Golden Milk & the 54 Reasons You Should Be Drinking It

The key ingredient in golden milk is a spice that is being extensively researched for its human health benefits.  When I was writing the first draft of this article last week, PubMed listed 15,751 scientific papers on this spice (or its active ingredient).  In less than a week, that has now jumped to 15,772. That’s 21 new research papers in less than 7 days. If you check now, I bet there are a lot more.

Check PubMed Now!

If you have a quick look through the search results you’ll see that a lot of those papers are providing results and conclusions from clinical trials.

Of course, the spice we are referring to is turmeric (and its active ingredient curcumin).  If you have an interest in health, I bet you have heard all sorts of claims made in the media about this miracle spice.  But how accurate are these claims?  

Fortunately for us, Pubmed is there for anyone to read and I have been doing just that.  I’ve spent a couple of days going through hundreds of papers on turmeric to pull out the potential health benefits that have scientific evidence to back them up.  The benefits listed below are the main ways curcumin and/or turmeric have been shown, in medical research, to positively affect human physiology. Where I have listed references to the original research, please be aware that my references are not an exhaustive list.  I have tried to include the one or two papers I felt were the most important for each benefit, but feel free to do your own search. You’ll usually find a lot more. 

After looking at this list you cannot fail to be impressed with the potential of turmeric and curcumin to fight many of the health problems we face today.  But I also want to caution you against jumping in feet first and sprinkling turmeric on everything from corn flakes to your beef bourguignon. This article does include details of some potential problems that certain individuals may face, and everyone should be aware of.    

OK, so onto the list, which currently stands at 54 potential benefits of turmeric.  Research has shown that turmeric may have the following properties:

How to Use Turmeric

There are many ways you can introduce turmeric into your diet.  While Indian cuisine is one of my favorites, this article will show you another way – Golden Milk.

Golden milk holds a special place in my diet as a soothing, comforting beverage in the morning, or at bedtime.  There is one main reason I personally drink golden milk (and golden coffee – see later). It’s a simple, but valid reason – it's delicious!  If I am getting health benefits too, then this really is a win-win. But before we look at golden milk, I wanted to cover a little background information that adds a little context to why active research is being carried out.  

Turmeric Has a Long, Distinguished History

Turmeric, native to South Asia (especially India), is a bright yellow spice that comes from the rhizomes of the turmeric plant, Curcuma longa.  In Sanskrit, turmeric has at least 53 different names including Haridra (the Yellow One), but it is the Arabic name, kurkum, that I find interesting.  Kurkum means saffron which leads to this spice being referred to (and still is) as Indian Saffron. 

Turmeric's use dates back nearly 4000 years to Vedic culture in India where it was used in both cooking and religious rituals.  It became a major component in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda), and it probably arrived in China by 700AD where it was used in traditional Chinese medicine [1].

During his travels in China in 1280, Marco Polo said: “There is also a vegetable that has all the properties of true saffron, as well as the smell and the color, and yet it is not really saffron.”

In both Hinduism and Buddhism, turmeric is linked with fertility, luck and the sun.  It is often used in wedding ceremonies and given as a gift to pregnant women (though traditional Chinese medicine states that turmeric should not be ingested during pregnancy).  In southern India, the dried root is even worn as a protection against evil, to help healing, or for good luck. [4].

In Ayurveda, turmeric has the following properties [2]:

  • Rasa: Pungent, Bitter, Astringent
  • Virya: Warming
  • Vipaka: Pungent
  • Qualities: Light, Dry, Digestive
  • Actions on the doshas: Tridoshic, balances Vata, Pitta, and Kapha
  • Action on the mind: Sattvic.

In traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric is defined as [3]:

  • Category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood
  • Nature: Warm
  • Taste(s): BitterPungent
  • Meridian affinity: SpleenLiver
  • Other names: Jiāng huáng

According to traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric invigorates the blood, helps with the movement of Qi and eases pain. 

In traditional medicine, turmeric has been used for prevention and treatment as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, for asthma, bronchial hyperactivity, allergy, liver disorders, anorexia, rheumatism, sinusitis, purifying the blood,  relieving wind, dispelling parasites, improving digestion, regulating menstruation, dissolving, gallstones & relieving arthritis.

As you’ve seen from the research above, the evidence is stacking up in favor of turmeric for a wider range of issues, like cancer, diabetes, psoriasis, fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, dementia, and heart disease, to name a few.  

With so many health benefits associated with turmeric, there is little wonder that it has found its way into the diet.  

And so we get to the main event – Golden Milk.  This has to be my favorite way of using the spice.  But I’ll warn you now. Don’t wear white when making it.

What is Golden Milk?

