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Ghee – Health Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects

Ghee is a clarified butter and is being used in Ayurvedic medicines since thousand years as a therapeutic agent.

Ghee is known to be the best and healthy option of edible fat as it is not only beneficial as compared to butter but it also enhances the positive effects of herbal ingredients added to it (Saxena & Mishra, 2018).

Ghee is an Indian name for clarified butter and is prepared from milk of cow, buffalo or mixed milk (Sserunjogi et al, 1998).

Cow milk derived ghee is the commonly used one.

Constituents of Ghee:

Cow ghee is rich in vitamins and antioxidant compounds (Mahakalkar et al, 2014).

  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids  as Beta carotene (600IU)
  • Phospholipids
  • Diglycerides and triglycerides
  • Butyric Acid
  • Linoleic Acid

Uses of Ghee:

Ghee is widely used for its beneficial effects on food and health;

  • Due to its ability to penetrate in to the tissues it is an excellent choice of base for preparing ayurverdic formulations (Mahakalkar et al, 2014).
  • It increases the efficacy of herbal ingredients added to it acting as an adjuvant and transporting the drug to its target organ/ tissues (Mahakalkar et al, 2014).
  • Cow ghee based medicines are easily absorbed and digested as cow ghee is 96% digested as compared to other animal or vegetable fats.  (Mahakalkar et al, 2014).

  • It is also used to mask the undesirable taste and effects of drugs (Mahakalkar et al, 2014).
  • Ghee is used in culinary for cooking, frying and dressing for various foods (Sserunjogi et al, 1998).
  • In India, it is also used in performing religious rites (Sserunjogi et al, 1998).
  • Cow ghee maintains the original aroma and potency of herbs and food as it doesn’t not deteriorates easily (Mahakalkar et al, 2014).
  • It can be used as a moisturizer.
  • Even after aging, cow ghee effectiveness increases though its taste gets bitter so it is mostly advised to use 5 to 10 years old ghee in formulations (Mahakalkar et al, 2014)

Health Benefits of Ghee:

Cow ghee based Ayurvedic formulations are widely used for ailments of digestive system, nervous system and psychological conditions.

  • Antioxidant

Ghee possesses antioxidant properties (Mahakalkar et al, 2014). Antioxidants are the compounds that inhibit oxidation which is a process where free radicals are generated that build up the oxidative stress and damage human cells.

Antioxidants act by neutralizing these harmful molecules (free radicals) which are produced in response to negative factors like smoking, environmental, emotional and physical stress, disease conditions, alcohol abuse etc. thus exhibiting the positive impact on health and has shown to reduce the risk of chronic conditions like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, degenerative diseases and aging.

  • Detoxification

Ghee is useful for human body as it detoxify toxins. Detoxification is the removal of toxins and harmful substances from human body.

It is basically cleaning of blood from impurities through liver, kidney, skin and other organs. Ghee being helpful in detoxification protects tissue from damage and promotes the removal of wastes and toxins from body (Mahakalkar et al, 2014).

  • Gastrointestinal Health

Cow ghee promotes gastrointestinal health by aiding in digestion and absorption of nutrients. It improves digestion maintaining the acid level and preventing the stomach lining without causing irritation (Mahakalkar et al, 2014).

  • Cardiovascular Health

Animal studies have shown the dose dependent decrease in total cholesterol, low density lipoproteins LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels.

Intake of ghee up to 10% in diet doesn’t lead to the risk of cardiovascular diseases (Kumar et al, 1999).

Indian men who had higher consumption of ghee were to have lower occurrence of cardiovascular diseases as compared to others.

High dose of ghee was also found to reduce the cholesterol, lipids and triglycerides level in patents with psoriasis (Sharma et al, 2010).

  • Anticancer

Due to its strong antioxidant properties, ghee is also found to be effective in preventing the cancer cell growth (Mahakalkar et al, 2014)

  • Neuroprotective

Due to its antioxidant property, it prevents the damage to nervous system and brain tissues by neutralizing the harmful molecules and retarding the development of neuro degenerative disease as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease (Mahakalkar et al, 2014)

  • Cognitive function

Cow ghee improves all three functions of brain, learning, memory and recall. Carotenoids found in cow ghee are significant in improving the cognitive function (understanding, perception) (Johnson, 2002)

  • Eye Health

Ghee is beneficial for eyes due to the presence of carotenoids in cow ghee. Beta Carotenes present has the property to convert into vitamin A in human body.

Thus ghee is essential for improving eye health (Johnson,2002)

  • Antiobesity

Presence of conjugated linoleic acid CLA in cow ghee has made it useful in reducing weight.

Study has shown that supplementation with CLA in obese individuals for 6 months not only reduces the body weight and body fat but also prevent it from increasing in holiday period (Watras et al, 2007).

  • Immuostimulant

Cow ghee nourishes tissues, provides strength and promotes immunity (Mahakalkar et al, 2014).

  • Healthy Skin  & Antiaging

Massaging of cow ghee releases beta endorphins which are beneficial for skin and regular use slows down the aging of skin (Mahakalkar et al, 2014)

  • Wound Healing

In India, it is widely used for wound healing. It can be applied to bruises, burns and skin rashes (Mahakalkar et al, 2014)

Side Effects of Ghee:

Ghee is generally found to possess no adverse effects on general population in moderate amount as revealed by the literature available.

Possible causes of coronary heart disease is due to the use of vegetable ghee referred as Vanaspati (Sharma et al 2010)

  • Honey and Ghee are two main ingredients in diet. Study has revealed that mixing of heated honey and ghee produces adverse effects due to the formation of chemical compound HMF (hydroxymethyl furfuraldehyde) which is found to be cancerous and genotoxic (Annapoorani et al, 2010)
  • Ghee may contain cholesterol oxidation compounds (COPS) which are harmful to human health. COPS are mostly produced in ghee by heating or cooking and are found to be mutagenic (causes alterations in genes) and atherosclerotic (cholesterol accumulation in arteries) (Zeb & Uddin, 2017)

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