Health Benefits of Desi Ghee, Pure Ghee, and Clarified Butter

Updated on December 17, 2018
rajan jolly profile image

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

A dosa in India served with ghee.
A dosa in India served with ghee. | Source

For all extensive purposes, wherever ghee is mentioned in this article, it invariably refers to cow's ghee. Ghee is called ghrita in Sanskrit. Pure ghee or desi ghee, as we call it in India, is known as clarified butter in the west. Desi ghee is considered pure and auspicious by Hindus and is offered to agni (fire) during pooja (worship). Learn more about the nutritional benefits of ghee in the paragraphs below.

Questions This Article Will Answer

  1. What is the difference between clarified butter and ghee?
  2. What does Ayurveda say about desi ghee, pure ghee, or clarified butter?
  3. What are pure ghee's nutrition facts?
  4. What are the health benefits of ghee?
  5. What are some Ayurvedic home remedies made with ghee?
  6. How is cow ghee and buffalo ghee different?
  7. How is ghee made?
  8. How do you clarify butter?
  9. How do you test the purity of ghee?
  10. Is desi ghee good for everyone?

Of all oils fit for human consumption, Ghee is the best to consume.

— Charak Samhita (the foundational Ayurvedic text)

1. What Is the Difference Between Clarified Butter and Ghee?

Butter is obtained by removing the separated out butter when milk/cream/yogurt is churned. This butter is then heated till it separates out into liquid ghee and the floating milk solids. The floating milk solids are strained out when this ghee is filtered. The milk solids are not allowed to caramelize, so the clarified butter does not have a nutty flavor.

In ghee, the butter is cooked till the milk solids caramelize. The golden liquid ghee is then filtered to remove any remaining milk solids as well. This process results in a nutty aromatic flavored ghee.

Desi ghee, pure ghee, or clarified butter.
Desi ghee, pure ghee, or clarified butter. | Source

2. What Does Ayurveda Say About Ghee?

Desi ghee or Ghee is made from butter prepared from the milk of buffaloes as well as cows. Butter could be obtained from milk cream as well as from whole milk. Ayurveda considers ghee prepared from cow's milk to be supreme. This milk has many more health benefits than those obtained from buffalo milk. Ayurvedic preparations use cow's ghee rather than buffalo milk.

There is another ghee called Dalda or Vanaspati that is made from vegetable oils by the process of partial hydrogenation. Vanaspati is very high in trans fat. It is much cheaper than Pure Ghee. Pure Ghee is considered by Ayurveda as Sattvic food, meaning food that is not only pure and natural by itself, but also has a positive influence on balancing the body and mind.

Because of its high smoke point, around 485 degrees Fahrenheit, pure ghee is one of the safest cooking mediums because cancer causing free radicals are not produced at normal cooking temperatures (which are around 400 degrees Fahrenheit).

Apart from being an integral part of Indian food and cooking, and incorporating it in Ayuvedic preparations, Desi ghee is also used in Ayurvedic cleansing therapies.

Pure ghee has a negligible amount of lactose or casein, and for all practical purposes, it can be safely consumed by those who have lactose intolerance. Even those who are gluten sensitive can consume it safely.

However, since it is very high in calories and saturated fats (though these fats are of the good kind), it should be consumed in moderation. One teaspoon a day is sufficient for a normal adult to derive its health benefits.

Desi Ghee calms both Vata (Air) and Pitta (Bile) and balances these doshas. And, though it increases Kapha (Phlegm), it can safely be consumed in moderation by those who do not suffer from Kapha Dosha.

Pure ghee is a high quality oil considered akin to nectar, having health giving and restoring properties. It does not need to be refrigerated and remains good at room temperature for years. Desi Ghee has an infinite shelf life, just like honey. In fact, its benefits increase as it ages.

Did You Know?

—10 year old ghee is called jheern.

—100 to 1000 year old ghee is called kaumbh.

—More than 1100 years old ghee is called maha ghrit.

Pure ghee in its liquid state.
Pure ghee in its liquid state. | Source

3. What Are Pure Ghee's Nutrition Facts?

Pure ghee is almost cent per cent fat, having 62% saturated, 29% monounsaturated, and 4% polyunsaturated fats. 1 tbsp of ghee provides 135 calories, 15 grams of total fat, 9 grams of saturated fat (which is 45% of the daily fat needed by us per day), and 45 milligrams of cholesterol.

Other nutrients in ghee include:

  • A concentration of butyric acid.
  • Short chain and medium chain fatty acids, both saturated and unsaturated. (The short chain fatty acids do not need to undergo digestion but are straightaway absorbed by the liver to be used as energy. Medium chain fatty acids also need to be digested minimally.)
  • High levels of Omega 3, Omega 6, and some Omega 9 fatty acids.
  • Excellent levels of vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  • A good source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).
  • Phenolic antioxidants and several minerals.

