Ghee, the golden ambrosia

Ayurvedic Diet_Ghee

Ghee is one of the foods virtually synonymous with Ayurveda. Classical Ayurvedic texts celebrate the virtues and uses of ghee as a food and medicine.

Ghee in various languages

  • Sanskrit: ghrita, ājya, havi, sarpi

  • Arabic: samna (سمنة), samneh

  • Hindi: ghī

  • Marathi: tupa

  • Nepali: ghyū

  • Tamil: ney (நெய்)

 Is ghee the same as clarified butter?

Clarified butter is similar to ghee in that it does not contain milk solids. However, when making clarified butter, you strain the butter as soon as it has separated. So the part you are removing is the foam that rises to the top. With ghee, you take the process a step further, waiting for the milk solids to turn golden-brown and sink to the bottom of the pan. This gives ghee its nutty taste.

Who should use ghee

For daily use, ghee is taken with food for all who desire nourishment. It is of especial value for those affected with fatigue, loss of strength, anaemia, jaundice and eye diseases. However, wonderful as ghee is, not all people should consume it in large quantities. TB patients, children, and the elderly should have ghee only in modest amounts. Ghee should also be limited in those who have kapha-type indigestion, gastroenteritis, hangover, fever and loss of appetite.

Types of ghee

Ghee should be made from grass fed, organic milk from happy cows. Traditional Indian (deshi) ghee is made from cultured butter. The fresh milk is cultured to make dahi, which is then churned to make butter, and from this ghee, known as navina ghrita, is prepared. Bhvprakash also speaks of making ghee from the previous day’s milk, naming this type of ghee haiyangavinam.

 Significance of ghee

Tongue of the gods,” “navel of immortality.”
We will proclaim the name of ghee;
We will sustain it in this sacrifice by bowing low.
These waves of ghee flow like gazelles before the hunter…
Streams of ghee caress the burning wood.
Agni, the fire, loves them and is satisfied
. – Rig Veda

"As oil in sesame seeds, as butter in cream, 

As water in hidden streams, as fire in firewood,

So is the atman grasped in one’s own self

When one searches for him in truth and with fervor.

The atma pervades all, like butter hidden in milk".

Mundukya Upanishad, from The Vedic Experience

To describe the significance of ghee in Vedic culture would require a treatise. In brief:  Ghee is one of the five gifts of the cow. From milk, yoghurt can be made, from yoghurt butter, from butter ghee, from ghee nothing, hence ghee, which is not perishable like other dairy products, represents pure consciousness. Ghee is the sacred food of agni, the fire; ghee is the sacrificial offering. Prajāpati, the Great-grandfather, created ghee by rubbing or churning his hands together, then offered it to agni, the fire, to engender his offspring. Without ghee, the entire Vedic experience would be unattainable.


Rasa: Sweet (madhura)

Virya: Cold (shita)

Vipak: Sweet

Guna: guru, snigdha

V-P- K+ (Note, cow’s ghee pacifies all three doshas)


  • Demulcent

  • Dīpan—appetizer

  • Medhya—improves memory and intelligence

  • Varna—improves complexion

  • Enhances beauty

  • Increases prabha—lustre

  • Svarya—improves voice

  • Increases ojas

  • Balya--Tonic

  • Rasayana--rejuvenative

  • Shukral—enhances sperm production

  • Netriya—improves eyesight

  • Increases duration of life

  • Eliminates poison

  • Casts away evil spirits

  • Cures herpes and diseases of rakta

Used in

  • Colic

  • Abdominal distention

  • Psychosis

  • Epilepsy

  • Chronic fevers

Cow’s Ghee

  • Especially beneficial for vision—hence used for netrabasti

  • Vajikarana—aphrodisiac

  • Pacifies all three doshas

  • Enhances intellect

  • Is aromatic, pleasant and auspicious

  • Best of all kinds of ghee.

Buffalo’s Ghee

  • Pleasant

  • Pacifies pitta, rakta and blood

  • Increases kapha

Goat’s Ghee

  • Good in cough and breathlessness

  • Use in TB and other wasting diseases

  • Is light to digest

  • Has a pungent post-digestive effect

Camel’s Ghee

  • Has a pungent post-digestive effect

  • Cures emaciation, worm infestation and poison

  • Pacifies kapha and vata

  • Very useful in skin diseases

Sheep’s Ghee

  • Is light to digest

  • Cures all diseases

  • Increases bone thickness

  • Good for all disorders of the female reproductive system

  • Eliminates urinary stones

  • Pacifies vata

Mare’s Ghee

  • Promotes digestion

  • Is light to digest

  • Nutritious

  • Cures eye diseases and burning sensations

  • Calms deranged kapha

 Ghee from Mother’s Milk

  • Ideal in aggravation of all three doshas or rakta (blood)

  • Heals diseases of genitals

  • Beneficial for eyes

  • Is considered to be ‘the earthly prototype of divine nectar.’

Navina ghritam:

 Navina ghritam is grāhi or absorbent, cures eye diseases, calms vata, pitta and blood and is good for fainting, stupor and vertigo.

Haiyangavinam ghritam

prepared from the previous day’s milk is especially beneficial for the eyes, is appetizer, promotes taste, strengthens the body, is nourishing, aphrodisiac and is especially good for fevers.

Purāna ghritam—aged ghee

Aged ghee is able to alleviate all three doshas and is a marvelous remedy for skin diseases, eyes diseases such as cataract and also for epilepsy and psychosis. It acquires a pungent taste and pungent post-digestive effect. According to Sushrut, ghee aged from one to ten years is purana ghrita, ghee 11-100 years old is kumba ghrita, while ghee aged over a hundred years is maha ghrita.

Shatadhauta ghrita—hundred times washed ghee

Ghee is washed with cold water a hundred times to create a white, creamy substance ideal for topical application.


Ghee is a key feature in innumerable home remedies; here are just a few examples:

  1. Constipation in pregnancy: Take a teaspoon of ghee in a glass of hot water each morning on an empty stomach and again at bedtime.

  2. Chapped lips: massage ghee on chapped lips.

  3. Dry, crusty nasal mucosa: With the tip of the little finger, gently apply ghee inside the nostril.

  4. For lustrous eyes or to remove dark circles: at bedtime, apply ghee over eyelids and under eyes.

  5. Vocal care: Mix a teaspoon of ghee in hot milk and drink after singing.

Alakananda Ma M.B., B.S. (Lond.) is an Ayurvedic Doctor (NAMA) and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is a well known and highly respected practitioner in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.

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