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  • Writer's pictureTracyann Thomas

Moon Milk ~ An Ayurvedic Way to Lull Yourself to Sleep

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

In search of better sleep? Most people are. Sleep deprivation and low quality sleep are epidemics in our modern, fast-paced, technology-addicted culture. Getting the nervous system to settle down so as to support sound sleep is truly an art and science by following the appropriate diet and lifestyle regularly for your unique type. Ayurveda has a wealth of time-tested wisdom to offer here. See my Ground & Align: Ayurveda 101 series for more on this.

Here is a yummy little Ayurvedic tonic to sip on in the evening that will offer you some support. This concoction will help coax your nervous system down a few notches and lull you into a rejuvenative and restorative sleep. As always, everyone is unique and therefore will need a little different recipe, so please see my notes on how to cater to your specific dominant dosha.

Moon Milk

1 cup of milk (dairy or nut)

1/2 tsp of Ashwagandha powder (sub for 1/2 tsp of Shatavari if high pitta)

1/2 tsp of dried ginger (fresh, less or none if high pitta)

1 pinch of nutmeg

1 pinch of cardamom

1 pinch of saffron

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp honey (added when warm, not hot)


  1. Heat milk in a saucepan.

  2. Let it boil, then turn down the flame and stir in ashwagandha/shatavari and spices.

  3. Add coconut oil, stir until well blended.

  4. Let brew and cool for 5 minutes.

  5. Stir in honey.

  6. Slip slowly in the evening.

All these ingredients have several medicinal properties, but let's take a look at the particular qualities of the ingredients that make this a truly powerful sleep aid.

Milk - cooling, sweet

Heavy, grounding, nourishing, moves energy downward

Pacifies vata & pitta, increases kapha

Milk's heavy, creamy, sweet, and hydrating properties promote stability, contentment, and an unctuous quality that pacifies vata - the dosha with a very stimulated nervous system and a dry body. Additionally, its cooling properties are beneficial to pitta.

Milk is also high in ojas which means it nourishes your immunity and promotes high-quality tissue, so it is considered a nourishing and strengthening balm.

The fats and sugars coat and soothe irritated tissues by building a layer of mucus that protects the lining of the stomach wall from harsh stomach acids, particularly dairy milk. This is why kaphas should lessen dairy and nut milks - kaphas already have a hearty mucus layer, but by heating up the milk and adding digestive spices, you can increase digestibility and promote less mucus production.

Ashwagandha - heating, sweet

Adaptogen, analgesic, increases ojas, nervine, sedative (mild), rasayana

Pacifies vata & kapha, increases pitta

Ashwagandha is considered a rasayana in Ayurveda - which means it has restorative and rejuvenative properties that increase the longevity of life. It is a renowned adaptogen that can improve energy and promote sound sleep at the same time.

It helps the body resist stress and supports the healthy functioning of the adrenal glands. Studies show that it may play a role in the reduction of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Ashwagandha is particularly balancing to vata and kapha in excess, but because of its heating, unctuous, building nature, it can imbalance pitta, and also worsen ama (toxin build-up). I recommend consulting with an Ayurvedic practitioner before taking any herbs regularly to determine what would be most balancing for you.

Shatavari - cooling, sweet

Adaptogen, aphrodisiac, balya (gives strength), increases ojas, nervine, rasayana

Pacifies vata & pitta, increases kapha

Shatavari is also a rasayana. It gives strength, rejuvenates, restores, and promotes immunity by nourishing ojas and the nervous system.

Considered the foremost herb for a woman's reproductive system, it is also revered for its ability to cool and soothe inflamed mucous membranes by adding cooling moisture where high pitta is involved.

Shatavari's cooling properties can make this a better choice over ashwagandha for pitta, especially if pitta is in excess. The other ingredients in this recipe are mostly heating as well, so balancing out pitta with shatavari could produce a more supportive tonic.

Ginger - heating, sweet

Anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, carminative, dipana (increases digestive fire), rasayana

Pacifies vata & kapha, increases pitta

Fresh ginger is warming, but dried ginger is hot! Ginger will help aid the digestion of a heavy herb like ashwagandha, but because of its heating property, pitta should use with caution. I suggest either lessen or omit or use fresh ginger.

Ginger's antispasmodic quality helps relax muscles, and it also inhibits the activity of inflammatory prostaglandins making it a warming anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.

Nutmeg - heating, pungent

Analgesic, carminative, dipana, nervine, rasayana, sedative

Pacifies vata & kapha, increases pitta

Nutmeg is a great choice for bedtime tonics as it is a natural sleep aid. It calms the nerves by drawing the expansive nature of vata inwards and has sedative qualities, relaxing the muscles and decreasing pain.

Nutmeg encourages the absorption of heavy foods and improves digestion, making this a great partner for the heavy qualities of ashwagandha.

Cardamom - cooling, sweet

Anuloma (redirects the flow of vata downward), aromatic, carminative, dipana, alleviates intestinal spasms and pain

Tridoshic - balances all - vata, pitta & kapha (can aggravate pitta in excess)

Cardamom is such an impression-maker with its striking, aromatic flavor. It is fantastic for digestive woes, particularly for those with weak digestion, flatulence, bloating, and indigestion.

Its anuloma properties make it very beneficial for nausea, burping, or acidity, and its ability to stimulate agni without aggravating pitta make this a tridoshic star.

Saffron - heating, pungent

Alleviates headaches, circulatory stimulant, dipana, nervine, rasayana, yogavahi (catalyst to other medicines)

Tridoshic - balances all vata, pitta & kapha

Saffron is considered the "sunshine spice" for the chemical contained in its aroma - safranal. This chemical has been shown to fight anxiety and depression, making this a powerful ally for those suffering from either.

Saffron has a nourishing effect on the nervous and reproductive tissues. In addition, it has a purifying effect on the blood, along with the ability to build the blood by increasing hemoglobin levels. This makes it also a powerful ally for those with anemia.

Saffron's yogavahi effect amplifies the medicinal effects of the other herbs, making this herb a true power supporter!

Coconut oil - cooling, sweet

Anti-inflammatory, brain tonic, emollient, nutritive

Pacifies vata & pitta, increases kapha

Being one of the lighter, coolest oils, coconut oil is like a balm for an inflamed and agitated nervous system. All nerves are coated with a fatty layer called the myelin sheaths. If this layer is dry and undernourished, we have a harder time feeling calm and collected. Coconut oil can restore some tranquility without overheating.

Because of its light quality, coconut oil is also easy on the digestive system and can quickly be converted to energy.

Honey - heating, sweet

Antibacterial, antioxidant, anupana, dipana, increases ojas

Pacifies vata & kapha, increases pitta

Most sweeteners are cold, heavy, and oily, but honey is heating and astringent, making this the best sweetener choice for kapha folks, and easiest to digest in the evening. Too much can be drying to vata, and too heating for pitta, so use in moderation.

Honey is an excellent 'scraper' that allows it to dislodge stagnation of toxins and mucus, which is what makes this a popular choice for banishing congestion, but it's also what makes it a great digestive aid.

Honey's anupana effects make it a powerful vehicle for any medicine to reach deeper into the tissues, making it one of the best ways to take your medicine.

If a cooler sweetener is needed for pitta, opt for raw sugar or maple syrup.

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