Holy Cow, Love is Made in the Gut

This is the secret name of Ghee: Tongue of the gods, navel of immortality - Rig Veda

Lifetimes of good karma that I had accumulated culminated in an opportunity to welcomed Amma, the Hugging Saint, to my parents home in Switzerland. As Amma walked in the door we welcomed her by performing the ritual of pada puja, which requires worshiping the sacred feet of the guru by washing them with milk, yogurt and ghee. "

Holy Cow

So what is it about dairy products, especially Ghee, that makes them the most revered and celebrated symbols of health, vigor, nourishment, joy and  bliss, as well as the most essential part of all sacred ceremonies in the Hindu culture for thousands of years?

Since ancient times cows are worshipped and referred to as the "mother. Dairy products are part of the culinary arts, folklore, myths, hymns and the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism. Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, is associated with cows, as is Goddess Gauri, the radiant one, who is named aftergau, the Indian word for cow. I have vivid memories of my childhood etched with calendars and pictures in our family home in India of baby Krishna, and his obsession with ghee and butter and the adult Krishna surrounded by beautifully decorated cows.

According to the ancient Vedic texts Ghee is the most essential of all foods, as the creator himself resides in its essence. Consuming ghee and inhaling the smoke from the ghee lamp used during sacred ceremonies has countless benefits of purifying the body and mind and removing environmental and vibrational pollution. 

Indeed, it is impossible to separate practice of Yoga and Ayurveda from Ghee. Were the Vedic seers on to something, or is this an outdated concept no longer relevant to our lives?


Ghee Goes Out of Style

For the last 3-4 decades ghee and butter, labeled as bad saturated fat, fell victim to the propaganda of giant food conglomerates and bad science to back up their claims. Even in India, I remember my early childhood in the 1960's when the fresh homemade ghee in my mother's kitchen was mostly replaced with refined vegetable oils. To make matters worse at the same time hydrogenated fat, which looks like ghee was introduced into the unsuspecting Indian kitchens under the brand Dalda, as a cheap ghee substitute (luckily my parents never let us eat this).

Ghee slowly went out of style even in India and until today its consumption is often associated with Desi  or local, uncouth, unsophisticated. (Sadly, in my childhood Ghee was not the only victim, there were many, many others - for example, our neem bark twigs were replaced with minty toxic Colgate toothpaste, and mustard seed oil used to make sure lice did not take root in the hair after our summer travels in the Indian trains, was replaced by DDT (yes, DDT indeed !!!).

The journey we are on today is not of going backwards or reminiscing the "good old days" but moving forward through self knowledge and insisting that we validate the latest hype in health products and lifestyle choices with substantiated scientific backing, as well as ancient time tested principles. We also must make sure that if we adapt items from another culture we do it with deep understanding and not just the over simplified versions.

There are no "recalls" in the Vedic Knowledge.  When in doubt I usually just fall back on this ancient knowledge for guidance.

 Ayurveda Ghee and Ojas

Ghee is the crown jewel of Ayurvedic medicine. It is used not just for cooking but also as a delivery agent for the herbal remedies, as well as for Ayurvedic massage to accelerate lymph drainage and detoxification. (It can be used even by those with dairy allergies as most of the milk solids have been removed). It is believed to increase Ojas, the substance in the body that Ayurveda defines as giving high immunity, longevity, vigor, digestion and radiant health.

On the level of the mind, Ayurveda links high Ojas, to Sadhak pitta, or healthy emotional digestion, because it increases empathy and compassion and enhances our ability to give and receive love. On the spiritual level Ojas produces bliss, inner peace and capacity for deep meditation connecting us to our divine consciousness.

Ojas is the bi-product of Soma, the nourishment we consume in our daily life. In other words, it is the bi-product of healthy living; be it healthy food, air and water, wholesome and loving relationships and experiences or yoga and spiritual practices. 

 Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin

While, there is no equivalent to Ojas in western medicine it has been linked to the happiness hormones and neurotransmitters such as Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins and Oxytocin. Dopamine motivates us to take action towards our goals and desires and rewards us with joy when we achieve them. Serotonin surges when we feel validated and appreciated. Oxytocin, also called the "love" hormone, because it helps to create intimacy, trust, bonds and builds healthy relationships. Finally, Endorphins are opioid like neuropeptides, which create bliss and ease in the body. 

 Moon and Venus in Vedic Astrology

The genetic predisposition to producing healthy Ojas, is seen primarily by the Moon and Venus in Vedic Astrology. Both these planets represents the feminine principles of nature - receptivity, nurturing, acceptance and surrender. Moon is often referred to as Soma, or the cooling, nourishing universal energy. Venus as Shukra (same root as sucrose or sugar) the energy of sweetness, balance and joy in our life.

The moon is associated with the family and mother because they are the primary source of Soma in our youth.  Venus is associated with prosperity, harmony and relationships, as these are sources of nourishment in our adult life. An afflicted Moon or Venus in the horoscope, simply shows that the feminine principle of Soma and Shukra, have been absent in early childhood so strong ojas have not been built. Milk, butter and Ghee have been used in India for thousands of years as remedies to improve the Lunar and Venusian karma in the horoscope.

 Scientific Benefits of Ghee

Modern scientific research has finally caught up to the findings of the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda. Ghee has been shown to have very high anti-inflammatory properties, as well as promoting healthy bile production by supporting the liver. It is loaded with Omega 3  for brain health as well as Vitamin E and many antioxidants. It is also good for bone health as fat soluble Vitamin D and K are abundant in grass fed ghee. These work in tandem with calcium and magnesium to build strong bones.
Furthermore, it has been shown to be an excellent aid in mineral absorption, which explains why most Ayurvedic herbs were generally prescribed along with ghee for better absorption.

 Ghee as a pro-biotic

Most exciting is the latest scientific findings on ghee's pro-biotic effect and how it promotes healthy digestion. Did you know that butter gets its name from Butyrate Acid, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) that the cells in our digestive tract use as a source of energy to maintain intestinal health?  While butter is a very good food the process of making ghee gives the highest source of concentrated Butyric Acid.
In fact, healthy microbes like Clostridium Butyricum in the digestive tract make their own Butyrate Acid keeping the gut flora healthy. Butyric acid  also boosts immunity and killer T-cell response so the body can create a high level of defense from invasive pathogens and viruses.

 Saturated fat is good for the heart

Can you believe that after demonizing saturated fat for four decades research is now showing that Ghee can actually fight heart disease?  Grass-fed ghee contains a natural trans fat called CLA. a fatty acid known to be protective against carcinogens, building arterial plaque, lowering cholestrol and diabetes. There are numerous studies pointing to lower incidence of heart disease in populations that still eat ghee on a regular basis,

Along with improving the gut health ghee has also been shown to help with weight loss (yes fat can help you lose weight), stabilizing mood, lubricating the cells and joints, and  removing environmental toxins such as pesticides out of the body.

The only culture in the world that created a vegetarian civilization considered dairy fat critical to their wellbeing and thus decided to worship their cows. 

 Love is made in the Gut

Science has only recently uncovered what Ayurveda has known for thousands of years - the gut brain connection and that 90 percent of our happy neurotransmitters like Serotonin are made by the gut and the gut microbes., The remaining 10% is synthesized in the central nervous system. It is no wonder that in Sanskrit  the word Sneha for love and oily is the same.  Snehana or Ayurvedic oleation therapy, uses ghee to lubricate the inside of the intestines and outside of the body, as a means to detox and increase ojas, love and bliss.

 Some Words of Caution

According to Ayurveda Ghee is the most somagenic (cooling/nurturing) of all foods on earth. However if the digestive fire or Agni is very weak even ghee can become difficult to digest, so should be used with caution and based on the constitution and condition.

We need to be careful as Ayurveda gains unprecedented recognition globally, and its treatments are being supported by scientific research, its revival and renaissance is at risk of falling into the mechanistic modern medical model of "one size fits all", as well as not following the detailed prescriptions laid out in the ancient Ayurvedic texts.