. Flash boiling the milk makes it easier to digest as well as mitigates kapha and vata whereas boiled and cooked milk mitigates pitta. When milk is over cooked or burned it is once again heavy for digestion.
Oh my, there is even more details. When the cow is milked has an effect on the milk as well. Milk drawn in the AM is heavier and harder for digestion whereas milk drawn in the PM is lighter and easier to digest.
The best milk is when it is warm straight from the utter of the cow and just incase you really wanted to know… woman’s milk is not cooked.🙂
Yogurt and action (karma)
Real ghee is made from yogurt. Yogurt is sour and the sour taste is the earth and fire elements. The taste of sour has an oily and hot quality and has a post digestive effect on the tissues that creates more excretion and facilitates processes of the system. You can see this in the fire component of the elements and how fire is a transformative element. Sour is good for digestion, the heart, increases appetite and increases moistures in the system after digestion. As per its effects on the doshas (the humours or buffers of the system that go out of balance and create disease), it reduces vata (air and ether elements), raises pitta (fire and water elements) and raises kapha (water and earth elements). (more description of the doshas in another blog.) Yogurt itself is extremely nourishing to the body but has a thick slimy quality that can easily clog the system. Remember every thing is poison and everything is medicine dependent upon the knowledge of the person and the use of the substance. Even the most incredible medicine is poison when made/handled/consumed wrong.
Yogurt that is bought in the stores is extremely sour and old. The older the yogurt the more sour it gets. Fresh yogurt has a sweet taste to it and very unctuous in comparison and doesn’t taste anything like the store bought brands. Fresh yogurt has much different qualities and is the ideal yogurt to be using. The yogurt that sits in a refrigerator after being made becomes more sour everyday. This is the qualities changing with time. The refrigeration creates a cold quality that make the yogurt even more difficult to digest.
Buttermilk and action (karma)
Here is more the bigger picture concepts. By putting action into a substance you can change the traits of that substance but it will keep its base quality. We take yogurt and churn it with water. After churning for some time, the oil becomes thicker and finally clumps together in what we know as cultured butter. By the way, what we have done by churning the yogurt in water is create what is known as buttermilk or takra. (can be found on another post on this blog)
The action of the churning creates more lightness and heating qualities to the yogurt and adds the quality of astringent taste to the butter as well. Astringent taste has the elements of earth and air and adds a rough and dry quality. This is why takra has a constipating quality (grahi) or how it pulls the moisture out of the fecal matter and brings it together.
Cultured butter is made from yogurt and has the qualities of the fermentation (fire). This action lightens up the butter and this is the process that defines what “ghee” is. The fire element creates a digestive quality to the butter. Fire is transformative and light in quality and this remains in the butter. This butter has a light taste, is more sour in taste and is so much better for digestion and easier to digest than regular butter. You can see how the qualities of the yogurt have now been introduced into the butter.
Now that you have the understanding, here is the process:
The bubbling will change speed and change in the song of the bubbling. This is one indicator that it is done.
Be careful at this stage because it is very easy to burn the ghee. Basically, all of the water has boiled off at this stage and the heat from the stove no longer is being used to evaporate the water (which takes a lot of energy) and maintains the temperature at 100° C or 212° F.
A last note on qualities. Ghee is never refrigerated. It does not go bad unless the moisture is not completely cooked out of it (oils do not go rancid for this same reason. this is a problem in the modern world with the popular desire to use raw oils and then blaming rancidity on all oils). In fact, 100 year old ghee is extremely medicinal and touted in the texts for its usage. Ghee that is refrigerated takes on the qualities of the refrigerator. DO NOT REFRIGERATE GHEE! Cold, dry and heavy are the main qualities that are created by refrigeration. This remains in the substance refrigerated and does not cook out. For an example, take some ghee that you have freshly made, pour some of it into two jars. Place one in the refrigerator and the other leave at room temperature. After a day or two take the ghee out of the refrigerator and place it next to the other jar of ghee. Give it a week, then inspect them, taste them yourself. Experience real Ayurveda yourself. The ghee that has been refrigerated has different qualities. It will remain more solid at the same temperatures, it will be harder for digestion and it will taste very different. Try it. This is the best way to learn, experientially. There is much much more to all of this as well, this is but the start.
Through this process of understanding what makes real ghee we have also seen a big part of real Ayurveda is……. qualities and actions. Ayurvedic dietetics is to be able to see what are the qualities and the actions of all substances and then the individual; who are they and what is their individual situation of health. This is all on the giant background of what is happening in the time, environment, and the seasons. This is why what is medicine to one is poison to another. This is also why ayurveda is much more detailed and beautiful than Vata, Pitta and Kapha diet plans.
I hope you have enjoyed this journey, hope it has left you at a much deeper and higher state of confusion which only means you are learning and growing. The process of learning the details is such a beautiful journey of insight. May patients be your virtue, May your ghee be golden and your digestion be strong. :)
we have scientific research showing the difference with traditionally made ghee….
No, what you have told by your Ayurveda teacher or practitioner about melting down a stick of butter, its only show the level of education they have.
And just a little add on…
There is a plethora of Americanized “ghee” on the market. None have been prepared out of anything rather than just butter leaving them only as clarified butter, not real ghee. Doesn’t even matter if you play a recording of mantras while it is being made on a full moon, it still is not ghee. It is better to know and follow the correct methods than market something that is not adding woo woo spirituality to make sales.
Bhavapraksha of Bhavamishra
Other links to articles of ghee on this site: