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Go ghrita and dadhi: Cow ghee and curd


Ayurvedic per­spec­tive of ghee

Accord­ing to Ash­tan­ga Hru­dayam, one of the pri­ma­ry texts of Ayurve­da, cow ghee is con­sid­ered the best among all fats. In the Indi­an tra­di­tion, ghee is con­sid­ered to be high­ly puri­fy­ing and is used in yaj­nas and spir­i­tu­al rit­u­als. It is pre­pared by boil­ing milk, allowed to cool and then set to cur­dle. It is then churned to extract but­ter (and but­ter­milk). The but­ter is then heat­ed to obtain ghee. The method fol­lowed in the West dif­fers. The cream is col­lect­ed from milk and direct­ly heat­ed to make ghee. In the Indi­an method, since the process of fer­men­ta­tion is involved, it does not increase kapha much and there­fore chole­strol lev­els remain in bal­ance. On the oth­er hand, ghee pre­pared by direct­ly heat­ing cream is hard to digest [1].

Ghee bal­ances vata and pit­ta. It enhances the diges­tive pow­er and hence the trans­for­ma­tion of dhatu, enhanc­ing the qual­i­ty of the repro­duc­tive flu­id and Ojah at the end of the dhatu trans­for­ma­tion process. Ojah is the over­all vital­i­ty and cel­lu­lar immu­ni­ty which leads to longevi­ty. Ghee is detox­i­fy­ing in nature. It improves intel­li­gence and mem­o­ry. It is used for vata imbal­ance con­di­tions like anx­i­ety and exces­sive thoughts. It helps in remov­ing excess kapha and vata dosha and clears the sro­tas or chan­nels of cir­cu­la­tion in the body[2]. Ayurve­da talks of dif­fer­ent chan­nels such as anna vaha sro­tas, the chan­nel for food (gas­troin­testi­nal tract), prana vaha sro­tas, the res­pi­ra­to­ry chan­nel, rak­ta vaha sro­tas, chan­nel for blood, etc. The mind is also looked at as part of the phys­i­ol­o­gy of the body, and is called the mano vaha sro­tas, or the chan­nel of the mind. The mano vaha sro­tah includes the chakra sys­tem, which are dynam­ic cen­ters that process emo­tions and thoughts.

In fact, a men­tion of the effect of ghee and cow prod­ucts on the mind is found in the Anushasana par­va of the Mahab­hara­ta. Bheesh­ma recounts a dia­logue between King Saudasa of the Iksh­vaku dynasty and his kula guru, Vasish­ta who talks about how one can over­come bad dreams, neg­a­tive psy­cho­log­i­cal con­di­tions and fear by rever­ing cows, bathing using cow dung and eat­ing cow ghee [3].

As ther­a­py, ghee is used in the treat­ment of fever, dry­ness, eye dis­or­ders, for improv­ing vision and eye health, repro­duc­tive dis­or­ders, wounds and bleed­ing. Ghee has the unique prop­er­ty of being able to absorb the active con­stituents of a herb into it, with­out los­ing its own inher­ent qual­i­ty. This char­ac­ter­is­tic is called yogavahi. Ghee is admin­is­tered with dif­fer­ent herbs for a wide range of health con­di­tions [2].

Cow ghee — rich in DHA, an Omega‑3 fat­ty acid

Can this neu­rocog­ni­tive link be found in mod­ern med­ical research? Yes. Cow milk and ghee are nat­u­ral­ly rich in omega‑3 fat­ty acids, as we have seen. Docasa­hexa­noic acid or DHA is a type of omega‑3 fat that sup­ports brain and ner­vous sys­tem func­tion and eye health. In a study com­par­ing the fat­ty acid com­po­si­tion of ghee pre­pared using the tra­di­tion­al method and the direct cream method, it was found that DHA con­tent was sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er in ghee pre­pared using the tra­di­tion­al Ayurvedic method using curd starter fer­men­ta­tion [4].

