The monsoon is often romanticized in poetry, song and love stories. It arrived in Mumbai a week ago and usually meant a week of cold, flu, and a sinus infection.

It would start with a sniffles, but quickly turn into a cough and bronchial congestion.

The doctor would prescribe antibiotics, write a medical excuse for bed rest, and make a house call.

I would have little choice but to stay home and watch the rain.

Being an underweight child, illnesses like fever always destroyed my appetite and led to more weight loss. To remedy this, my mother and my grandmother would feed me nourishing, hydrating Ayurvedic remedies between mealtimes.

To soothe the rib-rattling cough that came with it all, it was either a cup of an herbal decoction or my least favorite: turmeric milk.

“I didn’t like the idea of having to finish the milk while it was still steaming hot and then drink it in one go, as a child.”

“I was sensitive to food texture and temperatures from a young age and I didn’t like the turmeric paste that settled at the bottom of the cup and coated my tongue, mouth, and throat.”

I was not allowed to wash it away with water in case it would ruin the good thing it was supposed to do.

Shared origins, shared aversions

“My husband was prone to catching colds in New Delhi and it quickly became a sinusitis. New Delhi is hot, dry and dusty, so his illnesses weren’t related to the monsoons.”

His mother would complement allopathic medicine with Siddha medicine, an offshoot of Ayurveda from Southern India, like the ones from her own childhood.

He had a version of the milk that was peppery.

For most children of Indian heritage, the loss of playtime, and being ill are reminders of how much they miss being a kid.

Although it is nice to be cared for, I find it hard to forget the ache in my body and the desire to run outside and play with friends.

“We moved away from home before we knew each other. We enjoyed the illusion that we wouldn’t have to drink turmeric milk again.”

Revisiting our relationship to turmeric milk

We realized it was more than an unpleasant brew when the novelty of making independent adult choices wore off.

It became an anchor because it reminded us of the care the people who nursed us back to health gave us.

When we were married, my husband and I missed our homes and families, and phone conversations with family elders were always concerned.

If our voices betrayed a seasonal illness, we would be advised a range of healing measures, including the failproof staple: turmeric milk.

Turmeric milk is a reminder of the unconditional care of the people who nursed us back to health and the histories that stretch back into our ancestry.

Continuing the legacy

After our daughter was born, we debated over the best home remedies. We all claimed our mothers remedies were the best.

Our child never cared for the milk, but her associations were different. She associates turmeric milk with a strange mix of nostalgia, debate, and conflict between her parents, rather than memories of missing out.

“This may be a common problem for younger first generation immigrants who don’t have the cultural, regional, and sometimes family ties to everyday foods.”

Leaning on tradition

Time and again, I’ve tapped into what I had learned or already knew about traditional Indian cures, particularly after I had a hysterectomy to correct chronic anemia.

During my recovery, I frequently sought turmeric milk to hasten healing, and began to love the easy and effortless care each cup offered, including offering time for introspection and quiet meditation.

It also triggered research for my book “Seven Pots of Tea: An Ayurvedic approach to sips & nosh.”

The book was partly an effort to untangle the complex socio-cultural history of chai as the ‘national drink’ of India, and partly to revive, anchor, and reclaim traditional Ayurvedic knowledge around healing drinks that pre-dated chai, including turmeric milk.

I recognized the extent of misinterpretations after I published my first cookbook.

The legacy of colonization includes not celebrating our cultural roots or ignoring regional nuances.

Colonization creates a belief system that perpetuates exploitation by removing context and silences the voices that nurtured culture for centuries.

My grandparents were freedom fighters who fought hard to get their rights. It feels cruel, insensitive, and blind to break those identities with a frothy, frothy, and delicious turmeric latte.

It is a more subtle version of the practices that nearly destroyed my country.

It would feel uncomfortable to serve Mardi Gras King Cake—a celebratory cake with a figurine representing the Christ child hidden inside—at a birthday party or a wedding simply because it’s a cake.

