One of the most ancient systems of medicine- Ayurveda, developed thousands of years ago. But it continues to stun the scientific faculties all over the world by its highly evolved concepts.
Depending on the nature of the diseased and that of the disease, variety of drug dosage forms, modes of administrations, diet and lifestyle modifications are available in Ayurveda. Ghrita or Ghee is one such dosage form which has been used widely in Ayurveda. This dosage form is particularly used in the treatment of Psychological disorders (Manas Vikara) and also in disorders which affect nervous system in particular.

Use of Ghee- Clarified Butter in Ayurveda:
As we take a review of the chikitsa of Manas Vikara in Ayurveda, we notice that most of the important Medhya aushadhi (Psychotropic Drugs) have been used in the form of ghrita or ghee .The best examples being Unmada, Apasmara and certain syndromes involving CNS like balagraha like Skanda ,Skandapasmara etc. The main clinical features of these diseases being altered sensorium, behavioral changes, seizure manifestations and partial or total loss of higher functions of brain. The extensive use of ghee in such conditions in Ayurveda compels us to think why this dosage form in particular was selected.

Qualities of Cow’s Ghee:
Ayurveda has indicated the use of cow’s ghee i.e go-ghrita, whenever the reference of ghee arises in the treatment. A brief glance at the qualities of go-ghrita shows that it has been described as Buddhivardhaka-augmenting intelligence, Smritivardhaka-enhancing memory, Deepana-improves appetite and is useful in the treatment of unmada, apasmara, murccha and mada. Again its worth noticing that all these are the diseases affecting the nervous system in particular.

Chemical composition of Ghee (Cow’s Ghee):
Ghrita is abundant in saturated fatty acids. It contains approximately 8% saturated fatty acids which make it easily digestible. The digestibility co-efficient or the rate of adsorption is 96% which is better than any other animal or vegitable fat. It contains triglycerides, diglycerides, monoglycerides, phospholipids, contains beta carotene 600 IU and Vitamin E which are known anti oxidants.

The Rationale Behind the Use of Ghee in Ayurveda:

The distribution of drug in blood is chiefly influenced by its lipid solubility, ionization, differences in the regional blood flow etc. A water soluble drug is usually distributed in the extracellular spaces and it may not readily diffuse in to CSF and other body cavities, while the lipid soluble drugs are rapidly distributed throughout the intra and extra cellular spaces.
The drugs that are rapidly absorbed from the gut because of their lipid solubility are known to readily diffuse into the CSF and the brain. That is drugs given in the form of a Ghee which is a fat are rapidly absorbed and distributed in the target areas of the body like the nervous system in this case.
The main reason behind this is the molecular structure of the blood brain barrier. This membrane separating the CNS tissue and the circulating blood is lipophilic in nature. Thus it selectively allows the passage of lipids and lipid soluble drugs across it. Therefore any drug given in the form of ghee will not only be digested and absorbed fast, but will also be able to reach some of the most distant and difficult to reach areas of body like the CNS.
This explains the better efficacy of various Psychotropic drugs given in the form of ghee in CNS diseases. And also tallies with the qualities of ghee which were discussed earlier like Buddhi and Smritivardhaka. Also its antioxidant properties prevent the oxidative damage of brain and other tissues of the nervous system, thus providing protection from various degenerative diseases
Ghee is therefore one of the most effective drug dosage forms used in Ayurvedic medicine.

Author's Bio: 

Dr.Chetali Samant is an Ayurveda Consultant specializing in Kaumarbhritya, a branch of Ayurveda dealing with mother and child care. Upon earning her B.A.M.S. degree from Goa University in 2003, she pursued a post graduation course of three years to earn her M.D. in Ayurveda degree with a specialization in Kaumarbhritya from the reputed Gujarat Ayurveda University in Jamnagar, India in 2006. She was nominated for two gold medal awards for her academic achievements during her post graduation studies.

Chetali has also completed training in Yoga and Naturopathy from Patanjali Institute for Yoga and Naturopathy Education and Research, Jamnagar, India from 2005-2006. She has served as a Lecturer of Kaumarbhritya at Karnataka Ayurveda Medical College, Mangalore, India. She has also worked as a consultant of Kaumarbhritya at S.C.S. Hospital, in Mangalore. Chetali worked in private practice as an Ayurveda Consultant in Goa for one year.

In addition, Chetali has provided coaching for national level entrance examinations for postgraduate studies in Ayurveda, during which she has developed guidelines and course materials for these exams through extensive study of Ayurvedic Samhitas and related Granthas (Ayurvedic treatises).

Chetali Samant and her husband, Raghavendra Samant, live in Eden Prarie, Minnesota. She looks forward to making her contributions to the field of Ayurveda in U.S.A.