Updated: Jun 8, 2018
At once both calming and deeply nourishing, ‘Golden Milk’ is a time-honoured Ayurvedic recipe featuring cow’s milk, turmeric, and an assortment of fragrant spices to alleviate the effects of Vata vitiation. Vata, which is governed by the element of air and frequently imbalanced by any deviation from routine, is the predominant doshic challenge associated with the travails of 21st century living. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mum trying to find enough hours in the day to get your home and kids organised, or a CEO of a top 500 company trying to juggle business meetings with golf leisure-time on the weekends, Vata vitiation is the hallmark of modern-day lifestyles. Common side-effects of imbalanced Vata include anxiety, insomnia, constipation, dry skin, muscle aches and spasms, and cold intolerance….all of which, when prolonged, results in the depletion of ojas.
Ojas: The Elixir of Life
As the embodiment of ‘life force’, ojas represents the biochemical marriage between the body’s seven vital tissues (dhatus) and the forces of Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water). Ojas works synergistically with this trinity of elements to regulate immune, neuromuscular, endocrine and digestive functions while supporting optimal elimination through faeces (Vata), urine (Kapha) and perspiration (Pitta). Ojas’ relationship to water is especially important given that the human body is made up of at least 70 percent water. This explains ojas’ role in building healthy blood and supporting bone marrow, spleen and lymphatic function, and also highlights why individuals with diminished ojas are frequently anaemic and suffer from poor vitality and fatigue.
Though this recipe calls for pure cow’s milk, those of you who are lactose-intolerant may substitute cow’s milk for almond milk instead. Renowned Ayurvedic scholar Dr Robert Svoboda writes that cow’s milk is “sweet, cool, unctuous, thick, viscid and clear”, and is able to optimally nourish ojas because it shares these very same qualities with ojas. Where possible, always choose non-homogenised, organic cow’s milk over homogenised as non-homogenised varieties maintain the integrity of fat molecules within the milk. Adequate fat is essential for counteracting deranged Vata, and milk’s naturally soporific effect helps prepare the body for a good night’s sleep.
An Aromatic Marriage
The spices used in this recipe have a two-fold function: to help enhance the digestibility of milk for those not used to consuming cow’s milk regularly, and to add an exotic, balsamic fragrance. The recipe’s star spice (turmeric) has stimulant, carminative and alterative qualities which enhances digestive, circulatory and respiratory functions while its natural antibacterial properties support blood purification. Modern medicine recognises that turmeric’s chief compound curcumin is anti-inflammatory, cancer-preventive and a broad-spectrum antioxidant, making it an excellent inclusion in all types of cuisine.
Supporting spices in this Golden Milk recipe include cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and star anise. Cardamom is a wonderful addition to milk because it helps decrease milk’s mucous-forming properties while cloves reduce mucous in both the stomach and the lungs, working synergistically alongside cardamom to clear the body’s lymphatic channels and gently stimulate the digestive juices. Like cloves and cardamom, cinnamon balances excess Vata and Kapha and bolsters digestive power, while star anise is a purely indulgent touch included both for its Vata-reducing properties and its irresistibly pungent fragrance. Star anise has a flavour intimately reminiscent of liquorice, so if you’re not partial to liquorice’s unique sweetness, I recommend that you leave star anise out altogether.
250ml organic non-homogenised cow’s milk (may be substituted with almond milk if lactose intolerant)
¼ tsp of turmeric powder
½ stick of cinnamon bark
2 cardamom pods
1 star anise
Place milk into a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir occasionally.
Add spices to milk once slightly warm and stir until spice powders are evenly dispersed into milk.
Bring milk to a gentle boil and immediately remove from heat.
Using a small strainer, strain milk and discard spice remnants.
*This drink is not recommended for individuals with Kapha derangement due the heavy, damp qualities of milk which exacerbate Kapha vitiation. Excess Kapha manifests as a thick white coating on the tongue in the morning, severe mental fog, sticky bowel movements, vaginal thrush, and any disorder resulting in excess mucous production.
**Milk should never be consumed with a meal. For best results, this drink (or any milky beverage for that matter) should be taken either on an empty stomach or at least two hours after a meal to allow sufficient time for digestion to occur. Consumption of milk with food may hamper digestion and displace vital nutrients such as iron, magnesium, copper and zinc.