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The health benefits of ghee (clarified butter)

Updated on April 10, 2011

The word ghee comes from Sanskrit: ghrta. It is called toop in Marathi, ney in malyalam, ghyo in Punjabi and many other names in different languages. Ghee is clarified butter.

In India, ghee especially ghee made from cows’ milk forms an integral part of the daily diet. Rotis, parathas and chapattis are smeared with ghee after being roasted, a spoonful of ghee is added to a serving of dal and rice, it can be served on dry powdered chutneys and sometimes it is served as an accompaniment to a meal of puran-poli. Ghee can be used to fry papads, mithais, it can be used in seasoning, pulavs, biryanis etc. A meal with no ghee is considered incomplete. Though ghee can be made from both cow milk and buffalo milk, ghee made from cow milk is what is considered most beneficial and healthy.

Home-made ghee
Home-made ghee
Ghee lamp wards off any negative energy
Ghee lamp wards off any negative energy
Ghee is used as an offering in havans
Ghee is used as an offering in havans
Ghee is available in markets
Ghee is available in markets

Health benefits of ghee

Ghee has many medicinal properties and health benefits.

It helps to keep the internal organs soft and in good health. Ghee improves the health of the digestive system.

It helps to soften hard stools so bowel movements are not painful.

Drinking a cup of warm milk to which a spoonful of ghee has been added will clear up constipation.

Ghee is used in the treatment of burns, skin rashes, cuts and wounds.

In Ayurveda, ghee is used to heal chronic peptic ulcers inside the intestinal tract.

Ghee helps in de-toxifying the body. In the body cleaning treatment known as Panchakarma, which is a long process, a person is made to drink warm ghee as the first step towards cleansing the body. Ghee penetrates the body tissues (known as dhatus in ayurveda), and proceeds to dissolve any toxins (known as ama) that are present in the body tissues, then it allows the body to carry away toxins and the wastes to the intestinal tract and then be expelled from the body.

In one of the panchakarma treatments, the treatment called netra basti- which is cleansing of the eyes, small open cylindrical containers are placed over the eyes, and warm ghee is poured into them. The person is then asked to open their eyes thus allowing the ghee to get into the eye and gently cleanse it.

Massaging the body with ghee helps keep the skin soft, glowing and youthful.

Ghee forms a compulsory part of the diet for mothers who have just given birth especially for a period of 45 days immediately after the delivery. Ghee helps the body to recover from the trauma of child-birth faster.

Many ayurvedic medicines are to be mixed with ghee before ingesting. This is because ghee penetrates deep into the body tissues and carries the herbs and medicines deep into the tissue to allow healing.

Ghee is very soothing and nourishing to the body. It helps to keep the body cool. So much is the importance of ghee that it is used as an offering in pujas and havans or the holy fire. Ghee is also used to light lamps in temples especially used for the ‘aarti’. It is said that ghee has such properties that a flame that burns with cows ghee wards off any negative energy.

churning the cream with a hand churn
churning the cream with a hand churn
separating butter from buttermilk
separating butter from buttermilk
ghee when almost done
ghee when almost done
home made ghee after it has totally cooled down.
home made ghee after it has totally cooled down.

How to make ghee at home:

Though ghee is available in the market, most Indian families prefer to make their ghee at home. The process usually involves collecting the layer of cream that appears on boiled cow milk everyday over a period of time, in a medium sized vessel or pot. A little bit of curd is added to this pot. When the pot is full, the contents are placed in a slightly bigger vessel and this fermented or cultured cream is churned using a hand churn, water is added as required. The cream is churned until the globules of butter separate from the whey. (Alternatively, you can bring to boil some milk, add a spoonful of curd to it and leave it overnight. This is then churned to separate the butter from the whey.)

This butter is then skimmed off and collected in a thick bottomed pan. The pan of butter is then placed on the cooking gas flame ensuring the flame is not too high. The butter starts to melt and become liquid and boil. Stir the liquid one in a while. The liquid is kind of opaque and cloudy in the beginning and becomes a clear golden color as the process is complete. Lots of little bubbles start forming as the process reaches completion. You must ensure that the ghee is completely cooked else it has a rancid taste and smell.

You can also use the odour or smell to determine if the ghee is cooked, in the beginning, when the butter begins to boil, the smell is not really very pleasant, but as the process continues and reaches completion, the smell changes to a lovely delicious ‘ghee’ smell. There are some solids and sediments that settle at the bottom of the pan, many people use these to make mithai or sweets.

My grandmother sometimes added a clean washed and dried betel leaf to the hot ghee just before taking it off the flame to give it a lovely fragrance. Some people may prefer to add fenugreek seeds or curry leaves, but I like the flavor of the betel leaf. The ghee is then allowed to cool a little, and then filtered using a fine muslin cloth or fine metal sieve. The ghee is then stored in at room temperature and used when needed.


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    • mathira profile image

      mathira 6 years ago from chennai

      I had always thought ghee was very bad for health, but from your hub I knew it had health benefits also.

    • C.V.Rajan profile image

      Disillusioned 6 years ago from Kerala, India

      Ghee is one substance that has got lot of beating from the cholesterol conscious people. People who diet tend to abhor ghee. But in India, ghee has its traditional place in the nutritional system and its benefits are very strongly made out by you.Benefits of ghee, when consumed in controlled quantities, cannot be brushed aside.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Vibhavari, I found this to be educating and very informative. I will certainly look our for the product ,or, failing that I will follow your excellent tips to produce my own. Thank you.

    • Vibhavari profile image

      Vibhavari 7 years ago from India

      Hi Simone,

      Thank you so much for your feedback.

      I also forgot to add a tip- if you wish to make ghee from ready made butter available in the market, ensure you use the unsalted variety.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Fascinating Hub! One does not typically see "health benefits" anywhere near the word "butter" so reading this overview was particularly refreshing. Your tips for making ghee are great too! Voted up!