One of the most ancient systems of medicine- Ayurveda, developed thousands of years ago. But it still continues to stun the scientific faculties all over the world by its highly evolved concepts of health and medicine.
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. The drug dosages are in the form of decoctions, powders, pills, oils, clarified butter or ghrita etc. Amongst these, Ghrita or Ghee which is clarified butter is a 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 several disorders which affect nervous system.
Use of Ghee in Ayurveda:
As we take a review of the treatment of Manas Vikara in Ayurveda, we notice that most of the important Medhya aushadhi (Psychotropic and nootropic herbs) have been used in the form of ghrita or ghee .The best examples being Unmada (mania), Apasmara (epilepsy) and certain syndromes involving CNS in children like Balagraha (diseases of acute nature affecting CNS with possible involvement of supernatural influences) 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 that is 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 (unconsciousness) and mada (intoxication). Again it is worth noticing that almost all of these are the qualities and diseases are pertaining to nervous system.
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 vegetable fat. The fat breakdown of ghee is 65% saturated and 32% monounsaturated (the other 3% is polunsaturated, linoleic and alpha linoleic fat). It also contains Vitamin A and Vitamin E which are known anti-oxidants.
Use of Ghee in Ayurveda: The Rationale
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 extra cellular 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. For this reason Ghee has been used widely in the preparation of various rejuvenation medicines called Rasayana.
Ghee is therefore one of the most effective drug dosage forms used in Ayurvedic medicine for treating CNS disorders.