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Milk and Milk Products - An Ayurvedic View

People the world over often ask questions about milk and milk products, especially in the light of recent research that suggests milk is beneficial only for children. Although it is difficult to decide anything, as there is a lot of debate still going on, it might be appropriate to share the Ayurvedic view on milk and milk products. According to Ayurveda, milk is considered an important part of the diet. The Astang Sangraha, an ancient text of Ayurveda, has a complete section, Ksheer Varga, which describes milk and milk products.

Qualities of milk:

  • Milk has a sweet taste (Rasa).
  • It increases the ojas, which is considered to be the essence of all the dhatus (tissues). So it also nourishes the seven dhatus.
  • Milk decreases vata and pitta, but increases kapha.
  • Milk is a good vrishya (aphrodisiac), which means it strengthens the shukra dhatu (reproductive tissue).
  • Milk increases the kapha, and is heavy to digest; so, one should not take cold milk, as it tends to be heavier. Milk should always be taken hot or warm and after boiling.
  • Milk is cooling in nature (shita virya), which means it has a cooling effect on the body.

Among the eight types of milk mentioned in Ayurveda, cow's milk is said to be the best. Cow's milk is rejuvenating (rasayana). It strengthens the various tissues, improves memory, and boosts immunity. It is easily digested and absorbed in the body. It is especially good for mothers who are breastfeeding their babies.

Qualities of yogurt:

  • Yogurt is sour in taste.
  • It has a binding quality (grahi). For this quality it is generally used as a supporting medicine in diarrhea and dysentery.
  • Yogurt is heavy to digest and heating in nature.
  • It decreases vatta, and increases kapha and pitta.
  • It also increases the blood and reproductive fluids (dhatus) in the body.
  • Yoghurt made from skimmed milk is good for intestinal disorders like sprue, indigestion, and flatulence.
  • It is good to take yogurt with honey, lentils (beans), and amla (emblica officinalis).

Contra-indications:

  • Do not eat warm yogurt.
  • Avoid eating too much yogurt in spring and winter.
  • Yogurt should never be eaten at night or for dinner.
  • Ayurveda also advises that one should not eat yogurt everyday, because that may cause blockage of circulatory channels (srotas).

Qualities of butter:

Ayurveda mentions that fresh homemade butter is the best form of butter. Fresh butter tastes sweet, and also a little sour and bitter.

  • It helps in disorders caused due to pitta, and vatta. It is also good for curing skin diseases and diseases caused due to impure blood.
  • It has a binding quality (grahi). For this reason, one should not eat too much butter as it causes blockage of the circulatory channels (srotas). 3. It is good for memory, improves immunity, and strengthens shukra dhatu (reproductive fluid).

Qualities of ghee or clarified butter:

Ghee is a clarified form of butter, which is obtained by heating the butter. Ghee is commonly used in many Indian recipes and is also used in various Ayurvedic medicines.

  • Fresh ghee is good for mind, intelligence, and memory.
  • It stimulates the digestive fire and thus improves digestion.
  • It nourishes the body tissues (dhatus) and also increases the vital fluid, or ojas.
  • It is useful in the diseases of vatta and pitta. It is also used in the treatment of chronic fevers.
  • It is useful in ear and eye disorders.
  • It is used to treat wounds.

The above descriptions of milk, yogurt, butter, and ghee refer to cow's milk and products made from it. It is true that in some countries we have no more those ancient breeds of cows; we have new breeds instead, which produce a lot of milk. Also the cows are fed with genetic foods and given hormone injections. For these reasons it is possible that the milk and milk products do not possess the qualities mentioned in Ayurveda. This, however, is the description found in Ayurveda. It is a topic of research to find out if cow's milk and its products possess the same properties.

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