Ayurvedic wisdom held that one big glass of the frothy, rangy buttermilk would fortify and fuel you through a summer-day’s work. While today’s techno-dependent toilers are more likely to find their morning boost in cups of espresso, we have not forsaken buttermilk’s culinary and therapeutic attributes. Contrary to its name and characteristics, thick, rich buttermilk contains no butter at all. The word reflects buttermilk’s cottage-industry beginnings as the milky liquid reserved when heavy cream is churned into butter, hence the term “buttermilk.” In our country, preparation of buttermilk (takra is its Sanskrit name) and its medicinal values are known from the time of Atreya and Agnivesa, the Ayurvedic sages who learnt the art of healing from Lord Indra. Even the Rumanians and Bulgarians knew the art of making yoghurt and used it as a medicine for gastrointestinal disorders.
Buttermilk is prepared by churning curd and adding appropriate quantity of water. Fat in the form of butter is removed.
• Buttermilk is cool and light. It is strengthening; increases the appetite and digestive power. It drives away tiredness and thirst. You may add some ginger, cumin or other spices, or sweeteners, depending upon the season and your body type. If vaata is aggravated, you can add a little salt or sweeteners, and some cumin; if pitta needs reducing, you can use sugar or misri; if kapha, add ginger, black pepper and a little honey.
• During the process of fermentation, bacteria, yeast and other lactic acid organisms convert milk into curd and predigest milk protein. These bacteria then inhibit the growth of hostile or illness-causing bacteria inside the intestinal tract and promote beneficial bacteria needed for digestion. These friendly bacteria facilitate the absorption of minerals and aid in the synthesis of vitamins of B group and are very much essential for good health because they secrete enzymes similar to those secreted by the digestive organs. Administration of broad-spectrum antibiotics not only kills the pathogenic organisms but also wipes out these useful intestinal flora. In such cases, buttermilk can be taken liberally.
• In the disease like sprue, mixing powdered leaves of the fig tree and dry ginger in buttermilk and drinking it is very beneficial.
• It is observed that giving children a glass of buttermilk sweetened with sugar or honey an hour before the usual feed prevents diarrhea and vomiting.
• If equal quantities of powders of dry ginger, black pepper, and rock salt are mixed and taken along with buttermilk, it corrects indigestion.
• The pulp of wood apple, if mixed with the buttermilk, cures diarrhea, amoebic dysentery, and excessive hemorrhage. Alternately, drinking buttermilk that has been topped with powders of asafetida, cumin seeds and rock salt, controls diarrhea and abdominal pains.
• Drinking buttermilk mixed with raw sugar (misri or gur) alleviates urinary disease, especially uremia.
• In hepatitis, coma may be caused due to excessive liberation of ammonia. Using liberal quantities of thin buttermilk can prevent it. The lactic acid organisms in buttermilk counteract the formation of ammonia. In jaundice, buttermilk with soft-boiled rice is an ideal diet.
• Some patients complain of severe burning and intense itching in rectum after passing stools. This type of non-pathological pruritus-ani and burning can be successfully controlled within a few days by taking plenty of buttermilk and lemon juice with bland diet. It is found that normal pH value of the stool (5-6) is altered due to alkalinity of the stool and ammonia content. Taking the buttermilk recipe turns the stool acidic and alleviates the burning and itching.
• Giving buttermilk mixed with vayvidang powder to the children cures them from the worms in their stomach.
• Buttermilk acts as an antidote for copper poisoning. In addition, a glass of buttermilk, mixed with a pinch of pepper taken after cobra-bite acts as a remedy.
• Application of buttermilk compresses along with a pinch of turmeric powder controls eczema, psoriasis, scabies etc.
• Buttermilk with rice, jaggery and pepper is a very cooling diet in summer for burning sensation in the body.
• Cooking meat with buttermilk makes it soft and increases the digestibility.