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Moon Milk: Does This Trendy Drink Help You Sleep?

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Moon milk - Dr. Axe

Who doesn’t want to beat insomnia, experience deep sleep with vivid dreams and then wake up feeling refreshed? If you’re one of millions of adults who struggle to get a good night’s sleep, you may be curious about whether moon milk — a trendy variation of turmeric tea — can help solve your problem.

Made with spices that are popular in Indian cooking, moon milk-like beverages have been recommended by Ayurvedic medicine practitioners for hundreds of years. This anti-inflammatory drink may help to build the body’s defenses against stress, burnout and exhaustion.

While formal studies on the effects of moon milk are limited, many people who have made this beverage a regular part of their morning or bedtime routine report experiencing good results. Considering it’s easy to make at home with basic ingredients, why not give it a try?

What Is Moon Milk?

Moon milk is a warm beverage made with milk that’s infused with herbs and spices, most notably turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s sometimes described as being an “adaptogen elixir” because it can have calming effects, helping you to doze off more easily at bed time and to stay asleep.

Depending on the specific recipe, it might also help to dull pain, increase alertness during the day, and help you recover from illnesses more easily.

Types

There are dozens of variations of moon milk, depending on the specific ingredients that are used, although most are spin-offs of turmeric milk tea. Take a look on instagram and you’ll find more than 5,000+ drinks tagged as #moonmilk, including an array of bright yellow, purple, blue and pink variations.

Ingredients that are commonly found in moon milk include:

  • milk, whether cow’s milk or cashew, coconut or almond milk. Plant-based milks can substituted for regular milk if you want to make vegan moon milk, of if you’re lactose intolerant or just choose to avoid dairy
  • spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and cardamom
  • ghee or coconut oil
  • adaptogen herbs such as ashwagandha, astragalus and ginseng
  • raw honey
  • superfoods like tart cherry juice, acai powder or spirulina
  • pumpkin or squash puree
  • nuts such as almonds and pistachios
  • edible flowers including dried rose petals, chamomile or lavender (you can also tea)
  • magnesium powder (an essential mineral that can reduce muscle tension and help you to feel relaxed)
  • L-theanine, an amino acid that’s considered a nootropic that has calming effects

Nutrition Facts

The exact nutrition profile of moon milk depends on how you make it, for example how much milk, honey and oil you use. Below are nutrition facts for one cup (8 ounces) of moon milk made with 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 dropper of ashwagandha extract, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, turmeric and nutmeg.

  • 45 calories
  • 3 grams fat
  • 4 grams carbs
  • 1 grams fiber
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 1 grams protein

Keep in mind that using regular whole milk, ghee/oil and raw honey will increase the calorie, sugar and carb content considerably.

One serving made with these ingredients may contain up to 250 calories and about 20 grams sugar. If you’re following a low-sugar or low-carb diet (such as the keto diet), you’ll want to use unsweetened nut milk and stevia extract instead.

On the other hand, dairy milk is responsible for many of the benefits of moon milk due to its supply of protein and carbs. This means that if you can tolerate it, regular milk may be worth using despite the higher calorie content.

Benefits

1. May Help You Sleep

Moon milk may have become trendy only recently, but drinking warm milk as a natural sleep aid is nothing new. For example, according to Ayurvedic tradition, warm milk at night is beneficial for balancing pitta and vata doshas, helping to calm the nerves and soothe an overworked mind.

Studies have found that due to the presence of carbohydrates and certain amino acids (especially tryptophan) in warmed milk, drinking it before bed can make you naturally feel a bit drowsy. In fact, the milk doesn’t even necessarily need to be heated to have this effect, however many find sipping on a toasty beverage to be relaxing.

According to a 2014 study, research has shown that a combination of a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity coupled with consumption of dairy foods can lead to better sleep and reduced difficulty initiating sleep among adults. Tryptophan found in milk is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, two hormones that play an important role in promoting restful sleep.

