Golden milk — also known as turmeric milk — is an Indian drink that has been gaining popularity in Western cultures.
This bright yellow beverage is traditionally made by warming up a cow or plant-based milk with turmeric and other spices, such as cinnamon and ginger.
It’s touted for its many health benefits and is often used as an alternative remedy to boost immunity and stave off illness.
Here are 10 science-based benefits of golden milk — and a recipe to make your own.
1. Golden milk is rich in antioxidants
The key ingredient in golden milk is turmeric, a yellow spice popular in Asian cuisine, which gives curry its yellow color.
Curcumin, the active component in turmeric, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries due to its potent antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants are compounds that fight cell damage, protecting your body from oxidative stress.
They’re essential to the functioning of your cells, and studies regularly show that diets rich in antioxidants may help lower your risk of infections and disease.
Most golden milk recipes also include cinnamon and ginger, which have impressive antioxidant properties.
Summary: Golden milk is rich in antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage, fight off disease and infections and contribute to overall health.
2. Golden milk may help reduce inflammation and joint pain
The ingredients in golden milk have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Chronic inflammation is thought to play a significant role in chronic diseases, including cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease. For this reason, diets rich in anti-inflammatory compounds may reduce your risk of these conditions.
Research shows that ginger, cinnamon, and curcumin — the active ingredient in turmeric — have potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies even suggest that the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin are comparable to those of some pharmaceutical drugs with none of the side effects.
These anti-inflammatory effects may reduce joint pain from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
For instance, one study in 45 people with rheumatoid arthritis found that 500 milligrams of curcumin daily reduced joint pain by more than 50 grams of a common arthritis drug or a combination of curcumin and the drug.
Similarly, in a 6-week study of 247 people with osteoarthritis, those given ginger extract experienced less pain and required less pain medication than those given a placebo.
Summary: Turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon, the main ingredients in golden milk, have strong anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce inflammation and joint pain.
3. Golden milk may be good for your brain
Studies show that curcumin may increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a compound that helps your brain form new connections and promotes the growth of brain cells.
Low levels of BDNF may be linked to brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s.
Other ingredients may provide benefits as well.
For instance, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s is an accumulation of a specific protein in the brain called the tau protein. Test-tube and animal studies suggest that compounds in cinnamon may help reduce this buildup.
What’s more, cinnamon appears to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and improve brain function in animal studies.
Ginger may also boost brain function by improving reaction time and memory. Moreover, in animal studies, ginger protects against age-related brain function loss.
That said, further human research is needed to fully understand the effects of these ingredients on memory and brain function.
Summary: Some ingredients in golden milk may help preserve memory and reduce the decline in brain function from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
4. Golden milk may improve mood
Turmeric — specifically, its active compound curcumin — may boost mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
Suggested read: 12 powerful ayurvedic herbs and spices with health benefits
In a 6-week study, 60 individuals with major depressive disorders took either curcumin, an antidepressant, or a combination.
Those given only curcumin experienced similar improvements as those given antidepressants, while the combination group noticed the most benefits.
Depression may also be linked to low levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). As curcumin appears to boost levels of BDNF, it may have the potential to reduce symptoms of depression.
That said, few studies have been performed in this area, and more are needed before solid conclusions can be made.
Summary: Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may help reduce symptoms of depression. However, more research is needed.
5. Golden milk may protect against heart disease
Heart disease is the leading worldwide cause of death. Interestingly, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric — the critical ingredients in golden milk — have all been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
For instance, a review of 10 studies concluded that 120 mg of cinnamon per day might lower total cholesterol, triglyceride, and “bad” LDL levels while raising “good” HDL levels.
In another study, 41 participants with type 2 diabetes were given 2 grams of ginger powder per day. At the end of the 12-week study, measured risk factors for heart disease were 23–28% lower.
What’s more, curcumin may improve the function of your blood vessel linings — known as endothelial function. Proper endothelial function is essential for a healthy heart.
In one study, people undergoing heart surgery were given either 4 grams of curcumin or a placebo a few days before and after their surgery.
Those given curcumin were 65% less likely to experience a heart attack during their hospital stay than people in the placebo group.
These anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may also protect against heart disease. However, studies are small and far between, and more are needed before solid conclusions can be made.
Suggested read: 10 evidence-based health benefits of green tea
Summary: Turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon — the main ingredients in golden milk — all have properties that may benefit heart function and protect against heart disease. Still, more studies are needed to confirm these effects.
6. Golden milk may lower blood sugar levels
The ingredients in golden milk, particularly ginger and cinnamon, may help lower blood sugar levels.
For instance, 1–6 grams of cinnamon per day may lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 29%. Moreover, cinnamon may reduce insulin resistance.
Insulin-resistant cells are less able to take up sugar from your blood, so lowering insulin resistance generally lowers blood sugar levels.
Cinnamon reduces how much glucose is absorbed in your gut after a meal, which can further improve blood sugar control.
Similarly, regularly adding small amounts of ginger to your diet may help lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 12%.
A small, daily dose of ginger may also lower hemoglobin A1C levels by up to 10% — a marker of long-term blood sugar control.
