Milk and your health – What Ayurveda teaches us about milk
With regard to milk, we regularly encounter very contrasting opinions, ranging from ‘as much as possible’ to the vegan complete rejection of all dairy products.
So what is Ayurveda’s viewpoint? Ayurveda clearly states that milk – in the right quality and quantity – is very good for our health.
Milk of the highest possible quality
The ideal milk in the Ayurvedic sense is provided by your own cow, which has a large outdoor area to roam in, eats only natural, good-quality food, and enjoys loving care. Her horns are not removed, nor is her calf taken away. Drinking milk in the Ayurvedic sense is drinking the still-warm milk from this one cow. Such milk is described as nourishing, easily digestible, and sattvic.
We don’t assume you have a cow in your garden… Still, to understand which milk qualities Ayurveda regards as important for health, it is helpful to know this ideal of the best possible milk.
Everything deviating from the given description makes for a little decrease in the milk’s quality. For starters: already putting together the milk from several cows is not ideal. This is so because different protein structures will be present in the mixture, requiring extra work from our digestive system, and thus the milk has become slightly less easily digestible.
Avoid homogenized industrial milk
Industrial milk undergoes several mechanical processes, pasteurization (heating it up to 72–75 °C), and homogenization. Pasteurizing the milk is important to render it germ-free, but homogenization in fact entails a big loss to the milk’s quality. When milk is homogenized in a high-pressure mechanical process, the tiny fat globules in it are shattered, which greatly slows down cream separation.
Unfortunately, the process also breaks the enzymes sitting on the surface of the fat globules. These are enzymes which help with digestion and all metabolic processes, so the milk becomes far less beneficial to your health when they are destroyed. The changed milk structure may even trigger allergies.
Going for the best available
As long as we can’t keep a cow in our own garden, the best alternative is to buy raw milk – if you can get it in good, organic quality, e.g. with the Demeter seal. Demeter farms neither burn out the cow’s horns, nor do they separate the calf from the mother cow. Unfortunately, ‘standard’ organic farms are allowed to do both.
The regulations controlling the sale of raw milk vary from country to country; usually farm sale is allowed. In Germany, raw milk produced under strict conditions is sold in shops as ‘Vorzugsmilch’ – ‘preferential milk’. But even Vorzugsmilch should be boiled to protect you from infections like TB.
If you can’t get raw milk in good quality, at least buy organic milk.
Milk and the Doshas
Cow’s milk reduces Vata and Pitta and builds a healthy Kapha. Important: never drink milk straight from the refrigerator! Cold milk is not digested properly and leads to the production of Ama – undigested metabolic deposits.
If you have some excess of Kapha and want to reduce your calorie intake, dilute whole milk with water. Please avoid industrial skim milk, as it’s not just without fat, but also without enzymes. As a result, skim milk is not beneficial.
Many people can’t digest milk, they lack an enzyme that splits the milk sugar called lactose. But instead of drinking chemically processed lactose-free milk, there is a good Ayurvedic alternative:
Come visit our Health Center and we’ll prescribe you some Ayurvedic herbal preparations to strengthen Agni – digestive fire. Then start with the following regimen:
During the first week, you take 30 ml of <milk with spices> before bed every evening. For the second week, you increase the amount of milk with spices to 40 ml; for the third week raise it to 50 ml.
This is a way to train your body to restore the necessary enzymes. Keep increasing the quantity in steps of 10 ml until you are able to drink cow’s milk in the best organic quality without any discomfort.
Does milk make us happier?
Modern medicine knows that cow’s milk contains a lot of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which the body cannot produce by itself and must be absorbed through the food. Other foods that contain this essential amino acid, which is said to raise one’s spirits, include unsweetened cocoa powder and walnuts. However, in order for the L-tryptophan in cow’s milk to pass through the blood-brain barrier, the milk should not be mixed with other foods, as it is in e.g. porridge or milk shake.
Ayurveda calls milk a Rasayana, a medicine, which may only be combined with nuts or dried fruits, as well as with spices such as turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger.« Back to list