Down To The Essence

Throughout India, ghee is a sacred symbol of auspiciousness and a household staple in medicine cabinets as well as kitchen pantries. Kept out of sunlight and free of moisture, ghee has a shelf life of 12 months without refrigeration, though some people prefer to refrigerate it. In Ayurveda, India's 5,ooo-year-old system of healing, ghee is as much medicine as it is food, says Rima Shah, a certified Ayurvedic practitioner at the Kanyaku-mari Ayurveda Education and Retreat Center in Milwaukee. "It is completely nourishing and healing," Shah explains. "It is considered the single most powerful food for increasing ojas, the vital life force that lives in all of us. Ojas is the essence of health and well-being."

According to Shah, ghee makes appearances throughout the ancient texts, which give glowing descriptions of its brilliance and light. In the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic that includes the Bhagavad

Gita, ghee is described as an essence flowing through and sustaining the world.

In Vedic texts, ghee is a kind of metaphor for the Divine, says ghee maker Peter Malakoff, an Ayurvedic practitioner in Bolinas, California. "As the Divine is hidden in creation and could be considered to be the essence of creation, so ghee is hidden in milk and is considered to be the essence of milk," he says.

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