The evidence is based on only a few studies, and more research is needed to confirm these observations.
It’s worth noting that most golden milk recipes are sweetened with honey or maple syrup. Blood sugar lowering benefits, if any, are likely only present when drinking unsweetened varieties.
Summary: Cinnamon and ginger, two primary ingredients in golden milk, may lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. However, more research is needed.
7. Golden milk may reduce your risk of cancer
Cancer is a disease marked by uncontrolled cell growth.
In addition to conventional treatments, alternative anti-cancer remedies are increasingly being sought. Interestingly, some research suggests that the spices used in golden milk may offer some benefits.
For instance, some test-tube studies attribute anti-cancer properties to 6-gingerol, a substance in large amounts in raw ginger.
Similarly, lab and animal studies report that cinnamon compounds may help reduce cancer cells’ growth.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may also kill isolated cancer cells in a test tube and prevent the growth of new blood vessels in tumors, limiting their ability to spread.
That said, evidence of the cancer-fighting benefits of ginger, cinnamon, and curcumin in people remains limited.
What’s more, study results are conflicting, and it’s unclear how much of each ingredient needs to be consumed to achieve these benefits.
Summary: Studies indicate that cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric may offer some protection against cancer. However, the results are conflicting, and additional research is needed.
8. Golden milk has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties
In India, golden milk is often used as a home remedy against colds. The yellow drink is touted for its immune-boosting properties.
Test-tube studies suggest that curcumin has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, which may help prevent and fight infections.
Although the results of test-tube studies are promising, there is currently no evidence that golden milk reduces infections in people.
Moreover, compounds in fresh ginger may inhibit the growth of some bacteria. Ginger extract may fight the human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), a common cause of respiratory infections.
Similarly, lab test studies indicate that cinnamaldehyde, the active compound in cinnamon, may prevent the growth of bacteria. In addition, it may help treat respiratory tract infections caused by fungi.
The ingredients in golden milk also have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may strengthen your immune system.
Summary: The ingredients used to make golden milk have antibacterial and antiviral properties, which may protect your body from infections. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may strengthen your immune system as well.
9. Golden milk may improve digestion
Chronic indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is characterized by pain and discomfort in the upper part of your stomach.
Delayed stomach emptying is a potential cause of indigestion. Ginger, one of the ingredients used in golden milk, may help relieve this condition by speeding up stomach emptying in people suffering from dyspepsia.
Research further shows that turmeric, another ingredient used to make golden milk, may help reduce indigestion symptoms. Turmeric may also improve fat digestion by increasing bile production by up to 62%.
Suggested read: 11 health benefits of ginger: Effect on nausea, the brain & more
Finally, studies show that turmeric can help maintain proper digestion and prevent flare-ups in individuals with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory digestive disorder resulting in ulcers in the gut.
Summary: Ginger and turmeric, two ingredients in golden milk, may help relieve indigestion. Turmeric may also help relieve symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis.
10. Golden milk may contribute to stronger bones
Both cow’s and enriched plant milk are generally rich in calcium and vitamin D — two nutrients essential for building and maintaining strong bones.
If your diet is too low in calcium, your body removes calcium from your bones to maintain normal calcium levels in your blood. Over time, this makes bones weak and brittle, increasing your risk of bone diseases, such as osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Vitamin D contributes to stronger bones by improving your gut’s ability to absorb calcium from your diet. Low levels of vitamin D in your body may thus lead to weak and brittle bones, even if your diet is rich in calcium.
Though cow’s milk naturally contains calcium and is often enriched with vitamin D, not all plant milk is rich in these two nutrients.
If you prefer to make your golden milk using plant-based milk, choose one enriched with calcium and vitamin D for more bone-strengthening benefits.
Summary: Golden milk can be rich in calcium and vitamin D, depending on the milk you use. Both of these nutrients contribute to a strong skeleton, reducing your risk of bone diseases, such as osteopenia and osteoporosis.
How to make golden milk
Golden milk is easy to make at home. For a single serving of golden milk or about one cup, simply follow this recipe:
- 1/2 cup (120ml) of unsweetened milk of your choice
- 1 tsp of turmeric
- 1 small piece of grated fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp of ginger powder
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder
- 1 pinch of ground black pepper
- 1 tsp of honey or maple syrup (optional)
To make the golden milk, simply mix all ingredients in a small saucepan or pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and flavorful. Strain the drink through a fine strainer into mugs and top with a pinch of cinnamon.
Suggested read: Mangosteen: Health benefits, and how to eat it
Golden milk can also be made in advance and stored in your refrigerator for up to five days. Simply reheat it before drinking.
Summary: Golden milk is easy to make at home by following the recipe above. Simply mix the ingredients in a saucepan or pot and heat them up for a delicious and healthy beverage.
Golden milk is a delicious drink loaded with antioxidants that may provide an array of health benefits, ranging from a healthier brain and heart to stronger bones, improved digestion, and a lower risk of disease.
To reap the most health benefits, use milk with calcium and vitamin D and limit the amount of honey or syrup you add to your drink.