A cup of warm milk before bedtime was a childhood ritual in our family - we found it comforting (minus my brother who has a milk intolerance so he wasn’t a participant in this particular wind down routine) and it signalled a gentle transition to bed. Okay, in reality we were probably brats and went kicking and screaming most of the time, but we knew that when the warm milk came out, bedtime was nigh whether we liked it or not.
Now we are older, as with naps, skipping parties and taking baths, we generally relish the stuff we kicked up a fuss about when we were younger, and most of us see an early night as tantamount to a spa day, particularly given the ‘tired but wired’, tech dependant state that most of us muddle by in day to day. Here’s where today’s trend talk unites: enter a social media wellness trend doing the rounds that’s rooted in ayurveda and was originally considered to be a centuries old remedy for insomnia…
What is moon milk?
Basically, warm milk 2.0. Traditionally drunk before bed, it involves heating milk with spices to invoke a calm, sleepy feeling, and despite the recent spike in interest, it’s not a passing fad, as the herbalists at Pukka explain:
“In India, the concept of blending warm milk and herbs and spices is not new. In the case of ‘moon milk’, blending cardamom, cinnamon and ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (known for its anxiety-easing properties), dates back hundreds of years.
“It is no coincidence that as our interest in ayurveda (India’s ancient health system) increases, so does our awareness of warming cups of milk, herbs and spices to benefit wellbeing.”
Speaking of awareness, Pinterest searches for ‘moon milk’ have increased by over 700 per cent since last year, but it’s fair to say that the common social media incarnation isn’t exactly in line with ayurvedic heritage or practice - the frothy pastel creations you’ll see on the ‘gram aren’t exactly representative moon milk’s roots. Hit ‘like’ and whip one up if you fancy, but just so you know.
Moon milk typically contains adaptogenic herbs , so called because they help the body and mind adapt to stressors according to traditional Chinese and ayurvedic medicine. One of the most common adaptogenic herbs used in the making of moon milk in the aforementioned ashwagandha - quite the mouthful, but it’s considered to be a particularly calming herb and studies suggest that it can help to lower stress hormone (cortisol) levels in adults. Given that milk itself is rich in the sleep-promoting amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body to produce the ‘ sleep hormone’ melatonin , adding ashwagandha to the mix makes sense.
How to make moon milk
Recipes vary, but Pukka herbalists recommend “adding cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and ashwagandha to warm milk”. ‘Moon mylk’ is a thing too - if you don’t include dairy in your diet, recipes work just as well with any milk alternative of your choice.
At London’s newly opened Glow Bar , founder and chef Sasha Sabapathy has created an entire moon milk menu, using various adaptogenic herbs to support the body as needed, from energising blends with rose, beetroot and stimulating schisandra to ‘Chill’, which combines milk with ashwagandha, lulling lavender and antioxidant rich maqui berry . Each costs £5, so they’re not exactly a cheap route to sleep, but as a treat they probably fit into the ‘self-care’ bracket and at least will encourage stressed out central Londoners to sit down and savour a brew (it costs a lot so you’re hopefully less likely to bolt it).
For a ready made take on moon milk at home, Pukka’s new herbal lattes do the mixology for you. Cacao Maca Magic , £4.99 for 90g, is the ayurvedic inspired equivalent of a hot chocolate - it contains cacao, ashwagandha, maca, which is supposedly mood-boosting and the reportedly hormone balancing adaptogenic herb shatavari. It’s far from your basic cup of cocao, but it’s sugar-free and also contains a lot of more familiar warming spices you’ll recognise such as cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. Add to warm milk to help you to nod off on a cold night.
Ayurvedic milks go mainstream
It’s not just moon milk that’s on the ascendance - no doubt you’ve come across a turmeric latte either online or at your nearest hipster hangout, otherwise known as golden milk or haldi doodh in Hindi. The popular vivid yellow blend has now come to a tube/ train station near you thanks to a partnership with East by West author Jasmine Hemsley and Leon . Leon’s Golden Milk was rolled out at 52 outlets last month and was inspired by ayurvedic cuisine and its use of medicinal spices. In its creation Jasmine saw an opportunity to quell our communal coffee habit and wean us onto something a little calmer, as she explains:
“Golden milk packs an all round punch - it’s ideal for soothing frazzled nerves in a fast-paced world, while offering delicious, easy-to-digest nutrition. Smooth and satisfying with a bittersweet hit, Golden Milk makes the perfect alternative to coffee.”
As well as turmeric, Jasmine’s Golden Milk recipe includes cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and jaggery (an unrefined sugar made from molasses) and whether it’s your cup of tea or not is down to personal preference, but I can verify that’s it’s tasty, although it won’t give you the morning jolt that a flat white will. As with moon milk, however, that’s not what it’s for – it has its origins in chilling out, not switching you on for the day to come.
While moon milks and their ilk certainly aren’t the latte equivalent of the elixir of life as they’re sometimes purported to be on social media and they definitely won’t cure sleep disorders or alleviate all anxiety , they do make for a soothing bedtime ritual and you can consider them pretty healthy as long as you don’t add lots of sugar in the process. They might help you catch some zeds and equally they might not, but they’re not simply a flash in the Pinterest pan either. Ancient wisdom has to count for something.
Disclaimer: Certain supplements are used for different reasons and a one-size-fits-all approach should never be adopted. In addition, pregnant women and anyone on medication should always consult a doctor before embarking on a supplements programme.
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