Nourishing & Nurturing with Anala Ayurvedic Health’s Grass Fed Organic Ghee
We speak with Anala founder and recognised Ayurvedic Medicine thought leader Sonja Shah-Williams on making small batch ghee with the moon and the importance of happy cows.
Ghee has been an Indian staple for millennia, even featuring in Hindu mythology, where it is said to have origins in the divine, being made by the lord of all creatures, Prajapati, when he rubbed his hands together to create the very first ghee, which was then poured into flames to create his offspring. Hindus to this day pour ghee into sacred and ceremonial fires, an auspicious practice during births, funerals, and marriages.
Such is the importance of ghee, that Vedic cooking divides all foods into ‘kachakhana’ (food not cooked in ghee) and ‘puccakhana’ (food cooked in ghee). “Ghee, is in its essence a clarified butter product with a sublime taste and a heavenly toffee-scented aroma” explains Sonja. “Many claim it to be a ‘superfood’ as it is rich in essential fatty acids and Vitamins A, D, E and K, but all natural foods are packed with goodness and are therefore ‘superfoods’ really!” she smiles.
Having grown up in an Indian household where ghee is part of everyday cooking, Sonja’s interest in Ayurveda evolved over her formative years when her family spent every summer visiting relatives in India, where Ayurveda originated. Almost ten years ago after graduating with a BSc (Hons) in Natural Health (Ayurveda) that included an internship in India,she launched her now thriving Ayurvedic Medicine practice, and the Anala Ayurvedic lifestyle brand followed (Anala means digestive fire, and good digestion is the key to health. It’s also an acronym for Ayurvedic Nutrition And Lifestyle Adjustments).
“I was keen to offer the tradition of Ayurveda to a Western audience, and to allow easy access to what is an often complex system of natural health to grasp. Ayurveda is so vastly different from our modern-day understanding of holistic health that it can take time for its principles to sink in.” Growing up in Yorkshire, Sonja’s father was a GP and her mother, was, and still is a fabulous cook. “Health was very much an ongoing theme in our home, and my mother’s knowledge of the importance of spices and seasonal foods for our health and wellbeing was astounding.”
Food is medicine in Ayurveda, and this was imbued into Sonja’s psyche from a young age. She has slowly expanded the Anala brand to now include Pure Grass Fed Organic Ghee. “I recommend 3 to 4 teaspoons of ghee a day to all of my clients because of its many health benefits and immense healing properties. Ghee helps to reduce inflammation, enhances energy and boosts immunity, as well as being one of the most important foods for all of our cells. Ghee has to be pure, so it made sense for me to create my own, knowing it is the finest version people can eat."
Sonja spent months perfecting the recipe and finding the very best small breed cows to supply her with the purest butter to make her ghee with.”It is crucial to use unsalted butter from raw organic milk of grass fed, small breed, free roaming, happy cows - after all, happy cows transfer so much positive healing energy into every jar! This traditional process results in an organic, creamy, superior ghee that has many uses. I would say that when ghee is made in this authentic way, it retains the integrity and spirituality of Mother Nature.” explains Sonja.
“I hand make my ghee in a calm, quiet environment, only during the days between the waxing gibbous moon and full moon, when its luminosity is optimal. The moon is considered in Ayurveda to have a cooling, grounding, nurturing, mothering, and healing quality. It also has the same qualities as ghee and immunity, so the qualities of the ghee are enhanced when it is made during the few days between the waxing and full moon. This is when ghee was traditionally made.”
Sonja cannot stress highly enough the importance of healthy, natural fats, which she finds are often sadly lacking in modern diets. “As it is a pure fat with a high smoking point, ghee is fantastic for frying and sautéing, as well as for adding to porridge, spiced milk, dals, and soups. In Ayurveda, ghee is known to keep the joints supple and maintain brain health. Ghee also contains butyrate, a potent anti-inflammatory agent that protects the gut lining.