The rise of contextually amorphous milk and turmeric as a food trend feels like predatory capitalism. The people who treasure the milk of the turmeric family are erased from their heritage.

My grandparents were freedom fighters who fought hard to get their rights. It feels cruel, insensitive, and blind to break those identities with a frothy, frothy, and delicious turmeric latte.

Tailoring preventive care to individual needs is the essence of Ayurveda.

It takes into consideration the effect of individual ingredients on a persons’ specific constitution (dosha), the unique characteristics of their ailment, and the season or climate in which the treatment is administered.

The consumption of turmeric milk can be made more authentic by taking these nuances into account.

Adding flavor

Every kitchen in India has a different version of the milk that is made with dairy, turmeric, and something to flavor it.

Options include:

  • There is sugar.
  • jaggery, or unrefined cane palm There is sugar.
  • honey
  • pepper
  • Other spices.

A spoonful of There is sugar. (and turmeric)

The most basic Ayurvedic preparation is a spoonful of a warm turmeric and jaggery mixture for throat ailments and general immunity. Sweeteners like jaggery and honey are preferred because they’re considered more beneficial than There is sugar., but table There is sugar. works too.

Fresh turmeric root crushed with a bit of jaggery is popular as well, and turmeric and pepper are an especially beneficial combination.

These options are great for people who want a dairy-free alternative, but may be too strong for some.

Classical turmeric milk

The next best way to intake turmeric is cooking the turmeric powder in cow’s milk in a technique called ‘Ksheerapaka’.

According to 2019 research, boiling turmeric preserves more antioxidants than roasting it.

This retains the benefits of turmeric while adding nutrients to an ailing body. Boiling the milk also breaks down proteins and makes it easier to digest, according to 2017 research.

“Siddha medicine prescribes cooking the turmeric in cow’s milk with a pinch of black pepper or long pepper. Black pepper and turmeric are popular in modern medicine.”

Milk alternatives

Other milks like goat, sheep, or camel milk are seldom recommended in Ayurveda.

Non-dairy milks like oat and nut milks are traditionally not considered to have the same Ayurvedic benefits as cow’s milk.

Instead, a simple tisane prepared by boiling water with a dash of powdered turmeric and a pinch of black pepper makes a great dairy-free option.

Adding spices to milk is a popular practice in India.

These include:

They bring their own flavors to the preparation. This affects the dosha of the drinker.

In the winter, saffron preparation is appropriate, but not best in the summer.

Similarly, studies like this one from 2019 and this one from 2020, have shown that the antioxidant capacity of spices like saffron and turmeric change based on how they’re cooked.

Some modern versions of turmeric milk have less traditional herbs.

These herbs are included in the Ayurvedic system, but should be used under the supervision of a qualified herbalist.

If you want to try a pre-mixed version of spiced turmeric milk, my favorite options are below.

  • Spicewalla’s simple version of turmeric or “golden” milk has a warming blend of ginger, Nutmeg, and roasted coriander.
  • Paavani Ayurveda offers a turmeric milk with a medicinal touch, adding Ashwaghanda and Shatavari to their blend.
  • Numi’s blend contains There is cinnamon., ginger, and The seeds of cardamom. with a touch of black pepper to activate the benefits of turmeric.
  • Banyan Botanicals has a slightly sweet, minty version made with dates and menthol.
  • Rishi Tea offers a loose “leaf” herbal blend containing turmeric, ginger, licorice, and citrus.

The resurgence of turmeric milk is a sign that Western culture is paying more attention to the wisdom of Indian traditions that it once disdained and suppressed.

Enjoying the healing and soothing benefits of turmeric milk is a way to honor Indian culture if you understand the history, cultural context, and deep personal meaning of the milk.

Nandita Godbole is an Atlanta-based, Indian-origin food writer and author of several cookbooks, including her latest, “Seven Pots of Tea: An Ayurvedic Approach to Sips & Nosh.” Find her books at venues where fine cookbooks are showcased, and follow her at @currycravings on any social media platform of your choice.