Posted to subscribers on 9 April 2009
Much that we need to know and understand cannot be found in normal textbooks. So, this might be one of those emails you expect on a Sunday, but some years ago, a colleague sent me some photomicrographs and asked my opinion of what was wrong. The patient owned a vegetarian restaurant but her red blood cells were fuzzy on the edges and I mulled it over for a while and decided that the oil she was using just had to be rancid. She absolutely could not believe this but when she checked, she immediately corroborated the hunch. She was, of course, mortified, but three of us learned a great deal on that day.
When the surface of a cell is affected by something such as rancidity, many problems begin to develop. The lipids are there to protect the cell from penetration and when the lipid membrane is compromised, it is penetrable, meaning viruses and bacteria will go inside the cells, often using the cells as temporary homes while they proliferate.
I am taking the time to explain this because sometimes we read something that is a rough translation from an ancient Ayurvedic text that suggests that ghee enhances immunity or longevity and the question arises as to just how something made from butter can achieve this. Likewise, if we read in a somewhat more modern text that this or that is immune enhancing, the mechanism whereby that improvement is rendered possible is very seldom covered. Often as not, the statement is based on a study done in vitro, i.e., in a glass dish, not in vivo, meaning in a live being.
Well, that patient, may she rest in peace, was using olive oil, and by bringing up the matter that she is no longer among the alleged living, I am not suggesting that she died of rancid olive oil, merely that something as simple as a change in the quality of the oil used can sometimes be an enormous boon to health. I was particularly sensitive to this person's struggle for survival because we were born only a few days apart, and, I'm sure you all realize that the plight of one person can trigger an avalanche of vulnerabilities in the other.
Later, when I was in Nuremberg, my friend and colleague asked me if I could make time to have a look at the blood of her assistant, a lady from Sri Lanka who had been preparing wonderful lunches for us while I there. Her blood was magnificent so lots of questions arose. Unlike German tourists who had merely visited Sri Lanka and taken home some undeclared animal stowaways, this lady was born in Sri Lanka and had had a lifetime of exposure to mosquitoes and their payloads, but her blood was practically perfect. I was rather excited and asked a lot of questions, including what kind of oil she used. She said she did not like olive oil and used only ghee. She asked me if I would see her son as well. His blood was also wonderful to behold. Later, I had my third satori experience when looking at the blood of a Pakistani man working in the clinic in Switzerland. The common denominator was ghee so I immediately proposed to some of the patients that they switch to ghee so we could see what would happen.
The improvement was not gradual, it was visible overnight. This is not actually surprising because the fluids in the body are the first to be affected by dietary changes. Muscles and fat take a bit longer. Well, if you think about this, you know it is true because building up muscle mass or losing weight takes at least a few days. Regrowing hair, finger nails, skin, and bones takes longer yet but the same protocols that support this regeneration also affect the reproductive fluids and that magical, enigmatic, and impossible to translate ojas, the secret of longevity itself.
I have been interested in oils ever since realizing that oils are sensitive to heat, light, and air so what do we do: we extract them using processes that overheat the oils, then we add chemicals to hide the sins of the first fiasco. Next, we put them in glass bottles, often as not where the sun shines through a store window onto the bottles. I went to clinic, not to be mentioned by name, that had a "health foods store" for patients where the oils were sitting in direct sunlight in glass bottles — not to worry, however, because the patients were buying the ice cream, not the oils!
I lectured on this and relied heavily on the research of Johanna Budwig and Udo Erasmus and argued passionately that we could all experience at least a 30% improvement in health by changing the oil we use in cooking and salad dressings. Of the common cooking oils, sunflower and sesame are clearly better than olive oil — and I base this on experiments done with real live patients whose blood I could observe when I was in Europe. However, ghee was the best.
Ghee is made by heating unsalted butter until the milk solids separate from the oil. The resulting product is called clarified butter and it is golden and translucent when warm and more or less the color of butter when cool. It does not require refrigeration and if a little turmeric or some spices are added during the heating of the butter, the shelf life is amazingly long. I often use a mixture of fennel, dill, cumin, coriander, and ajwan seeds along with a little turmeric.
Ghee acts as a lipid enhancer when taken internally or used on the skin. It is often medicated, meaning it is blended with herbs that improve its efficacy and many Ayurvedic herbs are taken in ghee (or warm milk) rather than as teas. Ghee is often used with eye washes and in nasal rinses to increase the cleansing sometimes needed in these parts of our bodies. It is used in most Chyawanprash preparations, especially some of the ones from Kerala that are literally slithering in luscious ghee. Now, Vadik Herbs has introduced several medicated ghees: Brahmi for the mind, Shatawari for the female reproductive system, and Triphala for the large intestine. Later, they added Jatamansi and Tikta Ghee. These are all considered to be rasayanas, part of the Ayurvedic repertoire for long life, but they rely on a principle that is often ignored in Western medicine and that is viscosity which in turn relates to elasticity and the capacity to manage stress on tissues.
Let me take an example of this so the concept becomes clearer. Our nerves are sheathed in myelin but if this is impaired, the nerves themselves may be attacked, resulting in anything from severe infections affecting the nervous system to partial paralysis. The early stages may not be too symptomatic, but as the underlying condition goes uncorrected, the weakness is exacerbated and the person may become more nervous and irritable. He or she may have tiny accidents, like dropping things. Practically no one would see a doctor because he or she dropped a glass on the floor, but an alert student of Ayurveda would easily put one and one together and suggest doing something to enhance the resilience and thus the coping power of the nervous system and this would begin with viscosity and result in greater elasticity. It's totally logical and clear and it's also very simple.
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2009