Like many people, I have fond memories of my college days. My future husband’s roommate used to make me tea whenever I visited their dorm. Originally from India, his roommate would make fancy chais and curries from scratch. Often a group of us would sit on the floor in a circle grating fresh ginger root, breaking up cinnamon sticks with our hands and cracking cardamom pods with the back of a spoon all for the promise of that sweet homemade chai. One day, he made me something he called “Golden Milk” based on his grandmother’s recipe. It was warm, earthy and a healthier alternative to my usual caffeinated fare. It also definitely left a permanent yellow stain on my sweatshirt. Despite the wardrobe risks I have made golden milk a part of my regular warm beverage rotation, and while I don’t use fresh turmeric and ginger, I find the ground spice works just as well.
If you haven’t heard of Golden Milk, then you’ve probably heard of the star ingredient: Turmeric. This vibrant yellow-orange spice has become a trending superfood in popular media with everyone from TV doctors to mommy-blogs toting its supposed health benefits. In its native regions of the Indian subcontinent, the root was historically used in the traditional medical practice Ayurveda. Intrigued by Ayurvedic claims, medical communities have delved into possible uses and benefits of the spice. They’ve isolated a compound called curcumin as the likely active ingredient responsible for supposed health benefits; curcumin is also the bright yellow pigment that stained my sweatshirt.
Recently, clinical studies have shown that curcumin reduces inflammation in some individuals. Exactly how curcumin affects inflammation is currently unknown, but leading theories posit that it inhibits our bodies’ natural inflammatory chemical pathways. Anti-inflammatory benefits may not sound all that exciting at first, but inflammation is a contributing factor to many common diseases such as cardiovascular disease as well as the more mundane aches and pains. The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may aid in muscle recovery after a workout. Professional teams are already incorporating turmeric into their diets, including the New Orleans Saints, who end every practice with a shot of turmeric. There may be other benefits too. Some early animal studies may suggest that curcumin can help prevent depression and Alzheimer’s, but the jury is still out until these effects can be studied more closely.
But reaping the anti-inflammatory benefits of this golden root is a little more tricky than simply ingesting large amounts of it. Your body’s ability to absorb nutrients --whether that’s your morning multivitamin or piece of candy you ate ten minutes ago-- is based on the bio-availability of that nutrient. Many turmeric supplements have increased the amount of curcumin to increase absorption chances, but medical professionals are skeptical of their effectiveness. In order to absorb the curcumin most effectively it is recommended that it is eaten with fat and black pepper. This is where the brilliance of Golden Milk comes in. Curcumin is a fat-soluble molecule and is better digested alongside fats or oils. When you heat turmeric in milk, the fatty curcumin molecule diffuses into the milk which allows for better absorption. Black pepper helps thanks to naturally occurring pepperine, which has been shown to increase the bioavailability of curcumin. This is why you tend to see it included in most Golden Milk recipes.
Now I bet you’re wondering how to make this easy health tonic for yourself. Turmeric on its own can be unappealing so most recipes include other spices such as ginger, cinnamon and, of course, black pepper. Thanks to our amazing Pike Place Market Crew who created this blend, you can now purchase our Golden Milk Mix online and at the Pike Place Market Retail Store in Seattle!
Golden Milk Recipe:
Just add one teaspoon of the mix for every 8 oz of milk (or some high-fat milk substitute) and warm the concoction on the stove until it is suitable for drinking (usually 3-5 minutes.)
For an optional last step, you can strain out the spices if you find the floating grits off putting.
As with most recipes, I encourage you to experiment with the ingredients. I like to add honey to mine, and I have a vegan friend that makes it with coconut milk. Just be careful not to get it on your sweatshirt.