The Potential Benefits of Golden Milk and Other Turmeric Drinks

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably noticed the emergence of turmeric-based drinks and tonics everywhere. From plant based drinks at Whole Foods to “Golden Caffe Lattes” from Peet’s, it seems like everyone is on the turmeric drink train. And unlike many nutrition trends that some “health influencers” have made popular on Instagram, this one has some benefits backed in science, so it may be one to listen to and try out for yourself. Let’s dive deeper into what is in turmeric that provides potential benefits, what those benefits are and how to make a few recipes at home.  

What is turmeric and what are the health benefits?

Turmeric (aka curcuma longa) is a root that is in the same family as ginger. It comes in a bright yellow pigmented powder form and can be eaten fresh or dried. Turmeric is commonly used in savory dishes such as curries or in its most recently popular form, a hot drink known in the Western world as “golden milk.” And though turmeric has been seen to have over 200 different compounds that can be beneficial to our health, the main bioactive compound with the most benefits is known as curcumin. This is the polyphenol that gives turmeric its beautiful and rich yellow color.

Over the past decade, there have been hundreds of studies done on curcumin and its potential benefits. Because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it is correlated to improving numerous conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even post-workout soreness. Curcumin is seen to seek out and destroy free radicals, increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes and help decrease the protein that is responsible for increasing inflammation in the body. But did you know that to tap into these benefits, curcumin should be paired with two very important components? Since curcumin has a low bioavailability (the ability for your body to absorb and utilize the compounds) it has to be paired with piperine (which is found in black pepper) and some type of lipid (aka fat). The piperine, a compound found in black pepper, can increase curcumin’s bioavailability by up to 2,000 percent. And the reason why you may want to add some coconut milk into your turmeric drink is because curcumin is lipophilic, meaning it only dissolves in fat.

What is “golden milk” and how did it become popular?

Golden milk is new to the Western world. It became wildly popular when health influencers on Instagram started to add it to their beautifully curated feeds and blog posts, and the health industry noticed. Now you can find products all over health food stores that mimic golden milk or have turmeric added to them. But golden milk is not new to those in Southeast Asia. For hundreds (if not thousands) of years, mothers in Southeast India have been giving golden milk (aka haldi doodh) to their families to cure almost everything, from colds to stomach viruses. A cup of golden milk includes ½ cup milk, 1 tablespoon of turmeric, honey and tea. It is commonly made the same way now but you may find almond milk or coconut milk over dairy milk and other spices added such as ginger, cardamom and cinnamon (as well as black pepper!). You may even see espresso or chai tea added to it.

How can I make golden milk at home?

It is super easy to make golden milk at home and there are so many variations. Here are a few recipes!

For the purist…

Minimalist Baker Easy Vegan Golden Milk

For the coffee lover…

Lexi’s Clean Kitchen Turmeric Latte with Espresso

For the chai tea lover…

Homegrown Provisions Chai Turmeric Latte

If you are sick and need life…

Heart and Bowl Flu Fighting Tonic

The easiest way to make it at home is to golden milk powder like this one from Gaia Herbs and add hot milk (not non-fat) of choice.

If you want to use turmeric as a supplement, it is always important to ask your doctor first because some conditions may need larger doses and specific supplementation. If you are just looking for general benefits, it is most likely safe to have the small amount that is added to these drinks. When it comes down to it, not only will you be helping fight free radicals but you will sit down to a tasty, spicy cup of love. Enjoy!

Gabriella is a registered dietitian living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently works in corporate wellness as a dietitian and overall wellness coach. She also runs a food blog called Macrobalanced, where she shows people that healthy and balanced eating can be interesting and tasty! She enjoys all things fitness from lifting heavy weights in the gym to hitting the barre. Nothing is off limits as long as sweat is involved. When she is not cooking or sweating, she is playing with her dog Maui, a lively German Shepherd. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.