Some researchers also speculate that milk may have natural sleep-promoting effects due to psychological associations: The memory of a mother giving milk at bedtime during childhood may lead to drowsiness even in adulthood.

2. Contains Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric

Can turmeric help you sleep? We know that this spice has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and may help to dull pain, due to the presence of its active ingredient called curcumin. Less pain and discomfort may translate to more restful sleep.

The addition of other spices, such as black pepper, ginger and cinnamon can also help to boost absorption of turmeric and reduce discomfort such as nausea/upset stomach, migraines and congestion that may keep you up at night.

3. Made with Adaptogens that Help You Handle Stress 

Adaptogens in this beverage including ashwagandha can help you to feel relaxed, especially when consumed consistently (whether in pill or powder form). Ashwagandha has been shown to help decrease secretion of stress hormones including cortisol and to buffer against negative effects of stress including fatigue and mood swings.

Depending on when you plan to drink moon milk, you can also try adding other uplifting adaptogens such as ginseng and rhodiola. Like ashwagandha, these herbs are capable of modulating your body’s response to stress and supporting bodily functions including focus and sleep.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to unwind at night, try a bit of lavender moon milk made with lavender tea (dried lavender flowers steeped in hot water).

4. May Help Curb Cravings and Satisfy Your Desire for Sweets

What does warm milk and cinnamon do to your appetite? Rather than nibbling on sweets after dinner, try having a cozy cup of moon milk instead, which will provide  small amounts of natural sugars and carbs from milk and honey, along with cinnamon that may help reduce sugar cravings.

Certain studies have found that cinnamon — a naturally warm and sweet spice— can support metabolic health and help to prevent spikes in blood sugar and insulin. This may lead to less ups-and-downs in terms of your energy and potentially a reduced desire to snack on sweets.

Related: What Is Brown Noise? Benefits + How to Use It for Better Sleep

Recipe

Want to try making your own moon milk at home? Here is an easy moon milk recipe to get you started:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of milk of your choice, such as organic whole milk or your favorite nut milk (coconut, cashew or almond milk for example)
  • ½ teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ashwagandha (or another adaptogen if you prefer)
  • (optional) tiny pinch of ground ginger, nutmeg, black pepper and cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey (you can skip this or use a sugar substitute such as stevia extract if you prefer to have zero-added sugar)

Directions:

  • In a small pot, bring milk to a simmer over low heat, then add cinnamon, turmeric, ashwagandha and any other spices you like. Whisk to get rid of any clumps.
  • Add ghee or oil and simmer for 5–10 minutes, then turn off heat and let cool a bit. While still warm, stir in honey and enjoy.

Risks and Side Effects

As long as you don’t have an allergy to any ingredients used to make moon milk, there isn’t much risk involved in giving it a try. That being said, sipping on moon milk or turmeric tea may not be enough to solve serious or chronic sleep problems — which is where bigger lifestyle changes, “sleep hygiene” and a night time routine come into play.

If you find that moon milk causes you to experience side effects such as indigestion or tingling in your mouth, stop drinking it.

If you respond fine to it, but aren’t experiencing the sleep-inducing, anti-anxiety results you were hoping for, then consider making other changes including: sticking to a regular sleep-wake schedule, getting natural sunlight exposure during the day, avoiding blue light before bed, diffusing lavender oil in your home, and reading and journaling at night to unwind.

Final Thoughts

  • What is moon milk? It’s a warm beverage made with milk (plant-based or regular) plus spices including turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg. Ghee or coconut oil and raw honey are also often added.
  • While most of what we know is based on traditional uses in Ayurvedic medicine and anecdotal evidence, moon milk benefits may include: helping you sleep, reducing anxiety and restlessness, and fighting pain and inflammation.
  • To make it yourself at home, try this simple moon milk recipe: Combine 1 cup of warmed milk with a pinch of turmeric and cinnamon along with other spices of your choice, 1 teaspoon of coconut oil/ghee, and 1–2 teaspoons of honey.
Josh Axe

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