If you’ve spent any time on social media in the past few months, or you frequent independent cafes in a big city, you’ve undoubtably come across the drink, ‘Turmeric Latte’, also known as ‘Golden Milk’.
This has been an interesting trend to witness as someone from South Asia, which is the the birthplace of turmeric milk, or as we call it, haldi doodh. I once laughed out loud at a cafe that was selling it for $8 as an ‘elixir’ – show that to a Pakistani mother and she’ll smack you across the head for considering it, and then make you something better for 50 cents at home.
In a nutshell, turmeric milk is a medicinal drink that’s fantastic for improving digestion, recovering from a cold or flu, or just as an overall health boost. As South Asians we grew up drinking this when we got sick, and now it’s become mainstream, which is pretty awesome.
Is The Hype Around Turmeric Milk Real?
Yes, and no.
Yes, turmeric is anti-inflammatory and has a lot of health benefits.
Yes, turmeric milk contains other spices that have great soothing properties for digestion.
No, because it’s typically grossly overpriced, and you can make the same drink at home for a fraction of the cost.
No, because it’s not a magical potion. I could tell you to eat curry which also has the exact same spices – turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cloves, cardamom – in it, but that just doesn’t sound as sexy as drinking a glass of ‘golden milk‘ .
Bottom line: I do recommend it because it’s a delicious way to get the benefits of turmeric and other spices, but it’s not a magical potion that will cure all your ailments (well, nothing is!) I’ll provide a very simple recipe below that you can make at home for less than a dollar (yep, there’s that frugal Pakistani in me).
The Health Benefits of Turmeric
If you’ve never seen raw turmeric root before, it’s a cross between the shape of ginger and the colour of a sweet potato (see above). You can also get it in ground form, as a bright yellow powder that quickly stains everything. Protect your clothes and your countertops when you use it!
The main health benefits of turmeric come from its active compound, known as curcumin. Research has shown that curcumin can do the following:
- Fight inflammation, which is known to contribute to chronic disease (1)
- Relieve pain, as it has been shown to improve symptoms of arthritis, PMS and more (2) (3)
- As an antioxidant, it provides anti-aging affects, aids cellular repair and boosts immune function
- Help prevent degenerative processes in the brain and improves overall brain health (4)
- Improve heart health (5)
Two Important Caveats About Turmeric
While research has indeed found that curcumin has all these benefits, it’s important to consider two important facts:
- Concentrated dose vs. food – You have to remember that most research is conducted using isolated curcumin (not turmeric) at concentrated, high doses close to 500-2000mg. When you compare that to turmeric in food form, a teaspoon of ground turmeric contains approximately 45 milligrams of curcumin. (6) That’s still pretty great, but don’t expect golden milk to bring you the same relief a high dosage curcumin supplement would.
- Bioavailability – Curcumin is a fat-soluble compound, meaning that it has to be taken with fat in order to be absorbed properly. This is why golden milk is traditionally made with whole milk. A close non-dairy substitute with a higher fat content is coconut milk. Interestingly, black pepper also enhances bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2000%, so it’s definitely worth including in your recipe! (7)
Pakistani Turmeric Milk Recipe
While the traditional version of this recipe requires using whole spices, I prefer to make it with ground spices. This is simply because it’s faster, and I’m a sucker for convenience as a way to enforce healthy habits.
I’ve also opted to substitute the whole milk with coconut milk, which is a better option for skin, digestion and hormone health.
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves (or allspice)
- 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
- Raw honey, to taste
- Pour coconut milk into a saucepan, then bring to a boil
- Add in the spices and bring heat to a low simmer
- Allow the flavours to blend for 2-3 minutes
- Whisk if needed to break up clumps
- Remove from heat
- Strain and pour into a glass
- Add raw honey to taste at the end
(1) Jurenka JS. (2009). Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. Alternative Medicine Review, 14(2), 141-53
(2) Daily, J., Yang, M., & Park, S. (2016). Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Journal Of Medicinal Food, 19(8), 717-729. http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2016.3705
(3) Fanaei, H., Khayat, S., Kasaeian, A., & Javadimehr, M. (2016). Effect of curcumin on serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in women with premenstrual syndrome: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Neuropeptides, 56, 25-31. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.npep.2015.11.003
(4) Liu, D., Wang, Z., Gao, Z., Xie, K., Zhang, Q., Jiang, H., & Pang, Q. (2014). Effects of curcumin on learning and memory deficits, BDNF, and ERK protein expression in rats exposed to chronic unpredictable stress. Behavioural Brain Research, 271, 116-121. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.068
(5) Wongcharoen, W., & Phrommintikul, A. (2009). The protective role of curcumin in cardiovascular diseases. International Journal Of Cardiology, 133(2), 145-151. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcard.2009.01.073
(6) Pineo, C. (2018). How Much Curcumin Is There in Powdered Turmeric?. LIVESTRONG.COM. Retrieved 16 January 2018, from https://www.livestrong.com/article/543411-how-much-curcumin-is-there-in-powdered-turmeric/
(7) Shoba, G., Joy, D., Joseph, T., Majeed, M., Rajendran, R., & Srinivas, P. (1998). Influence of Piperine on the Pharmacokinetics of Curcumin in Animals and Human Volunteers. Planta Medica, 64(04), 353-356. http://dx.doi.org/10.1055/s-2006-957450