When no more than 10% of a person's total daily calories are consumed from ghee (no more than 20 grams of fat from Ghee, or 2 tbsp of ghee), it actually reduces the risk of heart disease.

4. What Are the Health Benefits Of Ghee?

Ghee possesses anti bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. Cow's ghee is definitely superior to buffalo's ghee. Cow's ghee is the one that is used in Ayurvedic preparations. As compared to butter, ghee contains about 40-50% more short chain and medium chain fatty acids. These fats do not increase the risk of heart disease.

Some health benefits of ghee are:

  • Since ghee normalizes vata and pitta (the two doshas, air and heat) it relieves afflictions caused by the increase of these two doshas in the body. This includes, joint pains, digestive issues, etc.
  • Among other benefits, ghee increases your vision and controls eye pressure. It also benefits the hair, skin, and even increases the quantity and quality of semen.
    In fact, ghee increases Ojas, the subtle energetic force that is the basis of one's health, stamina, and immunity.
  • Ayurveda recommends ghee for pregnant & lactating women as it nourishes the foetus, aids in lactation, and also fortifies the breast milk.
  • It stimulates secretion of stomach acids, thereby helping to digest food and also aiding in absorption of nutrients.
  • Ghee coats the intestines, thereby preventing the irritating effects of chillies and spices. It also neutralizes toxins and detoxifies the body.
  • It improves memory and intellect, strengthens the brain and improves mental health.
  • It cures sinus headache, migraine, and bleeding nose.
  • Ghee aids in getting good sleep, lubricates internal organs, skin, joints, muscles, and connective tissue. It also increases flexibility and heals burns and wounds.
  • When consumed in moderation, ghee helps to break down fat and promotes weight loss.
  • It cures constipation, and when applied externally, it relieves pain and burning associated with piles and fissures.
  • It improves voice clarity, relieves dry skin, improves lustre, and complexion.
  • Intake of low levels of ghee helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides and prevents oxidation of lipids or fats.
  • Ghee uplifts mood and raises energy levels.
  • It helps in colonising the good gut bacteria, which themselves produce butyric acid. Butyric acid is food for the colon cells. Thus colon health is improved and risk of colon cancer is reduced. More butyric acid in the gut helps to raise gut immunity which, incidentally, accounts for 80% of the total body immunity. (Ensuring gut health is of utmost importance if total immunity is to be improved.)
  • Ghee is like a catalyst for herbs. It improves their healing efficacy. This is the reason herbs are added to ghee.
  • The butyric acid in ghee helps to keep the intestine/gut wall healthy and is especially useful in conditions like IBS, Crohn's disease, and Ulcerative colitis. It also helps to reduce the growth of Candida and other pathogens.
  • Ghee works excellently when used to build strength and increase energy after disease or illness. It helps to improve stamina and resistance.
  • It provides very strong anti inflammatory properties, because it reduces leukotriene secretion and also levels of prostaglandin, both of which are causative factors for increase in inflammation.
  • Ghee is beneficial in autoimmune conditions and disorders like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, allergies. It even helps with cardiovascular disease.
  • Ghee can replace sesame oil when ingested to aid oral health.

Note: Ghee should be consumed in moderation (one to two teaspoons at the maximum per day). It's better to consume 1/2 with each meal, or about a total of 1.5 teaspoons per day.

5. What Are Some Ayurvedic Home Remedies Made With Ghee?

It's a Remedy for
How to Use
Facial Spots/Marks
Rub ghee on the face at bedtime and keep it on to remove black spots and injury marks.
Cracked Lips
To heal cracked lips, mix a little salt in ghee and apply on the lips and navel.
To Improve Vision
Mix 1 tsp candy sugar (mishri), in 1 tsp cow's ghee and consume. Consuming ghee regularly is also beneficial.
Piles (Bleeding)
Mix 1 tsp ghee, 1 tsp til (sesame seeds) and 1 tsp candy sugar. Eat 3 times daily. It stops bleeding.
Headache
Massage the soles of the feet with ghee every night at bedtime for a few days.
Migraine
Put 1 drop of ghee in each nostril in the morning and evening and take it in. Smelling ghee in morning and evening helps. Also, if headache is due to heat, massage head with cold ghee and, if due to gas, massage head with hot ghee.
Stomatitis/Mouth Ulcers
Apply ghee on the ulcers at bedtime.
Improving Memory
Massage the head with cow's ghee.
Burning Sensation On Hands & Feet
Massage with Ghee
Hiccups
Drink a little hot ghee for relief.
To Increase Weight
Mix ghee and salt and apply. It keeps skin soft and prevents chapping in winter.
To Neutralize Poison
Apply mixture of ghee and rock salt. Massage. Then lie down and cover yourself with a blanket. The perspiration will relieve the urticaria.
Burns
Apply ghee on the burnt area for relief.
Chilblains
Mix ghee and salt and apply. It keeps skin soft and prevents chapping in winter.
Urticaria/Hives
Apply mixture of ghee and rock salt. Massage. Then lie down and cover yourself with a blanket. The perspiration will relieve the urticaria.
Cough/Sore Throat
Take 1 tsp ghee. 1 tsp mishri (candy sugar) and 15 black peppercorns. Mix and lick this mixture 2 times a day. But do not drink water for a few hours after this.
Chronic Cough
Heat ghee and gur (jaggery) tlll it melts. Then eat this when cool enough. Massage mixture of ghee and rock salt on the chest. It cures. Alcohol Intoxication To Remove Add 2 tsp sugar to 2 tsp ghee and drink.
Pain Around Bladder
Take 1 tsp ghee before breakfast in the morning to relieve pain.
Pain Around Bladder
If you are allergic to dust etc apply some ghee inside the nostrils before venturing out of the house or during seasonal changes.
Indian cows.
Indian cows. | Source

