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 cow’s or plant-based milk with turmeric and other spices, such as cinnamon and ginger.
It’s touted for its many health benefits and 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. Key Ingredients Are Loaded With 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 strong antioxidant properties (1).
Antioxidants are compounds that fight cell damage, protecting your body from oxidative stress.
Golden milk is rich in antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage, fight off disease and infections and contribute to your overall health.
2. May Help Reduce Inflammation and Joint Pain
The ingredients in golden milk have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Chronic inflammation is thought to play a major 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.
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 more than 50 grams of a common arthritis drug or a combination of curcumin and the drug (11).
Similarly, in a 6-week study in 247 people with osteoarthritis, those given ginger extract experienced less pain and required less pain medication than those given a placebo (12).
Turmeric, ginger and cinnamon, the main ingredients in golden milk, have strong anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce inflammation and joint pain.
3. May Improve Memory and Brain Function
Golden milk may be good for your brain, too.
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 (13).
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 (16, 17, 18).
What’s more, cinnamon appears to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and improve brain function in animal studies (19).
That said, further human research is needed to fully understand the effects of these ingredients on memory and brain function.
Some ingredients in golden milk may help preserve memory and reduce the decline in brain function from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
4. Curcumin in Turmeric May Improve Mood
It appears that turmeric — more specifically its active compound curcumin — may boost mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
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 (23).
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 (24).
That said, few studies have been performed in this area and more are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may help reduce symptoms of depression. However, more research is needed.
5. May Protect Against Heart Disease
For instance, a review of 10 studies concluded that 120 mg of cinnamon per day may lower total cholesterol, triglyceride and “bad” LDL levels while raising “good” HDL levels (26).
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 (27).
What’s more, curcumin may improve the function of your blood vessel linings — known as endothelial function. Proper endothelial function is important for a healthy heart (28).
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 (29).
These anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may also protect against heart disease. However, studies are small and far between, and more are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
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. May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
The ingredients in golden milk, particularly ginger and cinnamon, may help lower blood sugar levels.
Similarly, regularly adding small amounts of ginger to your diet may help lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 12% (27).
A small, daily dose of ginger may also lower hemoglobin A1C levels by up to 10% — a marker of long-term blood sugar control (27).
That said, 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.
Cinnamon and ginger, two main ingredients in golden milk, may lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. However, more research is needed.
7. 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 being increasingly sought after. Interestingly, some research suggests that the spices used in golden milk may offer some benefits in this regard.
That said, evidence on the cancer-fighting benefits of ginger, cinnamon and curcumin in people remains limited.
Studies indicate that cinnamon, ginger and turmeric may offer some protection against cancer. However, results are conflicting and additional research is needed.
8. Has Antibacterial, Antiviral and Antifungal Properties
In India, golden milk is often used as a home remedy against colds. In fact, 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 (50).
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 (51, 52, 53).
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 (54, 55).
The ingredients in golden milk also have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which may strengthen your immune system (55).
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. Ginger and Turmeric 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 (56, 57).
Research further shows that turmeric, another ingredient used to make golden milk, may help reduce indigestion symptoms. Turmeric may also improve the digestion of fat by increasing your production of bile by up to 62% (58).
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 (59, 60).
Ginger and turmeric, two ingredients in golden milk, may help relieve indigestion. Turmeric may also help relieve symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis.
10. Calcium and Vitamin D Contribute to Stronger Bones
Golden milk may contribute to a strong skeleton.
If your diet is too low in calcium, your body starts removing 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 (62).
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 (62).
Though cow’s milk naturally contains calcium and is often enriched with vitamin D, not all plant milks are rich in these two nutrients.
If you prefer to make your golden milk using a plant-based milk, choose one that is enriched with both calcium and vitamin D for more bone-strengthening benefits.
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 an 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.
Golden milk can also be made in advance and stored in your refrigerator for up to five days. Simply reheat it before drinking.
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.
The Bottom Line
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 a milk with both calcium and vitamin D and limit the amount of honey or syrup you add to your drink.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Moreover, views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Awareness Junkie or its staff.