Golden milk is a warm, comforting drink made from milk and spices.  The most important ingredient in golden milk is turmeric, which gives golden milk its yellow color.  

I will give you some recipes to get you started in a moment (as well as recipes for unusual, yet equally delicious alternatives, like my own personal favorite which I call “Golden Coffee”). Before I do that, I need to discuss something that is very important when you use turmeric.  

Ignoring this fact will likely mean you miss out on its potential health benefits.  And understanding this fact will give you the power to experiment with the recipe to find your own favorite while giving you the best chance of benefiting from its active ingredients.  You’ll also understand why Indian curries are a great way to ingest this spice.

So, What's the Issue With Turmeric?

Turmeric can (and is) added to a wide range of food recipes.  But even if you consume this spice, chances are very little it will end up being absorbed by your body.  Turmeric doesn't have a great record in terms of absorption into the bloodstream. It’s also rapidly metabolized and eliminated from the body [5].  Therefore, we need to do everything we can to help coax the active ingredients into our blood and keep it there long enough to benefit from it.

But the effort is clearly worth it because, despite the problems with getting it into our circulatory system, turmeric and curcumin continue to be explored as an alternative and effective treatment to a number of disorders.  Pharmaceutical companies are even creating structural analogs to use for treating disease [6].

Increasing Turmeric’s Bioavailability

There are a number of simple measures we can take to help the active ingredients get into our bodies in a form that we can use.  They are:

  1. Use heat.  It may be that the turmeric needs to be boiled for 10 minutes to increase its bioavailability, and we don't go that far in the recipes we offer here, but the heat also makes a more comforting drink (as I am sure you'll agree when you try it)  [7, 13].  
  2. Add fat.  Turmeric is fat-soluble, meaning it has a better chance of making it through to the small intestine to be absorbed into the blood [10].
  3. Add quercetin.  Found in purple foods like berries, grapes (yes, including red wine) and red onions, quercetin is a plant pigment that acts as an enzyme inhibitor to help prevent the deactivation of curcumin in the body [8,9].
  4. Piperine (found in black pepper) a known inhibitor of hepatic and intestinal glucuronidation, helps slow down the absorption of curcumin by the liver (which breaks it down).  Studies have shown that piperine can increase the bioavailability of curcumin. In clinical tests, humans receiving 2g curcumin had undetectable levels (or very low) in their blood.  Yet combined with 20mg piperine, humans had increased bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2000% [8,9,11,12].

With those 4 factors in mind, you can now make informed decisions on how best to make and take your golden milk.  Let's start off with a basic recipe you can make in 5 minutes. 

Golden Milk Recipe (Serves 2)

  • 2 cups full-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder 
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • pinch of ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp raw honey (but adjust to taste)

NOTES on the recipe:

  • The milk provides a liquid rich in fat as the basis for your drink, but any high-fat liquid can be used as a substitute (see later).
  • Some recipes use fresh turmeric root (2 inches), but you'll probably get a much lower concentration of curcumin using fresh root, so we recommend dried ground turmeric.
  • Instead of ground ginger powder, some people advocate the use of fresh peeled ginger.  You can use this, but it means adding another step in the process of making golden milk because it needs to be filtered through a sieve before drinking.  The same can be said for using fresh turmeric root, or cinnamon sticks instead of cinnamon powder. For quicker golden milk, using powdered spices means you can eliminate this step.
  • The honey adds a welcome sweetness to the earthy flavor of the turmeric, but there is also research that shows antibiotic benefits of adding honey to turmeric [14].  For this reason, we use honey rather than other natural sweeteners like maple syrup.

To make your golden milk, simply add all of the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently.  Bring the mixture to a slow simmer for a minute or two and then turn off the heat. Transfer to a mug and enjoy!

Go on.  Give it a go…You know you want to.

Nutrition List

The following data is based on the recipe above and calculated using the tools at Cronometer [96]. 

Optional Extras

  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (my favorite addition).
  • 5 almonds (requires blending the golden milk).
  • 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil, added to the saucepan.  You will also need to blend the golden milk before drinking to avoid an oil slick on the top of your mug.
  • A small handful of dark green leaves, like spinach or kale.  (requires high-speed blending of the drink)
  • A small handful of blueberries (blending required).
  • Stevia to taste if you need a sweetener but don't want the sugar content.
  • A split green cardamom pod for taste or a vanilla pod cut in half.  These can be added to the saucepan and sieved out before drinking.

A lot of these optional extras will require you to sieve (or blend) your golden milk before drinking, but as you experiment with recipes, they are nice options to play with.  The blueberries and other dark berries can add quercetin, which helps with the bioavailability. These golden milk smoothies are a nice alternative, but I'll leave that up to you to try for yourself.

