There’s good reason to consider adding turmeric milk to your diet – not the least being its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Whilst turmeric is a key ingredient in almost every Indian dish, it has also been used in many cultures to treat a wide variety of conditions.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) belongs to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Like ginger, its healing properties come from the rhizome of the plant, which gives it its vibrant golden color and pungent taste.
In Ayurveda, turmeric is known as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergenic, digestive, diuretic, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic herb. It can be taken in the form of fresh juice, boiled tea, tinctures, powders, creams and ointments.
Turmeric milk (also known as golden milk or haldi doodh) has been used by mothers and grandmothers in India for centuries. It’s their go-to recipe for colds, congestion, headaches and sore throats. It even helps you get to sleep!
The key active compound in turmeric is curcumin, which is thought to be responsible for its powerful medicinal benefits. Curcumin helps the body build its natural defense mechanisms and heal naturally. It also stimulates the body’s detoxification systems, which reduce toxins and therefore illness.
Turmeric’s Health Benefits
Turmeric does so much for our health; it’s one of the most amazing and well-researched herbs around. Here are 10 reasons to consider adding some to your food or drinks every single day:
1. Turmeric bolsters the immune system. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant, and antioxidants help clean up free radicals that can damage cells and cause disease. Fewer free radicals means less oxidative stress. And that means a stronger immune system.
2. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is involved in many chronic conditions. These include cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, allergies, arthritis, diabetes and more.
Research also shows that curcumin may alleviate the symptoms of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis.
3. Turmeric may also help you to better manage metabolic syndrome. This is a cluster of risk factors that increase the risk of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and strokes.
4. Turmeric may help to prevent or reduce depression. Research suggests that chronic inflammation and depression may exacerbate one another; antioxidants like curcumin may help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression by fighting chronic inflammation.
5. Turmeric may help in the management of exercise-induced soreness and inflammation, thereby improving both performance and recovery time.
6. Studies have found that curcumin is especially effective as a neuroprotectant when combined with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.
7. Turmeric reduces the permeability of the gastrointestinal tract, and it may improve digestion.
8. Researchers have studied the anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties of curcumin. It may act against powerful pathogens like the influenza virus, the hepatitis C virus, HIV and strains of staphylococcus, streptococcus, and pseudomonas.
9. Curcumin has shown considerable effects against several different types of cancer. Research studies have shown it to inhibit tumor cell proliferation, invasion and spread of cancer. The difficulty, however, is that curcumin’s use in cancer treatment has been limited due to its poor oral bioavailability and chemical instability.
10. Low doses of turmeric can provide general wellness benefits for people who do not have diagnosed health conditions.
How to Get the Benefits of Turmeric
As mentioned previously, curcumin is a relatively unstable molecule. This means it is not easily absorbed by the body, which limits its potential medicinal benefits. There are three ways to improve absorption:
- Use fresh black pepper. It has been shown that piperine (a component of black pepper) can increase absorption by about 2000%. It’s important that this is freshly ground pepper, so the piperine doesn’t lose its effectiveness.
- Consume with healthy fats. Curcumin is fat-soluble, so drinking turmeric with fat (such as cow’s milk, coconut milk or even coconut oil) increases absorption and bioavailability. So does cooking with healthy fats, such as coconut oil, ghee or olive oil.
- Heat it. Heating enhances the overall antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, and you don’t need to heat it for long (under 15 minutes). So it’s easy to improve absorption by making turmeric milk or adding it to foods such as curries that incorporate fats like coconut oil or ghee.
How to Make Golden Milk
There are many recipes and different spices and ingredients that you can include in your turmeric milk.
Here’s the base of our favorite recipe:
- A cup of milk: We prefer a nut milk like almond, coconut or macadamia – but organic (or, at the very least, GMO-free) cow’s milk also works.
- ¼ – ½ teaspoon turmeric powder: We use Goodlife’s turmeric powder, which is certified organic and has no unwanted additives.
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder: We use organic Ceylon cinnamon, but regular (cassia) cinnamon will also work. Regular cinnamon has a stronger flavor, so you may want to use less.
- ¼ teaspoon ginger powder: You can use fresh ginger as well, replacing ¼ teaspoon of powder with a one-inch knob of ginger. If you use fresh ingredients, you’ll need to blend them with the milk, and you’ll want to strain it before drinking.
- A dash of freshly ground black pepper: Don’t leave this out if you’re wanting the benefits of the turmeric. If it’s too bitter or spicy for you, adjust the sweetener at the end. (Adding a dash of cayenne will also add a little kick to the recipe!)
- Sweetener: Add sweetener to taste. Use maple syrup, coconut sugar or another natural sweetener of your choice. If you use honey, be careful. According to Ayurveda, honey produces toxins when heated. So use only raw honey and wait for the milk to cool down before adding it. Don’t let it get cold, though, or the honey won’t dissolve.
You can add other ingredients, including these popular choices:
- A dash of cayenne (or more if you’re feeling adventurous!)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- A pinch of Himalayan salt
If you’re using fresh ingredients, put everything except the sweetener in a blender with the milk. You want your drink to be smooth, so you may need to strain it once it’s blended.
Add the blend to a saucepan and simmer at a low to medium heat for 5 minutes. Don’t boil. Strain again if required.
Add the sweetener and anything else that will make it perfect for you. Mix it thoroughly and pour into a mug.
Note: Turmeric stains, so clean your containers and utensils, as well as any spills, as quickly as possible.
Adding turmeric to your food or drinks is a great way to receive its many health benefits. One or two cups of golden milk a day is plenty; the key is to use it in moderation over time.
The FDA has classified turmeric as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). But like most medicinal herbs and spices, turmeric may have adverse effects in high doses or if you’re on certain medications (especially blood thinners). If you intend to use it to treat a specific condition, or if you plan to consume more than a teaspoon or two a day, it’s important to consult your health practitioner.