In Ayurveda, a compromised digestive system is considered to be the root cause of the majority of diseases, so it is particularly important to keep it in good health. Proper digestion crucially helps to create optimum ‘Ojas’ which is the essence of our immunity. It is our body’s innate ability to be resilient. Ojas needs to be nurtured through food, digestion, lifestyle and healthy relationships with ourselves and others. Ghee is Ojas-rich, and therefore it is a valuable addition to our diet.”
Here Sonja shares her favourite way to use ghee, in asilky Spiced Milk For A Good Night’s Sleep:
Ayurveda and stress
Ayurveda sees stress as an imbalance of one or more of the three Doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. However, Vata dominant people tend to be more susceptible to stress. Increased Vata stress shows as panic, fearfulness, loneliness, and erratic behaviour, both in the body and the mind. Vata is dry in quality; it is cold, light, hard and mobile, erratic and rough. So an increase in these qualities might cause stress that results in constipation, palpitations, lack of appetite, panic attacks, feeling cold, and rushing around like a headless chicken, in order to try to fit everything in.
A very common symptom of stress is insomnia, with the nervous system being on overdrive. Insomnia is classed as being unable to get to sleep, or being unable to stay asleep, or waking extremely early, before you have had a sound sleep. It affects everyone on occasions, but when we are particularly stressed, it becomes a nightly occurrence for many. To avoid stress, it’s important to keep a calm and realistic pace to your everyday life. Don’t say yes to everything, pick and choose the things your really want to do. Life is not about having a busy diary, it’s also about having time to reflect and recharge the nervous system as well as the rest of the body, and make decisions at a pace that is right for you.
According to Ayurveda, routine and rituals help us to feel less stressed, and ensure we get a good, restful sleep. Here is a simple ritual to instill a sense of calm to the nervous system:
Half an hour before bed, drink this gorgeous, grounding, calming milk drink. It contains fantastic spices that collectively offer digestive, anti inflammatory, sedative, antioxidant, grounding, and nourishing qualities. It also contains ghee, which is clarified butter. Ghee is so much part of Ayurveda, both as part of therapeutic measures for healing, and also as a culinary staple. There has been more than enough research on ghee’s benefits now, and it confirms what Ayurveda has always known. It truly is a healing, calming food that helps to relax the nervous system. Moreover, it pacifies all three Doshas, and helps to build immunity. Ghee lubricates all the joints and muscles, provides essential lipids to the cells, and also keeps the skin, eyes and hair in optimum condition. Eating a few teaspoons of ghee each day is the best way to benefit from its properties.
Milk seems to be frowned upon a lot nowadays, but it is seen as a pure, perfectly balanced, essential and healing food in Ayurveda. Remember, babies can live on only milk for a long time, because it’s such a complete food. Of course, when Ayurveda was first practised, cows lived as organic and natural a life as you could imagine; they ate pesticide-free grass, and they weren’t injected with hormones and antibiotics, or separated from their calves too soon in order to provide milk for large populations of humans. They are considered sacred in India, and are treated accordingly. I would strongly encourage you to only drink organic, unhomogenised (not tampered with to make it look more uniform on the shop shelves) whole milk, and to absolutely make sure that it is from grass fed cows living in small herds, on small farms.
Spiced bedtime milk
● 1 mugful organic whole milk (see above)
● A good pinch each of ground nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom
● A small pinch of turmeric
● A good pinch of slightly crushed black poppy seeds
● ¼ tsp organic ghee
Heat the milk in a small saucepan with all the spices until hot. Make sure you mix it from time to time with a small whisk to distribute all the spices.
Pour into your mug which has the ghee sitting on a spoon in it. The ghee will instantly rise to the top, creating a golden puddle of toffee scented, unctuous goodness. Give it a stir, and drink slowly, savouring every sip.
Alex created Otherness in 2018.
Coming from a background working in communications and events, she wants to build a community of trust, a place where everyone, now matter their backgrounds or how they identify, can explore alternative wellbeing.