6. How Is Cow Ghee and Buffalo Ghee Different?

Cow's Ghee
Buffalo's Ghee
Calms Vayu (Air) and Pitta (Fire) Doshas (elements)
Increase Kapha (Phlegm)
The milk is thin, therefore it is absorbed by the fine brain tissue, making the intellect sharp
Thick milk just good for the body and dulls the brain.
Cleanses the body of toxins and prevents deposition of cholesterol and fat.
Raises cholesterol and fat.
Increases energy & vigor.
Induces lethargy.
Easily digestible.
Heavy and difficult to digest.
Recomended for sick people, elderly persons and women who have just delivered as it raises immunity, cures diseases like diabetes, asthma, respiratory & fertility issues, vision problems, tiredness, senility, etc.
Provides no such benefits.
Cointains Keratin which has anti cancer properties.
Does not contain keratin.
Destroys passion and base instincts.
Has no effect on our base instincts.
Develops Sattva guna (body purifying/good properties)
Raises Tamasic guna (dulling properties).
The cow is a cleaner, more intelligent and gentle animal and these properties are reflected in her milk/ghee
The buffalo is considered a dud/duffer animal
Cow's milk/ghee therfore is more expensive
Buffalo milk is cheaper.

7. How Is Ghee Made?

Butter is the essential source of ghee. However, ghee is not always made in the same way.

Pure ghee can be made in 2 ways:

  1. By heating milk and leaving it to cool, then removing the lid, collecting the cooled milk, and churning it to get butter.
  2. By making dahi/yogurt from raw milk, then churning this yogurt to get butter (and then ghee from the butter).

English Version

8. How Do You Clarify Butter?

The butter obtained from milk is melted. Melting causes its different components, like milk solids, water, and butter fat, to separate out by density. The water evaporates, the floating solids are skimmed off while the other solids sink to the bottom, then liquid butter fat is filtered out.

Hindi Version

9. How Do You Test the Purity of Ghee?

  1. Melt ghee and add some drops of nitric acid to it. If the color of the ghee changes it is adulterated.
  2. An Indian method is to rub a little ghee on an earthen pot. If, after some time, a white layer is visible at this spot, then the ghee is adulterated.

10. Is Desi Ghee Good for Everyone?

While ghee has many beneficial uses, it's not good for everyone to consume ghee at the same rate.

Desi ghee must be avoided by those who:

  • Have high cholesterol
  • Are overweight
  • Suffer from excessive Kapha
  • Have high amount of Ama(toxins) in the body
  • Have fever or suffer from the condition of high pitta and ama together.
  • Pregnant women who are suffering from a cold and indigestion

Note: If you feel heavy after eating ghee, drink a glass of fat free buttermilk.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or healthcare provider before taking any home remedies or supplements.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Rajan Singh Jolly

    Comments

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      • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        4 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Nitin, I would love to have some references or studies to corroborate the claims made by you. Please furnish. Thank you.

      • profile image

        Nitin 

        4 months ago

        Nice article!

        With my critique mind, I'd say Buffalo ghee is not that bad. I'm fact, buffalo ghee is enriched in many vitamins, higher calcium and other inorganic compounds, and most importantly lesser cholesterol than cow's ghee.

        Apparently, in Ayurveda cow's ghee is used extensively, but remember in every formulations the ghee used is in so small quantity that the final effect on our body is more of a synergy than the individual performance.

        With this background many people started believing than cow's ghee if used directly in daily food will give healthier effects on body, however this is not true.

        Buffalo ghee is much nutritious than cow's in all terms, and should be consumed with appropriate quantity.

        Your chart of comparison had lot of false information, which can be rectified with proper information.

        Thanks!

      • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Shaloo, you are correct. Desi ghee is not the demon that it has been made out to be. The culprits for today's health issues are refined foods, that includes oils to a very large extent, as we use oil for every meal.