DHA and brain func­tion

Recent research has shown that the human brain is near­ly 60% fat and fat­ty acids are the most impor­tant mol­e­cules that deter­mine the brain’s integri­ty and per­for­mance. DHA is the most abun­dant fat­ty acid in the brain, found in high con­cen­tra­tions in the mem­branes and vesi­cles of neu­ronal syn­pas­es (loca­tion where a neu­ron pass­es an elec­tri­cal or chem­i­cal sig­nal to anoth­er neu­ron). DHA plays an impor­tant role in basic process­es that influ­ence cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment such as synap­tic effi­ca­cy, rate of trans­mis­sion and myeli­na­tion. Myelin is a fat­ty sub­stance that sur­rounds the axons or “wires” of nerve cells. They insu­late them and increase the rate and effi­cien­cy of elec­tri­cal trans­mis­sion, allow­ing for more com­plex brain process­es. Myeli­na­tion is a process that is vital for a healthy cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem [5].

In a study involv­ing healthy indi­vid­u­als to inves­ti­gate the ther­a­peu­tic poten­tial of Vacha­di ghri­ta, a med­icat­ed ghee for­mu­la­tion pre­scribed for healthy main­te­nance of intel­lect and mem­o­ry, it was found that Vacha­di ghri­ta has sig­nif­i­cant effect on healthy individual’s learn­ing abil­i­ty, ver­bal work­ing and short – term mem­o­ry, assessed using a mul­ti­part cog­ni­tive test called the PGI mem­o­ry scale [6].

Stud­ies have asso­ci­at­ed high­er lev­els of omega‑3 and DHA to decreased inci­dence of Alzheimer’s dis­ease and pre­served brain vol­ume in regions vul­ner­a­ble to the Alzheimer’s [7]. DHA is impor­tant for brain and reti­nal tis­sue devel­op­ment in babies both dur­ing the fetal and post natal peri­od. Hence the mother’s diet dur­ing preg­nan­cy and lac­ta­tion should include ade­quate DHA con­tent [8].


Inflam­ma­tion, caused by dys­reg­u­la­tion of the immune sys­tem response, is thought to be at the root of all chron­ic dis­eases. Omega‑3 fats such as DHA have anti-inflam­ma­to­ry effects, which is the rea­son why the Mediter­ranean diet, which con­sists of foods such as fat­ty fish rich in Omega‑3, has become pop­u­lar with nutri­tion­ists and health-con­scious indi­vid­u­als. There­fore con­sum­ing a diet with ade­quate sup­ply of DHA may reduce the inci­dence of chron­ic dis­eases that involve inflam­ma­to­ry process­es such as heart dis­ease, can­cer, inflam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease and rheuma­toid arthri­tis [9].

Repro­duc­tive health

The sperm or male repro­duc­tive cell has a high pro­por­tion of poly unsat­u­rat­ed fat­ty acids which play a crit­i­cal role in fer­til­iza­tion. DHA is the pre­dom­i­nant poly unsat­u­rat­ed fat­ty acid in human sperm cell. It has been found that the sperm fat­ty acids are very sen­si­tive to dietary intake of Omega‑3 fats, and low DHA is the most com­mon cause of infer­til­i­ty prob­lems. One can cor­re­late this fact with the ther­a­peu­tic use of ghee in Ayurve­da for enhanc­ing the qual­i­ty of sperm[10].


Ben­e­fits of curd as per Ayurve­da

Curd, com­mon­ly known as dahi or thayir, is a fer­ment­ed prod­uct of cow’s milk and is com­mon­ly found in the dai­ly diet of Indi­ans. It is pre­pared by boil­ing and cool­ing the milk to about 30 — 40 °C and adding a spoon­ful of starter curd, which con­tains lac­tic acid bac­te­ria. This tem­per­a­ture range is favourable for the bac­te­ria to mul­ti­ply and fer­ment the milk in a few hours to form curd. Accord­ing to Ayurve­da, curd has sour taste (amla), bal­ances vata and increas­es kapha and pit­ta. The Chara­ka Samhi­ta says that curd increas­es meda or fat, improves diges­tion and increas­es strength and immu­ni­ty. It pos­sess­es the bow­el bind­ing prop­er­ty known as grahi, and hence it is used as a home rem­e­dy for treat­ing diar­rhoea. Curd con­sump­tion at night is not rec­om­mend­ed since there is a nat­ur­al pre­dom­i­nance of kapha in the body at the time and eat­ing curd will fur­ther increase kapha lead­ing to many com­pli­ca­tions. [11]

