I’m always interested in examining foods, beverages, or supplements that have gained popularity for their purported health benefits. My latest explorations were in posts on the health benefits of olive oil and kombucha.
In this post, I wanted to learn about a drink I was hearing about more and more—golden milk. I had heard claims of health benefits, but did not know much about the drink. I put on my Internet explorer’s hat and set out in search of more information, and here’s what I discovered:
Ingredients of golden milk
In spite of its name, golden milk barely contains dairy products. The milky look it achieves is from some type of non-dairy milk like coconut, soy, or almond milk. Often it contains a fat such as coconut oil or ghee. People do occasionally make it with dairy milk. Its golden color comes from turmeric, the yellow spice most commonly known for the yellow color it gives to some Indian curries, and—a surprise to me—yellow mustard, butter, and cheese.
Some people serve it warm, doctoring it up with honey and spices like cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. People even make lattes with it and use it as the base for hot chocolate. As the rain drizzles away outside with a slight chill in the air, you wouldn’t have to twist my arm to get me to give it a try.
How to make golden milk
Variations on golden milk abound; I found several different recipes for it, many of which involve first creating a paste of turmeric with a handful of other ingredients and then adding it to whatever milk type product you use. Here’s a popular recipe made with coconut milk by Wellness Mama.
Turmeric Tea Golden Milk Recipe
1 can of coconut milk plus 1 cup of water
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon raw honey or maple syrup or to taste
A pinch of black pepper
Tiny piece of fresh, peeled ginger root or ¼ tsp ginger powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Pour into a small sauce pan and heat for 3-5 minutes over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
But is it really going to bestow important health benefits onto my body? To me, that really depends on whether or not the key ingredient—turmeric—supplies those benefits.
Turmeric: an anti-inflammatory and perhaps much more
If you follow, study, or have heard of Ayurvedic medicine, the ancient form of holistic healing from India, you’re likely already familiar with the health benefits of turmeric. As the California College of Ayurveda notes, “the golden goddess” can be used for many medicinal purposes, but most notably as an anti-inflammatory. Turmeric has also long been used as an anti-inflammatory in ancient Chinese medicine.
I wanted to see what benefits evidence-based Western medicine assigned turmeric. The University of Maryland Medical Center offers a great synopsis on this. First, it explains that curcumin, a powerful antioxidant, is the active substance in turmeric. Because antioxidants rid the body of molecules that damage cells and tamper with DNA, it seems likely that claims that it helps prevent cancer have some credibility. While it’s too early to tell if results of studies back up this claim, it does show some promise in the arena of cancer prevention.
The synopsis goes on to describe additional health benefits it may offer, which include its use as an anti-inflammatory, to prevent blood clots, and to kill bacteria and viruses.
I can be a skeptic at times, but turmeric was winning me over. Both Eastern and Western medicine were giving it high marks. I wanted one more source, so went to Medline Plus, the source for health information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Their discussion on turmeric was far more in-depth, but again, it leaned toward claims of its value as an anti-inflammatory, citing that it was possibly effective for osteoarthritis, perhaps working as well as ibuprofen. For most of the other 30 plus conditions it addressed, it claimed “insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness” of turmeric for those conditions.
Overall, I feel comfortable believing that I can count on turmeric as an anti-inflammatory. I do look forward to more evidence being generated from studies to show its benefit or lack of benefit for the many other conditions with which Eastern medicine suggests turmeric might help.
Summing up my assessment of golden milk as a health beverage
On a scale of 1 to 10 for the health benefits it provides, I’d rate golden milk as a solid 7. If I had osteoarthritis issues, I’d consider drinking it for its anti-inflammatory action and see if I could return the ibuprofen bottle to the medicine cabinet. Based on all that I read, I suspect that we’ll discover that turmeric does indeed support additional health claims. But given that most recipes for golden milk contain ingredients I love, I believe I'll be preparing a steaming mug of golden milk in the near future.