What is Golden Milk?

Golden milk, also known as turmeric milk, is a common Indian drink that has recently been gaining popularity in western cultures due to many health claims. It’s beautiful bright yellow color is a result of adding turmeric, along with spices such as cinnamon and ginger, to milk. More on how to make this delicious drink later. First, let’s examine its health claims.

Rich with antioxidants

Turmeric contains an active component called curcumin which is a powerful antioxidant. Golden milk also contains cinnamon and ginger, both of which also contain antioxidants.


Side note: What are antioxidants?

We talk about them frequently, so let’s take a quick minute to break down what antioxidants are and what they do for you.

As a very basic breakdown, antioxidants work to take care of unstable molecules called free radicals. These free radicals are created as part of our body’s natural processes as well as environmental stressors such as air pollution, smoking or radiation.

Containing an odd number of electrons, free radicals are unstable and can damage other molecules (such as DNA.) This damage is known as oxidative stress and has been linked to cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and more.

Enter the hero – the antioxidant. Antioxidants give free radicals an extra electron, effectively neutralizing it, so that it cannot cause damage.

Here’s a basic graphic to help visualize the process.


Reduces Inflammation

Golden milk ‘s ingredients have anti-inflammatory properties. Acute inflammation is caused by an injury or infection. Your body uses this inflammation to signal the immune system to jump into action to help heal and begin protecting the body from invaders like viruses and bacteria. However, chronic inflammation, such as that caused by arthritis and other immune system conditions, has been linked to heart disease, some cancers, metabolic syndrome and Alzheimer’s.

Improves Memory and Brain Function

More studies will need to be performed, but promisingly, curcumin has been shown to raise the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF.) Low levels of this compound have been linked to brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Ginger and cinnamon also have been shown in some animal and tube studies to help with Parkinson’s disease symptoms and helpful in reducing a protein buildup indicative of Alzheimer’s.

Improves Mood

Depression has also been linked to low levels of BDNF. Small studies have shown a promising decrease in depressive symptoms with patients given a curcumin supplement. Those that took the curcumin in conjunction with a traditional antidepressant, saw the greatest improvement. 

Protects Against Heart Disease

More research is necessary, but studies have shown that the ingredients in golden milk have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. In addition to the antioxidant effects, studies have shown that cinnamon may lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL (good) cholesterol. On top of all of that, curcumin may improve the function of your blood vessel linings.

Lowers Blood Sugar Levels

The ginger and cinnamon in golden milk have both been studied for their effects on blood sugar levels. One study showed that 1-6 grams of cinnamon a day helped lower fasting blood sugar levels by more than 25%. In addition, cinnamon has also been shown to reduce the amount of glucose absorbed after a meal, helping keep sugar levels in check. Ginger has also been studied and shown to have positive effects on blood sugar levels, including helping reduce fasting sugar levels by up to 12%. Keep in mind, that most golden milk recipes use a sweetener such as maple syrup or honey – so these benefits would be effective in the unsweetened variety.

Reduces Risk of Cancer

While studies are limited, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon have all been studied for their effects on cancer. Curcumin has been shown in test-tube studies to kill isolated cancer cells and reduce the ability for cancer to spread. Raw ginger contains a substance called 6-gingerol, an anticancer compound. Cinnamon has also shown in animal studies to reduce the growth of cancer cells.

Gives a Boost to the Immune System

The ingredients in golden milk have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which may help strengthen your immune system. Golden milk is a common home remedy in India for common colds. Test-tube and lab tests have shown that curcumin has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Similarly, ginger has been shown to help inhibit the growth of some bacteria and may fight a common virus that causes respiratory infections.

Improves Digestion

Ginger is a common home remedy used around the world for nausea, vomiting and indigestion. The good news is that studies support these claims! Not as well known, studies have shown that turmeric also helps aid digestion by improving the digestion of fat. In addition, turmeric also has been shown to help prevent flare-ups for those suffering with ulcerative colitis.

Creates Stronger Bones

Whether you choose to make your golden milk with cow’s milk or enriched plant milks, they are generally rich in calcium and vitamin D. These two nutrients are vital for the growth and maintenance of strong, healthy bones.  Make sure that you watch the labels of your chosen milk to ensure it contains both calcium and vitamin D to gain the benefits of these two nutrients.

How to Make Golden Milk

A single serving of golden milk is very easy to make at home with a few simple ingredients, following the recipe below:

  • ½ cup unsweetened milk of your choice
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 small piece of fresh grated ginger (or ½ tsp ginger powder)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)

Directions: To make the golden milk, simply combine the above ingredients in a small saucepan, mix and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes until the ingredients are fragrant and flavorful. Strain the drink through a fine strainer or cheesecloth, pour into mug and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Golden milk can be made ahead of time and stored in an air-tight container in your refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat before serving.

Providing many antioxidants, aiding in digestion and the potential of so many other health benefits, this rich, delicious drink may be a wonderfully enjoyed addition to your balanced diet. To get the most benefits, choose a milk with both calcium and vitamin D and limit or avoid the addition of sweeteners.  


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Written by Sky Campbell for Access Health Care Physicians. 

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