If you find a recipe you like and want to speed up the process of making your golden milk, you can create a dry mix that can be used quickly whenever the mood takes you.  Just multiply up the weight of the ingredients you use. Here is a simple dry mix recipe based on the one above that you can try and experiment with.

Dry Mix

  • 75g turmeric powder
  • 25g ground ginger
  • 25g cinnamon powder
  • 1.5g ground black pepper
  • 1.5g cayenne (optional)

Mix well and put all the ingredients into an airtight container.  Store in a cool, dry place and use within 6 months.

To make your golden milk, add 2 teaspoons of dry mix and 2 teaspoons of raw honey (or sweetener of choice) to two cups of milk.  Bring to a gentle simmer for 1 – 2 minutes, then serve. This will serve two people. If you only want a single cup, reduce all volumes by half.

Variations on the “Milk” Recipe

Using milk used in the recipe is the traditional way of making golden milk, but it is really only there to provide a fat-rich liquid for the turmeric and other ingredients to maximize bioavailability.  There is nothing to stop you from using other fat-rich liquids instead if you cannot (or don't want to) drink milk.  

Here are some milk substitutes you can use:

  • Unsweetened coconut milk.
  • Unsweetened almond milk or other nut milk.
  • Bone broth for a savory version

Vegan Golden Milk Recipe (serves 2)

Here is a vegan recipe for golden milk that uses coconut milk and almond milk instead.

  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder 
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • pinch of ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut oil (optional extra)

Add the ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer for 1-2 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Notes on the vegan golden milk recipe

I recommend you add in a 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil if you are not using coconut milk in the recipe.  That will require blending. Go easy with quantities of coconut oil if you are not used to it as it can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea if you have too much.

Nutrition List

The following data is based on the recipe above and calculated using the tools at Cronometer [96]. 

Now For Something a Little Different

The one thing that I need to need to kickstart my day is coffee.  Not just any coffee either. I like to keep my body in ketosis which means I have a high fat, low-carb diet and my body uses fat for fuel rather than sugars.  That means I cannot use milk in my coffee because of its high sugar content. My coffee of choice then is the now-famous Bulletproof coffee [15,16]. It’s coffee made using butter instead of milk (though you could use double cream).  Since bulletproof coffee is a liquid high in quality fats (yes really), it’s an ideal substitute for the milk in golden milk. I call this my golden coffee recipe:

Golden Coffee Recipe (Serves 1)

  • 1 cup of bulletproof coffee
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Good pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • A couple of grinds of the black pepper mill
  • 2 teaspoons of stevia sweetener.

Place the ingredients in a blender and blend on high power for 10 seconds.  Serve immediately.

Note that turmeric will stain your blender yellow.  To combat this, I make my golden coffee in a stainless steel Ninja blender cup (which I also use for all of my bulletproof coffee) [17,18].  If you own a NutriBullet blender, that will be fine too as they also have stainless steel cups available [19].

NOTES on the Golden Coffee recipe:  I love spicy heat in my golden coffee.  For that reason, I add up to ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper to my mix.  This is optional and quantities are something that I recommend you experiment with if you want to try it yourself.  ¼ teaspoon is hot! If you are like me, ¼ teaspoon will give that satisfying burn down the back of your throat. However, if you are like my wife, it will blow your head off ;).

You’ll also notice I use stevia instead of honey, and this comes down to the ketogenic diet I follow most of the time.  While I love the flavor of the honey in my golden milk & golden coffee, it can kick me out of ketosis (where my body is burning fat for fuel instead of sugars) if I am not careful.  Since I usually come out of ketosis once a week, I will use honey at that time. However, while in strict ketosis, I avoid all sugary carbs and use stevia instead. 

Answers to Your Turmeric & Curcumin Questions

How do you make golden milk?

Golden milk is a simple heated mixture of milk, turmeric, black pepper, and other spices to taste (cinnamon and ginger are common).  We’ve included several golden milk recipes in this article, including one for vegans, and our own special twist – golden coffee.

What are the health benefits of golden milk?

The health benefits of golden milk come from the spices in the recipe.  Most notable is turmeric which has strong antioxidant & anti-inflammatory properties.  Considering all disease starts with inflammation, turmeric may well be a golden natural wonder of the world.  In our article, we outline 53 different (and scientifically backed) health benefits of turmeric.

Does golden milk help you sleep?

A lot of people claim online that golden milk can help you sleep.  If you check out PubMed, you will find a study that shows turmeric can protect against “behavioral alterations and oxidative damage” caused by sleep deprivation in mice [97].  This study is cited by a lot of others online but doesn’t really address the question. Personally, it does help me sleep and I find it a comforting drink in the moments before bed.   There is a lot of evidence that turmeric can reduce stress and anxiety (a major cause of sleeping problems), so this may be the reason it works so well. Ultimately, this is something you need to try for yourself.  Fortunately, we have provided you not only with golden milk recipes but also guidelines on adapting this for yourself. Let us know if it helps you sleep.

