Regardless of where you were raised, if you are of Indian descent then its highly likely your grandmothers and/or moms have publicized the benefits of Haldi Doodh, or as non-Indians refer to it as “Golden Milk”. But is it really that healthy?
Personally, my mom never really pushed the concoction, maybe because she knew it would be wasted on my former adolescent self. But she did always talk about how growing up haldi was known for its many therapies from skincare to joint pain. She also mentioned that whenever she was sick with a cold, haldi doodh was the only thing that seemed to help. Much like my mom, there is an entire culture and civilization that swears by the therapeutic affects of turmeric but how much do we really know about this “superfood”.
WHAT IS HALDI DOODH/GOLDEN MILK
In its most basic form, “Haldi doodh”, which literally means turmeric milk in Hindi, is a Aryuvedic drink originating in India in which “haldi” or ground turmeric is added to warm milk. Often in India the drink also features honey or sugar, an assortment of warm spices like cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and sometimes even a pinch of saffron.
THE HEALTH CLAIMS
Today, golden milk has become the latest health craze, gaining traction as juicers across the western world are touting this drink for its presumed anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant properties. As a result, the drink is getting a modern makeover with many variations to the original including vegan alternatives in light of recent dairy concerns. But which claims are actually true?
THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE
Historically, India & China have been known to use turmeric as remedies for everything from insect bites & cancer therapies to anti-aging & skincare. However in the past decade, turmeric has gained a more global following with many considering haldi/turmeric to be a superfood. Since 2013, sales of turmeric-related supplements has increased over 26%, making it an estimated over $20 million dollar market. Simultaneously over the past two decades, over $150 million has been dedicated to researching the potential biomedical benefits of curcumin (a major compound found in turmeric) as a result of these claims. After delving a little further into the research, it seems that much of it is inconclusive in a large part due to differences in turmeric & curcumin synthesis, replicability of these studies, and study design (several lack a blind or placebo group for comparison).
WHAT WE KNOW
Much of the most recent research studies point to one known fact: that curcumin (a component of turmeric) has a low bioavailability when taken orally. But there also seems to be a void in the research investigating potential negative effects. In several recent studies, participants have mentioned diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues when consuming larger doses of curcumin (6g/day+). Now, this could be caused by other confounds but it does demonstrate that very little is know about how much turmeric is too much.
There have been some studies that have explored the anti-cancerous properties of turmeric, but unfortunately several of these have small sample sizes, low sex & race diversity within their samples and most importantly completion of the study requires a safe slower progression of cancer which can suddenly change mid-study causing a loss of participant. So while in some instances, oral consumption of curcumin has show dramatic tumor shrinkage, the samples are so small its hard to generalize this to the human population.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
Like with most things, the general rule of thumb seems to be that turmeric and more specifically curcumin could be powerful but this has not being tested reliably. So don’t drink that golden milk for its vast health benefits, because to be completely honest, those health benefits have not been thoroughly vetted yet. Drink that golden milk because you like the taste, and don’t drink too much because we don’t know if there is an upper limit.