Use of milk (dairy) in Ayurvedic Medicine

By Manjulali

In the last decade, especially with studies on casein, and, many people developing sensitivity to Lactose, a sugar found within dairy/milk, or, problems digesting milk proteins; milk has developed a bad reputation in the United States.

I get asked constantly in my Herb class, if Almond milk, or, soymilk is okay to substitute for dairy? The answer is yes if you want to substitute, sure. If someone is sensitive to dairy, then go ahead and substitute with a non-dairy alternative.

(In Ayurveda, we always mean grass-fed organic milk from cows that were not fed antibiotics)

There are two questions-

1. Are nuts and other plant-based beverages are as effective as organic grass-fed dairy?
2. Why is organic grass fed diary is given so much importance in Ayurveda?

To answer the first question, no plant-based beverages are not as effective as cow's milk, or butter, or ghee when being used therapeutically with herbs. Ayurveda uses organic fresh cow milk, ghee, goatmilk, or buttermilk when using as an AnupAna or a delivery system for the herb-then, so the answer is NO. They are not as effective. The efficacy won't be the same.

When I am talking about using milk as an AnupAna (a vehicle that increases the efficacy of the herb, and, delivers it deeper into the dhatus, increases Kapha, decreases vata and pitta) then only actual dairy will do. This usually means cows' milk. So, what about those who are sensitive to cow's dairy. Simple, we ask them to substitute with goat milk in smaller amounts.

Why is a diary so important? our ancient texts and scriptures say that Ghee is a great support and medicine for calming pitta, calming indigestion, colon support, etc. There are many benefits of milk described in the different ancient texts.

Another reason is that we use diary products to create a foundation or a base for complex multi-herbal formulations. We also use dairy products as a delivery system.

Sometimes, the amount of milk we are using for the delivery of herb is 24 ml or less than an oz. Perhaps 2 oz. If someone cannot digest dairy, then we suggest ghee instead. (All milk solids which include casein and lactose have been removed!)

By the way, how can a nut milk be milk? By definition, milk is produced from a mammary gland? In one class discussion when I was teaching about ghee, a student said, " if god didn't attend humans to drink milk then he/she wouldn't have provided those to the feminine gender, I think".

Ayurvedic texts like Bhavaprakasha mention the benefits of milk not just from cows, but, also from sheep, camel, buffalo, and goats to name a few.

Another question I get constantly asked is does Ayurveda advocate milk raw or boiled?

The answer is boiled for at least 60 seconds. (Obviously, if someone finds raw milk suitable and does not want to leave drinking it, that's ok. I am just mentioning what Ayurveda suggests.)

Sometimes students are incredulous. "But--how??? Ayurveda is all-natural? How can it not advocate raw milk" they ask.

The answer is that raw milk can give rise to diseases, carry pathogens. It can carry DANGEROUS bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter. This was especially true in the tropical Indian climate, where Ayurveda evolved.

Symptoms of food poisoning from raw milk can give rise vomiting, diahroea etc.

Ayurveda does not like bacteria and krimi. Our ancient seers talked about boiling milk when everyone had a cow in their backyard, every day and once a day.

In ancient times, we got rid of bacteria, and, all kinds of krimi by constantly boiling our water, milk, and, all fluids.

I grew up in our household boiling our milk every single day, sometimes twice a day (If it was too hot, as we didn't have refrigeration).

First, let's understand what is the difference between different types of pasteurizing and boiling? Boiling is NOT the same batch pasteurization that kills nutrition.

When I was in India, we'd get the milk straight from the local cowshala. Milk would then be boiled. We grew up getting up early in the morning to get to the cowshed and getting milk directly from the cow dairy in Delhi.

Then, we would come home and we would boil the milk (100 degrees) and, as soon as it reached boiling point, we would turn off the flame. This is not the pasteurization that is followed in commercial milk production.

Batch pasteurization-Milk is heated to 155 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour.

Flash pasteurization- High temperature 162 Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. Similar to boiling.

UHT (Ultra Heat) -Milk is heated to 280 degrees-and every good thing about it is pretty much destroyed along with the bacteria
Not okay!


Boiling the milk for some seconds is advised in Ayurveda. Just not ultra-pasteurized.

We boil herbs like Ashwagandha in milk. We add turmeric or poppy seeds, or nutmeg to this boiled milk. We add saffron.

We drink it with herbs.

We even boil water that is already sterile in Ayurveda. Boiling water causes the agni, or, fire element to be present and changes the energetics of the water to a lighter and easily digestible.

Local, Grass fed organic milk pasteurized milk is the best I found in California, and, now in Austin.


What Ayurveda doesn't like is when the chemical structure of the milk is changed by homogenizing it. Homogenezing involves playing with the chemical molecular structure of fat particles in milk that rise up. (We called it cream growing up!)

And, these fat particles are broken up so they mix with the rest of the milk - so no cream would be formed.

Ultra pasteurized means it is first pasteruized, then pasteurized again to make it ultra sterile and that kills off the nutrients. Then, Vitamin D (Read Fish oil) are added.

This is why we use this milk from California that is lightly pasteurized, you see the cream floating on the top and it has not been altered by changing chemical structure.

Next, I shall write about goat milk


Last year, during SDCOA's annual 3 day workshop a student of mine told us that her husband was in a motorcycle accident and besides concussion, had a nasty contusion on his back. He was told that it will heal by itself in time. She took turmeric root powder, as, well as turmeric root juice--and applied it with Aloe vera gel -as a LEPA. In three days, before his next appointment with her husbands physician, the bruising had practically disappeared. The Physician was amazed.

