Ghee, which is known as ‘ghrita’ in Ayurveda, is described as ‘the best’ among lipid media due to its quality of inheriting and enhancing the drug potency. It is given foremost importance for internal usage in diet or as an adjuvant medicine.
It is extensively used in Ayurvedic practice, especially in degenerative, chronic and deep-seated diseases.
Ghee is used as medicine by itself or as media for extraction, absorption and assimilation of any medicine. It is used as medicine when qualities of lipids and fats are required for treatment. It is used as solvent or base for extraction of herbo-mineral active principles. It is used as media for absorption of lipid soluble vitamins or other active principles in the food or medicine. It is also used as a carrier media in certain medicines to facilitate the transport of active principles across the cell membrane, which is permeable only to lipid molecules, e.g., the blood-brain barrier where transport of ‘medhya’ (which promote intellect and memory) medicines is possible if the drug is processed in lipid media.
Ghee is used in different doses for different purposes at different timings in Ayurvedic treatment. It is given in larger doses on empty stomach without food for the purpose of cleansing the body by panchakarma procedures. Whereas, if it is to increase the bulk of the body, then it is given in small quantities mixed with food.
Similarly, if it is used as medicine to alleviate some disease process, then it is given in moderate doses on empty stomach.
The relevance of such usage of ghee in this era of ‘Cholesterol Threat’ can be explained as follows:
Even though ghee is an animal fat, studies have shown that the larger doses given for cleansing purpose do not increase the level of ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL. Instead, this increased the ‘good’ cholesterol HDL or sometimes did not alter the lipid profile at all.
Alleviating doses of medicated ghee is helpful in absorption and transport of lipid soluble active principles across cell membranes, which are permeable only to lipid media. Also, ghee has the ability to increase the levels of fat soluble vitamins, especially Vitamin E in the blood which is an important antioxidant in preventing oxidation of LDL in the sub-endothelial space of arteries and thus, preventing atherosclerosis and the consequent heart attack or stroke.
Bulk promoting doses of ghee are used where there is indication for that, especially in a lean and emaciated person. In such cases, there will be deficiency of fats and fat-soluble principles. Moreover, even though LDL is depicted as ‘bad’ cholesterol, it is required in its non-oxidized form to build and repair the cell wall and hence, for all structural units in the body. So, administration of ghee in such persons will fulfill the deficient principles to build, maintain and repair those structural units.
Many enzymes and hormones are also released and activated by lipids in GI tract and blood. Ghee stimulates biliary secretion and contraction of gall bladder. It nourishes GI mucosa, lubricates it, enhances the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and strengthens the colonic flora of useful microbes.
Thus, usage of Ghee in suitable conditions with suitable doses of suitable preparations will render thousands of benefits due to nullification of toxins and toxic effects of drugs; increased absorption, transportation and bio-availability of the drugs used and also by acting as a media to dissolve and enhance the efficacy of the active principles in the drugs used. Hence, usage of ghee explained in Ayurveda is very appropriate, if it is used judiciously by considering the indications and contra-indications properly.