Churned curd (or curd blend­ed with water) is but­ter­milk and is one of the most wide­ly used dietary arti­cles for treat­ment in Ayurve­da. It is said that but­ter­milk is to humans what Amri­ta, the divine nec­tar, is to the devas. Ayurve­da uses but­ter­milk to main­tain health and to treat dis­eases. But­ter­milk has sour (amla) and astrin­gent (kashaya) tastes and bal­ances vata and kapha. But­ter­milk from cow’s milk stim­u­lates the diges­tive fire and imparts intel­lect. It is use­ful in the treat­ment of inflam­ma­tion, diges­tive dis­or­ders, gas­troin­testi­nal dis­or­ders, spleen dis­or­ders and anaemia. [12]

Pro­bi­ot­ic prop­er­ties of home-made curd

It is well-estab­lished that the human gut micro­bio­ta plays a cru­cial role in diges­tion and nutri­ent absorp­tion. In light of this, con­sump­tion of pro­bi­ot­ic food prepa­ra­tions such as curd and yogurt has become very pop­u­lar. In a study that eval­u­at­ed the pro­bi­ot­ic poten­tial of 15 strains of lac­tic acid bac­te­ria present in home-made curd in south India, it was found that most strains of the lac­tic acid bac­te­ria exhib­it­ed pro­bi­ot­ic prop­er­ties such as resis­tance to acid expo­sure (pH 3.0), pan­cre­atin and bile salts. They were also resis­tant to most antimi­cro­bials test­ed. Fur­ther, they were found to inhib­it the growth of Sal­mo­nel­la Typhimuri­um, a path­o­gen­ic bac­te­ria that caus­es inflam­ma­tion of the lin­ing of the intes­tine (gastroenteritis).[13]

Curd is a good source of pro­tein, cal­ci­um, phos­pho­rus, iodine, zinc, potas­si­um, vit­a­min B2, B5 and B12. Vit­a­min B12 plays an essen­tial role in the prop­er func­tion­ing of the brain and ner­vous sys­tem and in the pro­duc­tion of red blood cells (RBCs) and DNA, the genet­ic mate­r­i­al of the cell. Defi­cien­cy of this vit­a­min is quite com­mon. Vit­a­min B12 also helps pre­vent a type of ane­mia called mega­loblas­tic ane­mia, char­ac­ter­ized by mus­cle weak­ness and fatigue. [14]

Tox­in-bind­ing bac­te­ria in curds of native Indi­an breed

A team of Indi­an sci­en­tists from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Davan­agere, IIT Bom­bay and Mum­bai, and Cen­tral Food Tech­no­log­i­cal Research Insti­tute (CFTRI), Mysore, did a study to iso­late health pro­mot­ing pro­bi­ot­ic bac­te­ria in curd sam­ples pre­pared from the milk of Mal­nad Gid­da cows. The Mal­nad Gid­da is a small breed of cow native to the Male­nadu region of the West­ern Ghats in Kar­nata­ka and whose milk and urine are known for their med­i­c­i­nal val­ue. The lac­tic acid bac­te­ria in the curd were eval­u­at­ed for their afla­tox­in bind­ing and pro­bi­ot­ic prop­er­ties.

