Dietary cleanses have become a popular health trend, with people trying out everything from juice cleanses to liver cleanses to various forms of restricted eating. However, if you are looking for a safe, gentle, and effective cleanse that is time-tested, Ayurveda offers a traditional, trusted template. An Ayurvedic cleanse with ghee (or better yet, Ghruta) is a profound way to allow the body to focus on cleansing and repairing, thus bringing about a sense of overall rejuvenation. An Ayurvedic cleanse is typically done in the autumn or spring. It is important that you have a certain level of physical and emotional strength before commencing a cleanse. Though Ayurvedic cleanses are fairly gentle, it is not appropriate for individuals who are pregnant, recovering from serious illness, acutely ill, or otherwise weakened. For those individuals, it is best to focus on building strength and ojas through rasayana before starting a cleanse. An example of a rasayana is Chyawanrprash.
At Home or in the Clinic
An Ayurvedic cleanse with ghee can be done on its own or in preparation for undergoing a process of deep cleansing known as Pancha Karma. Pancha Karma is a thorough and transformative process and should only be done under the supervision of a trusted Ayurvedic practitioner. However, simple Ayurvedic cleanses can be done at home. An Ayurvedic cleanse basically consists of eating a mono-diet of kitchari for anywhere from 3 to 21 days. Kitchari is a simple porridge made of basmati rice, mung dal, spices, and sometimes vegetables and ghee. Other foods may be included, particularly for those with a strong appetite and low body fat. These foods may include sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, clear broth, and oatmeal.
Recipe for SuccessAt first glance, this may seem like a simple protocol. All you have to do is eat kitchari and vegetables for three meals a day. You might feel like this is a food plan that could be sustained for a long period of time. However, the effects of an Ayurvedic cleanse can be stronger than one might think. Ayurvedic cleanses work to dislodge and ultimately expel excess doshas and ama. The process can be challenging both physically and mentally. However, the benefits of a well-planned Ayurvedic cleanse may include:
- Balanced and regular elimination
- A feeling of lightness in the body
- A calm and alert nervous system
- Balanced sleep cycles
- Balanced agni (digestive fire)
- The opportunity to go inward and focus on self-care
If you are new to cleansing, it's best to start small. You can try it out for 1-3 days. Just be sure to transition out of your cleanse gradually. This means slowly reintroducing whole foods other than kitchari, such as roasted vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits, and whole grains beyond rice.
Adding Ghee for Deeper Cleansing
Adding ghee can amplify the cleansing process. Ghee and other oils help to liquify ama deep in the bodily tissues. This loosened ama is then directed to the digestive tract for elimination. This is why it is important to maintain regular bowel movements during any cleansing process. Constipation removes the opportunity for wastes to be eliminated effectively. For those undergoing Pancha Karma in an Ayurvedic clinic, a ghee cleanse may be part of the deep cleansing process. In an Ayurvedic cleanse with ghee, the client starts by taking one teaspoon of melted ghee first thing in the morning. One teaspoon is added per day, but the process should not last longer than a 4-7 days. In fact, some Ayurvedic practitioners recommend doing a ghee cleanse for no more than 4 days. To give a sense of what this would look like, on day 4 of the cleanse, the client would take 4 teaspoons of melted ghee first thing in the morning. The day would be followed by a strict kitchari monodiet or eating only a thin rice gruel. Other Ayurvedic therapies, such as oil massage, may also be included into the program. The client is also given ample time to rest; electronics and stimulants are typically removed from the environment. If you are doing an at-home cleanse, stick to 1-2 teaspoons of ghee first thing in the morning followed by warm water for each day of your cleanse. Be sure to use high quality ghee, like Ghruta to ensure a pure, safe, and effective experience. Deeper cleansing with ghee should only be done under careful supervision.
For additional detoxification benefits, herbs may be added to ghee. Herbs and herbal blends such as triphala, trikatu, and bitter herbs like neem or kutki may be used. In general, triphala ghee would be selected for Vata dosha. Trikatu or chitrak would be chosen for Kapha dosha. A bitter ghee, called tikta ghrita is often the herbal ghee of choice for Pitta dosha. Tikta ghrita may contain herbs such as neem, gaduchi, and kutki. A practitioner can determine the specific types of herbs best for you based on your prakruti and vikruti. However, herbal ghees such as triphala ghee can be taken in small amounts (1-2 teaspoons per day) on a regular basis for maintaining healthy digestion and elimination.
Is a Ghee Cleanse for Me?
Nearly everyone can benefit from a gentle at-home Ayurveda cleanse that incorporates ghee into kitchari and meals, and includes 1-2 teaspoons at the start of each day. However, for deeper cleansing, it's best to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner. Remember, Ayurveda is not one-size-fits-all, so know thyself, understand the nature of the therapies, and seek support when you are unsure.
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA) and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT), as well as a writer and editor. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.