        Thanks for concurring.

      • swalia profile image

        Shaloo Walia 

        3 years ago from India

        A very informative hub! People nowadays stay away from desi ghee thinking about the calory content but desi ghee is better than the refined oils we use in our cooking. Ayurveda recommends desi ghee. And even Shilpa Shetty said in a recent interview that she uses a spoon of desi ghee in her meals.

      • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Thanks Devika for the read and tweet

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 

        3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        A well-informed hub about Ghee. I Tweeted!

      • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Thanks Genna for stopping by.

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 

        3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

        Very helpful Hub. We use Ghee when making steamed lobster; there is nothing better. We don't make this often for lobster is so expensive, but it is such a treat with clarified butter. Thank you for the interesting info on nutrition.

      • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        @AudreyHowitt thank you for stopping by. Have a nice day.

        @ Thelma, thanks and I'm glad this hub helped you learn more about Desi Ghee. Good to see you.

        @Phyllis Doyle thanks for appreciating the hub & bookmarking it as well. I'm glad it reminded you of some sweet memories. I appreciate your comments from the bottom of my heart.

        @Flourish, thank you for visiting and I'm glad the information is appreciated.

        @Akriti, thank you my new reader.

      • Akriti Mattu profile image

        Akriti Mattu 

        3 years ago from Shimla, India

        I really like your post :-)

        Voted up :)

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        3 years ago from USA

        Although I have heard of ghee I never exactly knew what it was until now so thank you for the helpful information.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile image

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi Rajan Jolly. This is a really interesting and useful article. I bookmarked it and also added the link to my "important articles / home remedies" folder.

        I recall that my Father used clarified butter for many remedies and I had forgotten that - so, your hub is very useful and welcome. Thank you so much for all this great information.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        3 years ago from Germany and Philippines

        I have heard more often about this Desi Ghee. Thanks for the information Rajan. I really learned a lot from your hubs. Voted up and useful.

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 

        3 years ago from California

        Wow--so useful to know!! Thank you!!

      • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        @vocalcoach - Thank you Audrey for stopping by, for your generous comments and for sharing the hub. Much appreciated.

        @Karine Gordineer - You are welcome and thanks for stopping by.

        @ChitrangadaSharan - thanks for being so appreciative of the hub. True, for us Desi ghee is a daily affair.

        I hope those who need info on ghee will benefit from this consolidated information. I appreciate the vote and pinning.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        3 years ago from New Delhi, India

        Excellent information about Desi Ghee! You presented the whole thing with so much clarity that those who do not know about it, will be able to get the useful information in detail.

        For us Indians, it is a household item, but still people will benefit from your video, especially the younger generation.

        Thanks for sharing this wonderful information, voted up and pinned!

      • Karine Gordineer profile image

        Karine Gordineer 

        3 years ago from Upstate New York

        Very interesting Hub! I had no idea Ghee was that healthful. Thanks for sharing.

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        I love your hubs because I always learn a great deal about nutrition. Ghee is now a staple that I will add to my grocery list. What great health benefits. I voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and will share and pin. Thank you my friend for another out-standing hub on health and nutrition!

      • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        @billybuc - thanks Bill for always being here to appreciate the effort. You have a great Sunday as well.

        @Harsha - It could be desi ghee but I'm not certain if it is the desi cow's ghee that is being produced. Ghee anyway is an animal product since it is derived from milk. Thanks for reading.

        @heidithorne - I'm glad this hub could answer the questions that were in your mind. Appreciate your reading and commenting.

        @justthemessenger - I do not know the exact reason for ghee's extremely long shelf life but it has no milk solids in it that could go bad plus the fact that the short chain fatty acids do not get oxidized easily.

        Also, it has no moisture in it. Ghee has been cooked/milk solids have been toasted till they turn brown. All these factors plus the fact it contains natural antioxidants like carotene and vitamin E.

        And yes it needs to be kept in airtight container away from heat and light.

      • justthemessenger profile image

        James C Moore 

        3 years ago from The Great Midwest

        It's always good to learn something new. However, I'm curious. How is a milk based product able to stay fresh at room temperature for as long as 10 years?

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        3 years ago from Chicago Area

        I have heard of ghee, but didn't really understand what it was or how it's used. Thanks for the informative hub! Voted up, useful and interesting!

      • Harsha Vardhana R profile image

        Harsha Vardhana R 

        3 years ago from Bangalore

        Thank you, Rajan! Up!

        A very informative blog.

        Does any of our dairy ghee sold in by co-operatives like Amul or other companies qualify as Desi ghee? Some hardliners believe that it is a just an animal product produced an animal different from a pure cow!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        3 years ago from Olympia, WA

        You always provide interesting and valuable information in your articles...this one was no exception. Thank you, my friend, and have a great weekend.

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