Afla­tox­ins are tox­ic sub­stances pro­duced by a cer­tain type of mould called Aspergillus that can con­t­a­m­i­nate food crops and pose a seri­ous threat to human and live­stock health. Most human expo­sure comes from con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed grains like wheat and nuts like peanuts, and their derived prod­ucts. The effects of con­sump­tion could vary from a mild stom­ach ache to can­cer, if ingest­ed over a long peri­od of time. They are potent car­cino­gens (can­cer-pro­mot­ing) and could affect all organ sys­tems, espe­cial­ly the liv­er and kid­neys, and cause liv­er can­cer. AFB1 is known to be car­cino­genic in humans. They also dam­age the DNA, cause muta­tions and birth defects in chil­dren. [15]

Thir­ty-four strains of Lac­to­bacil­lus sp. (a major part of the lac­tic acid bac­te­ria group) were iso­lat­ed from curd sam­ples. Upon char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, four strains, called Lac­to­bacil­lus fer­men­tum, were dif­fer­ent from the rest in terms of food intake and their DNA. The L. fer­men­tum strains were found to be effec­tive in remov­ing the Afla­tox­in B1 (AFB1) from the cul­ture medi­ums with an absorp­tion capac­i­ty of above 75%.[16]

In addi­tion to remov­ing afla­tox­in, the Lac­to­bacil­lus fer­men­tum also exhib­it­ed pro­bi­ot­ic prop­er­ties such as inhibit­ing the growth of harm­ful bac­te­ria such as Sal­mo­nel­la ebony, Staphy­lo­coc­cus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aerug­i­nosa, and abil­i­ty to tol­er­ate acidic pH, salt, and bile, which assures its sur­vival in the envi­ron­ment of the intes­tine. Hence, these bac­te­ria can be used in pro­bi­ot­ic for­mu­la­tions for humans either alone or with oth­er ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­r­i­al iso­lates. [16]


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  7. Yas­sine HN, Brask­ie MN, Mack WJ, Cas­tor KJ, Fonteh AN, Schnei­der LS, Har­ring­ton MG, Chui HC. Asso­ci­a­tion of Docosa­hexaenoic Acid Sup­ple­men­ta­tion With Alzheimer Dis­ease Stage in Apolipopro­tein E ε4 Car­ri­ers: A Review. JAMA Neu­rol. 2017 Mar;74(3):339–47.

  8. Bar­rera C, Valen­zuela R, Chamor­ro R, Bas­cuñán K, San­doval J, Sabag N, Valen­zuela F, Valen­cia M‑P, Puigrre­don C, Valen­zuela A. The Impact of Mater­nal Diet dur­ing Preg­nan­cy and Lac­ta­tion on the Fat­ty Acid Com­po­si­tion of Ery­thro­cytes and Breast Milk of Chilean Women. Nutri­ents. 2018 Jun;10(7).

  9. Wall R, Ross RP, Fitzger­ald GF, Stan­ton C. Fat­ty acids from fish: the anti-inflam­ma­to­ry poten­tial of long-chain omega‑3 fat­ty acids. Nutr Rev. 2010 May;68(5):280–9.

  10. Esmaeili V, Shahver­di AH, Moghadasian MH, Alizadeh AR. Dietary fat­ty acids affect semen qual­i­ty: a review. Androl­o­gy. 2015 May;3(3):450–61.

  11. Heb­bar J. Curds ben­e­fits, Side Effects As Per Ayurve­da [Inter­net]. [cit­ed 2020 Jul 28]. Avail­able from:

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  15. WHO | New food safe­ty series launched in Feb­ru­ary 2018 [Inter­net]. [cit­ed 2020 Jul 28]. Avail­able from:

  16. Kumara S, Bashisht A, Venkateswaran G, Hariprasad P, Devara­ja G. Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Nov­el Lac­to­bacil­lus fer­men­tum from Curd Sam­ples of Indige­nous Cows from Mal­nad Region, Kar­nata­ka, for their Afla­tox­in B1 Bind­ing and Pro­bi­ot­ic Prop­er­ties. Pro­bi­otics Antimi­crob Pro­teins. 2018 Oct 27;11.

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