What is moon milk? Ayurvedic recipe goes viral for sleep-promoting benefits

The concoction is brimming with medicinal herbs, notably ashwagandha root

Common herbs used in moon milk include ashwagandha root, turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom. Photo: Kalpana Sunder
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Moon milk, a frothy, pastel-coloured elixir that combines warm milk with herbs and spices, has been doing the rounds on social media as a health drink. While the “moon” moniker may be new, this soothing brew, originally made with milk, water and ashwagandha, has its roots in Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old holistic healing discipline from India.

“Moon milk is a staple beverage in India’s traditional healthcare system,” says Avni Kaul, a nutritionist and wellness coach from Delhi. “Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which helps the body deal with fatigue, anxiety and stress, so you can have this blend of milk and herbs before going to bed, to help with sleep and relaxation.”

Variations of moon milk

While powdered mixes are available on the shelves, moon milk is best made fresh, whether from dairy or alternatives such as oat milk and almond milk. The brew can also be customised according to your needs, taste and herbs on hand.

“Many Indian households have a soothing bedtime drink made with milk. In ours, it’s my grandmother’s recipe made with almonds, turmeric, nutmeg, black pepper and dried rose petals boiled in cow’s milk,” says Shruti Raman, a software professional who lives in Bengaluru.

Megan, the food blogger behind Dollop of Dough, creates a dairy-free version made with ashwagandha, beetroot powder, tart cherry juice (a natural source of melatonin), rosewater, and rose petals. Cookbook author Kristen Wood shares a recipe for a blue-hued mint blueberry moon milk with butterfly pea flower powder, on her Instagram account @moon.and.spoon.and.yum.

Other variants of moon milk feature ingredients such as lavender, cacao, maca root, coconut oil, ginger and nuts.

Various ayurvedic ingredients can also be added to the blend, including turmeric (to fight off seasonal coughs and colds and lower inflammation); tulsi or holy basil (to combat low energy levels and fatigue); cardamom (to soothe restlessness); cinnamon (to relax the muscles); and honey (for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties).

Ashwagandha a must

No matter what your preferred combination, nutritionist and author Kavita Devgan suggests retaining ashwagandha or winter cherry, an ancient medicinal herb, in any effective moon milk recipe.

“There are many variations, but ksheerapaka, the ayurvedic original with ashwagandha, is what gives moon milk its relaxation-promoting properties. This concoction is also thought to increase immunity and balance the hormones,” says Devgan.

Ksheerapaka is a gentle sleep-inducing brew with precise measurements and ingredients, wherein medicinal herbs are boiled with milk and water and decocted. In the ayurvedic tradition, the herbs in this recipe help to balance vata dosha (energy pattern), which can lead to anxiety when aggravated.

For people suffering from insomnia and anxiety, ashwagandha can help calm the mind and promote sleep. Various studies have reported that ashwagandha rejuvenates, promotes longevity, helps with cognitive functions such as memory and focus, and induces sleep.

The milk itself extracts the medicinal properties of this and other herbs, as well as reducing their intensity. It also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that can increase the levels of the two hormones that help with sleep: serotonin and melatonin.

“Milk is considered a rasayana, something that improves the nourishment of tissues,” explains Madhumita Krishnan, a doctor from Chennai who has an MD in ayurvedic paediatrics. “When you process herbs in it, it nourishes the whole body in a sense.”

Also citing the example of garlic, she says: “It has a sharp flavour profile, hence boiling garlic in milk is a great way of getting the benefits without any complications. The same goes for golden latte, which uses turmeric and pepper in milk, and is excellent for respiratory health.”

Some caveats to keep in mind include: avoid adding too much sugar in your moon milk recipe; consult a healthcare professional before adding any new herb to your routine; and don’t expect the recipe to heal deep-rooted sleep disorders or anxiety overnight.

Moon milk: a recipe


1 cup whole milk or unsweetened nut milk

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp ground ashwagandha

2 pinches ground cardamom

1 pinch ground nutmeg

Freshly ground black pepper

1 rsp virgin coconut oil or ghee

1 tsp honey, preferably raw


Simmer the milk with all the ingredients except the honey, leaving the coconut oil for the end.

Stir in the honey once the brew is off the flame.

Updated: June 11, 2023, 4:00 AM