Are there negative effects of drinking golden milk every night?

Turmeric is a safe spice for most people and can be consumed in relatively high quantities.  It does not usually have any side-effects, though as with anything new in your diet, you should introduce it slowly.  As our article shows, there may be 53 reasons why it is a good idea to incorporate turmeric into your diet. What we would recommend is trying the golden milk for yourself using one of the recipes in this article.  See how it makes you feel. If you like that effect, start incorporating it into your daily diet.

Is it safe to drink golden milk every day?

Pharmacologically, curcumin has been found to be safe with no dose-limiting toxicity when administered at doses up to 10g per day [71].  The golden milk recipes on this page use around 4.5g in the recipe, but that recipe can serve two people. So, our recipes are certainly well inside those found to be safe.  If you have any kind of dietary allergy, then you might need to swap out some ingredients (like milk if you are lactose intolerant). We do recommend you consult your own doctor if you intend to start a new dietary plan incorporating golden milk, especially if you are on any kind of prescription medication as there could be interactions.  Also, if you are pregnant or lactating, consult your doctor. If you have gallstones or are susceptible to kidney stones, consult your doctor.

How many times a day can you drink golden milk?

Turmeric has a lot of reported health benefits, so the temptation is to ingest as much of the stuff as possible.  However, try one of our delicious golden milk recipes found in this article and see how you feel afterward. The recipes make enough for two servings and contain about 2.25 grams of turmeric per serving.  This is inside the 10g reported in the scientific literature [71] that has been tested and found to be safe with no dose-limiting toxicity. Be aware that there are other ingredients in these recipes, so you may want to adjust these using our recommendations if you know you get a dodgy stomach with one of them.

Can you drink golden milk if you are pregnant?

Turmeric has been used during pregnancy for centuries in traditional medical systems, though traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t recommend it to my knowledge.  I am also not aware of any Western authority that recommends you avoid it during pregnancy. However, taking concentrated supplements like curcumin may not be as wise during this time.  Always consult your doctor if you are pregnant or lactating before trying golden milk.

Is turmeric bad for your kidneys?

Turmeric is high in soluble oxalates.  These oxalates need to be excreted in the urine.  However, in the process, it is possible that these oxalates bind with calcium to form calcium oxalate, which makes up 75% of all kidney stones [99].  With this in mind, if you have a tendency to form kidney stones, turmeric should only be consumed in moderation. In this case, turning to curcumin supplements may give you the benefits of turmeric without the oxalate load.  Again, consult your doctor if you are worried about this.

Is turmeric bad for your liver?

Because of turmeric’s potent antioxidant properties, it helps prevent damage by free radicals in your body.  That includes the liver. Turmeric may be able to prevent your liver from being damaged by toxins and free radicals it creates during day-to-day detoxification of your body.  Some of the reported health benefits to the liver are covered in our 53 reasons found in the article for why you should be drinking golden milk [79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89].

Is turmeric bad for your gallbladder?

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric can induce the gallbladder to empty, which thereby reduces the risk of gallstone formation and ultimately gallbladder cancer [98].  However, if you already have a gall stone forming, the contractions induced by the curcumin could cause pain. It is therefore wise to be careful, and consult your doctor if you have a history of gallstones.

What are the side effects of turmeric?

As we have stated in the full article, curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been found to be safe with no dose-limiting toxicity when administered at doses up to 10g per day [71, 72, 100].  Turmeric does contain oxalates that can contribute to kidney stones in those people predisposed to these [101]. You should be aware though that not all turmeric is equal. Some of the cheaper turmeric may be “cut” with fillers [102], including wheat, barley and rye flour which could cause problems for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.  Turmeric may also have other trace contaminants including lead [103, 104], and even a yellow food dye called Metanil Yellow [105]. So please do your due diligence when sourcing turmeric and get a good quality spice.

Do you drink Golden Milk?  

There is a comment form at the bottom of this page and we invite you to use to share with us your own experiences with turmeric and curcumin.  Please share with us, things like:

  • Why you started taking turmeric/curcumin and what benefits you have seen.
  • Your own golden milk recipes if you are a golden milk convert.
  • How you use turmeric in your cooking.  Maybe you have a favorite recipe?

We hope you have enjoyed this article.  Please share it with your friends and leave comments in the form below.




About Andy

Dr. Andy Williams is a biologist with an interest in natural health alternatives. His interest in curcumin arose when his father-in-law was diagnosed with colon cancer. Since then, he's been researching the various ways that curcumin has been employed in the treatment of disease.

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