Golden Milk: This Turmeric Beverage Packs A Serious Ayurvedic Punch

Written by Elsbeth Riley
Elsbeth Riley is a writer and editor living in Oakland, California. She is an ACE-certified personal trainer, and holds a B.A. in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Image by Nataša Mandić / Stocksy

Step into nearly any trendy coffee shop, and you're almost guaranteed to see it listed right there near the vegan matcha latte: golden milk (aka turmeric latte or turmeric tea). But what exactly is this colorful drink that's been taking urban cafes by storm these past few years? And is it really worth it?

Here, we dive into what actually lies within golden milk, why adding it to your daily diet could have lasting positive effects, and how to make your own at home on the cheap.

What is golden milk?

In its most basic iteration, golden milk is a hot or cold beverage that's made by combining either turmeric powder or fresh turmeric root with the milk of your choosing (cow, almond, coconut, cashew, etc.). Often, several more flavor-boosting ingredients are added to the recipe such as black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, and honey. Black pepper, specifically, is said to boost the body's ability to absorb curcumin, the main bioactive compound within turmeric.

While new-ish to many of us, the origins of golden milk can be traced back to ancient India, where it was (and still is) used in ayurvedic medicine to help with insomnia, coughs, and colds.

7 health benefits of golden milk.

While golden milk itself hasn't been the subject of scientific studies, turmeric root has been found to possess potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties—and it's at the root of many of golden milk's proposed health benefits.

In fact, turmeric and its main bioactive compound, curcumin, have been studied extensively for their ability to help combat a number of health conditions, from Alzheimer's to arthritis to depression, all of which have been linked to chronic inflammation.

"Because fat also enhances absorption of curcumin, enjoying these spices in golden milk can help you enjoy the benefits even more," Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, registered dietitian and health coach, told mbg.

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1. It may ease achy joints.

Inflammation is a major contributing factor in the joint pain associated with arthritis. Multiple studies have found that curcumin, found in the turmeric used in golden milk, can ease the specific pain that osteoarthritis patients experience. In fact, curcumin has such impressive anti-inflammatory properties that in some cases it has been found to be more effective than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. Because of this, "it may also be helpful for athletes looking to soothe soreness," said Cording.

2. It may improve digestion and gut health.

Sipping on a mug of warm golden milk just sounds soothing—and it probably is. Research reveals that curcumin possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties that make it beneficial for overall digestive and gut health, and even for preventing colorectal cancer.

In one study, a daily dose of curcumin over 30 days reduced the number of lesions in the colon by 40 percent. That's important because these types of lesions have the ability to turn cancerous. Curcumin has also been used to treat inflammatory bowel conditions like colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

Additionally, the ginger in many golden milk recipes can further boost digestive health, as it has been shown to speed up gastric emptying time, which can reduce bloating and nausea.

3. It may help keep your memory sharp.

Many degenerative brain disorders are caused by a decrease in a key hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps the brain form new neural connections. Turns out, curcumin has been proved to increase levels of this important hormone. Additionally, "because curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier, research has suggested the brain can benefit from its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant benefits and stave off conditions like Alzheimer's," said Cording.

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4. It may boost your mood.

The turmeric in golden milk may even help ease symptoms of depression. "Curcumin's impact on BDNF has also been shown to have a potential use in depression treatment by reversing detrimental brain changes that occur in depression," says Cording. "It's also been studied for its potential to boost levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine."

In fact, in one study, patients with major depressive disorder were treated with either curcumin or a placebo, and after just four weeks, the curcumin was found to be significantly more effective at improving several mood-related symptoms. Plus, an undeniable link has been found between depression and inflammation, so it's no huge surprise that drinking golden milk can offer a meaningful mood boost.

5. It may improve heart health.

Heart disease continues to be the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Happily, research suggests your mug of golden milk may complement an overall heart-healthy diet and exercise regimen. "Curcumin and turmeric have been shown to protect your heart in numerous ways like improving endothelial function and reducing inflammation and free-radical damage," said Cording.

6. It may help lull you to sleep.

"Once you've tried golden milk, you'll be hooked on the way it settles your mind and body at the end of the day and invites your entire being to relax and let go of any worries as you drift off to sleep," Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D., neurologist and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, told mbg.

But why exactly is golden milk so relaxing? For one, making and drinking golden milk in the evening can be part of a relaxing bedtime ritual. Milk also contains carbs in the form of lactose, and consuming carbohydrates before bed has been shown to help you fall asleep faster. Plus, hot beverages of any variety have a soothing quality and have been associated with reduced anxiety.

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7. It may boost immunity.

Curcumin's anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties all work together to bolster the immune system—which may lend legitimacy to the ancient ayurvedic practice of using golden milk to help treat coughs and colds.

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So, should you start drinking golden milk?

If you like the flavor, then yes! The research is pretty definitive: Turmeric has some remarkable medicinal properties. From prevention to treatment, clinical studies have shown time and again that curcumin, the main bioactive compound in turmeric, packs a serious punch. Getting your daily dose of turmeric by sipping on a delicious serving of golden milk is a great way to pave your way to better health (and practice a little self-care in the process).

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3 simple recipes for making golden milk at home.

Golden milk, sometimes called turmeric tea or turmeric latte, is incredibly simple to make in the comfort of your own kitchen. You can also stir in additional health benefits with some ingredients you probably already have on hand. Upset tummy? Add some ginger to promote healthy digestion and beat bloat. Feel a sore throat coming on? Dollop in some extra honey (or better yet, use Manuka honey) for its antimicrobial perks. Sensitive to dairy? Go for coconut milk.

Whichever way you pour it, golden milk is simple to prepare and can be tweaked based on your personal preferences or health needs. Pro tip: For the recipes below, if you don't have a blender, simply heat ingredients in a saucepan and whisk until combined.

No-Nonsense Golden Milk

This is a great place to start for golden milk beginners. The black pepper adds some spice and helps amplify the health benefits of the turmeric.

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Pinch black pepper
  • Optional ingredients: pinch of ground cinnamon, pinch of ground cardamom, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Method

Blend all ingredients together. You can use a countertop blender, or an immersion blender if you have one. Warm in a saucepan on the stove, simmering (don't let it boil) for 15 minutes. Transfer to your favorite mug, curl up on the couch, and enjoy!

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Spiced Vegan Golden Milk

Golden milk can be prepared using your choice of nondairy milk. This recipe uses coconut milk, but feel free to swap it out for almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, or any milk your heart desires!

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • Pinch black pepper

Method

Blend all ingredients together. You can use a countertop blender, or an immersion blender if you have one. Warm in a saucepan on the stove, simmering (don't let it boil) for 15 minutes. Transfer to your favorite mug and enjoy!

Spiced Coconut Golden Milk Hot Cocoa

Chocolate lover? Don't worry; we've got you covered. This twist on traditional golden milk will satisfy your cocoa cravings while still offering the same health benefits of turmeric.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • ½ tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil

Method

Blend all ingredients together. You can use a countertop blender, or an immersion blender if you have one. Warm in a saucepan on the stove, simmering (don't let it boil) for 15 minutes. Transfer to your favorite mug and enjoy!

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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