Be mindful, that this was not an open wound. This is the blue purple bruising only.

Then, there's the story of my toddler bumping his head, and, getting a blue bruise, and, my special herbal mix with turmeric as chief ingredient really helped.

(Please DO NOT put any herbs on an open wound--see your doctor)

A Lepa is a paste in Ayurveda. Yes, the Turmeric or Haridra paste will make everything yellow and it doesnt look that pretty-but its results are amazing.

Turmeric is used in Chinese Medicine and called E Zhu.

Haridra (Turmeric)is a rhizome in the Ginger family. It the west it was used as a dye and food color, before its wonderful medicinal properties became popular.

It's Roots are of two types:

!. White Turmeric Rhizome
2. Yellow Turmeric Root

Pandit Atul who cooks a lot with White turmeric root during our SDCOA workshop, and, he makes an amazing astringent chutney with it. I also tend to have turmeric root pickle in my kitchen cabinet. When there is no time to cook, a simple corn tortilla with turmeric root pickle and make a fantastic healthy snack.

Usually, when we talk about Turmeric we are talking about the Yellow Turmeric. However, I wanted to talk about both of these varieties.

Now, lets talk about the wonders of Turmeric. Studies and research have shown that it is helpful in normal brain function, and cell reproduction(‘Common Indian Spice Stirs Hope’, Wall Street Journal, 2005).

According to Chinese Medical Journal, September 2008, 17;3:11, Turmeric's bio component called curcumonoids have shown therapeutic actions and molecular biological action.

Ataturk University, Turkey, has had a research team that have studied the antioxidant properties of Haridra in response to free radicals. (Chemico-Biological Interactions, July 2008, 10;174(1):27-37).

What does Ayurvedic Texts say?

Haridra is bitter and drying so Vata should have it with ghee or with soups and foods. Remember Turmeric has poor absorption so it is best eaten with food and cooked in fats. (Fat soluble)

As Ayurvedic Practitioners, we use certain Ayurvedic Herb glossary terms for Herbs. For (YELLOW TURMERIC). For, Haridra they are:

Artavajanana - Supports menstrual cycle. Artava is menstrual blood. Janana means promotes. Usually, must be combined with Shatavari, and/or other artavajanana herbs for most potent SUPPORT action.

Agni Dipana - Supports Jatharagni (Digestive fire) Thermogenic. This means that it is heating. So, Pittas can have with Aloe juice or coconut or ghee to counteract this property.

Jvaraghna - Jvara- Supports Fever. Supports certain fevers, especially the kapha kinds.

Krimighna - Krimi covers a broad term here. Fungus, and, all kind of bacteria usually bad ones. So, it is anti fungal, anti bacterial

Kusthaghna v- Kushtha is skin. So, Turmeric is great for skin

Lekhana - Have you ever scraped wood to get to the bottom layer. Now, imagine this wonder and Super herb scraping Ama (toxins). Lekhana is scraping. Supports Detoxification.

Pandughna - Pandu was the name of father of Pandavas in Indian Vedic Literature. He was so named because of his light skin and anemia. So, Pandu is the name used in anaemia. When used in conjunction with dates, blackstrap molasses, pomegranates--(all iron rich foods), turmeric increases their efficacy and supports Anemia.

Pramahana - Supports healthy glucose levels when used with jambolana, Gymnema (shardunika) and gokshura

Raktashodhana - Rakta is blood. Shodhana is purification. Turmeric supports Blood purification. Combine this with skin clearing action--supports bumps, contusions and bruising. (Be mindful--that it turns everything yellow--so you want to put a lepa or paste of turmeric, use a cloth over it)

Sandhaniya - Sandhi means to join. You know how after a bone fracture has healed that area is still kind of sensitive. Turmeric Ghrita or Ghee is a great option to rub at this point.

Stanyashodhaka - Turmeric supports purification of breast milk. Why would anyone need that? Well, how about if mom is on antibiotics or has toxins--does she want that to flow to the baby. So, there you go.

Turmeric supports Vedanasthapana - Vedana is pain. So we can translate Vedanasthapana as anti inflammatory analgesic. Remember the story of my student, or, my friends toddler who had a bump on his head--I have turmeric in three different forms in my kitchen at all times.

1. TURMERIC GHRITA - Ghee form
2. TURMERIC ROOT - in the fridge
3. TURMERIC POWDER - in the kitchen cabinet

I can mix and match it for LEPAS, with aloe, or use it in the food. Internally or externally--it WORKS!!

Last, but, not the least Haridra is Vishaghna - Supports purification of bad toxins. Visha is actually poisonous toxins.

We use it in India to make our skin beautiful. I remember our student who is now a sucessful Ayurvedic Practitioner once rubbed Turmeric on her face and arrived at my class. I asked her if she was feeling okay. (Yellow skin signifies liver issues and pitta issues in Ayurveda). She told us she had rubbed turmeric on her face. It was her idea of a facial. One of the best stories from our classes. :)

Again, a word of caution--not on open wounds. Ayurveda is not recognized by FDA and this information is from ancient Ayurvedic texts and for informational purposes only. Please see your physician for any health issues.

Below is the instagram photo of his turmeric chutney:

Turmeric root chutney by Atul

A post shared by ayurveda-college-online (@ayurvedaonline) on

If you want to contact me for an Ayurveda Consultation, contact me using this contact form https://www.ayurveda-wellness-center.com/contact Information about how consultations https://www.ayurveda-wellness-center.com/consultation
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