Cows and their milk hold a special place in Vedic lore. A hymn in the Rig Veda, a gavo agaman extolls the virtue of cows. " The cows have come and have brought us good fortune. In our stalls, contented, may they stay." (The Vedic Experience: Mantramanjari by Panikkar, Raimon). Lord Krishna enjoys his childhood and youth as a cowherd boy in Vrindavan, dancing with milkmaids, known as Gopis. And Dhanvantari, the God of Ayurveda is born of the churning of the ocean of milk.
Milk in general is considered as 'the best of all life-giving (jivaniya) substances'; since it is the pure essence of grass. And in ancient times specific herbs would be given to cows to create special types of milk--for example, a pure white cow would be fed amlaki, a herb for longevity and rejuvenation. Drinking milk from such a cow was part of an ancient process of kayakalpa or youth-restoration.
Sushrut considers the milk of cow, goat, camel, sheep, buffalo, horse and mother's milk. However, although camel milk is second only to mother's milk in its unique suitability for humans, we will consider here only cow and goat milk, as these are the most widely available.
Sanskrit: Dugdha or kshīra
Latin name: there is not a scientific name but the Latin word is lactis
Hindi: दूध doodh
Rasa: Sweet (madhura)
Virya: Cold (shita)
Guna: Heavy (guru), emollient (snigdha), slimy (slakshna), cloudy (picchila), mild (manda)
Reduces vata and pitta
Dhatus: Rasa, rakta, mamsa, asthi, majja,
Srotansi: Rasa, rakta, mamsa, asthi, majja, sthanya, manovaha,
Actions (karmas) of milk in general:
- Good beverage to restore energy after exercise
- Medhya (builds intellectual capacity)
- Heals factures
- Good in nutritive basti (enema)
- Increases longevity
- Can be used as emetic and purgative
- Builds ojas
- Chronic fever
- Wasting diseases
- Burning sensations
- Morbid thirst
- Diseases of the heart
- Bladder diseases
- Female reproductive disorders
- Nourishing children, the elderly and those with cachexia or debility.
- Use to rebuild energy after sex or physical labour
Special points about cow's milk
- Does not increase slimy secretions
- Good elixir
- Sweet, cold, calms vata and pitta
- One of the most effective life-giving (jivaniya) remedies
Special points about goat's milk
- Shares most of the benefits of cow's milk
- It is lighter than cow's milk
- It is astringent and appetizing
- Helpful in breathlessness, cough and GERD.
- Curative in all diseases
- Goats tend to favour bitter and pungent greens; goat milk is more appropriate for kapha.
Morning vs. evening milking
Traditional dairy farmers will separate milk from the morning and evening milking; for example in traditional Morbier cheese one layer was from the morning and the second from the evening. Sushrut considers morning milk to be heavier, colder and more slowly digested, as it was produced by night, when the cow was resting and temperatures we cooler. Evening milk is invigorating to the eye and restores vata to a healthy state.
Milk should not be consumed cold; cold milk is extremely heavy and mucus-forming. However, it should not be over-boiled unless one wishes to gain weight.
Remedies using milk are numerous; we mention a few of the most important.
Using milk internally:
- Boil 1 part herb with 8 parts milk and 32 parts water. Then boil out the water so only the 8 parts of milk remains (from Sarngadhara Samhita).
- 2 Tbsp. herb, 1½ cups milk and 4 cups water. Boil down to 3 cups liquid, add sweetener and strain the milk. Then boil down to 1½ cups milk.
- Herbs prepared in equal quantities of milk and water, the water boiled out.
Boil ½ tsp of herb in ¼ cup water and 1 cup of milk. Boil until there is only one cup liquid left.
Simmer the spice in the milk for just a few minutes (for example nutmeg)
Herb stirred into milk:
Milk is only slightly warmed, not boiled. Herbs such as Shatavari, Ashwagandha, or Arjuna are simply mixed in.
Some specific remedies:
- Bronchial Congestion: Pippali milk. ½ tsp. ground pippali, 1 cup milk, ¼ cup water, cook down to 1 cup liquid.
- Sore throat, cough: Turmeric Milk. ½ tsp. ground turmeric, 1 cup milk, ¼ cup water, cook down to 1 cup liquid.
- Dry cough: Ginger milk. ½ tsp. ground ginger, 1 cup milk, ¼ cup water
- Hyperacidity: drink 1 cup hot milk with 1 tsp. cardamom.
- Hyperacidity, heartburn: Shatavari 1t, milk 1c, drink in early morning.
- Chronic indigestion: Ginger milk. ½ tsp. ground ginger, 1 cup milk, ¼ cup water, cook down to 1 cup liquid.
- Lymphatic congestion: Pepper milk. ½ tsp. ground peppercorn, 1 cup milk, ¼ cup water, cook down to 1 cup liquid.
- Fractures, injuries, osteoporosis: Turmeric milk. ½ tsp. ground turmeric, 1 cup milk, ¼ cup water, cook down to 1 cup liquid
- Chronic fatigue, low libido: Almond milk. ¼ tsp. ground cardamom, ¼ tsp. ground almonds, 1 cup milk, ¼ cup water, cook down to 1 cup liquid.
- Memory, libido: 1tsp. cardamom in 1 cup milk, cool, add honey, drink before bed.
- Insomnia: mix two pinches nutmeg in a cup of boiling milk; simmer for a minute and drink.
- Sexual debility: 1 cup hot milk at bedtime with a pinch of saffron (works best if you soak the saffron in a little hot water for at least 20 minutes and add the saffron and its soak water to the milk).
- Low ojas, sexual debility: Fry 4-5 almonds in ghee. Add a pinch of saffron and a cup of hot milk and blend until smooth. Drink at bedtime.
- For spermatogenesis: 1t ashwagandha with 1 cup milk morning and evening
- Low libido: Ashwagandha 1 t ,hot milk 1 c one hour before sex.
- Sexual debility: (men or women) Ashwagandha 1 tsp water ½ cup , cow milk 1 cup boil back to one cup total
- Poor sleep: Ashwagandha 1 t with 1 cup hot milk 2 hours before sleep.
- Poor sleep: 1 cup hot milk at bedtime with a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of saffron (works best if you soak the saffron in a little hot water for at least 20 minutes and add the saffron and its soak water to the milk).
- Poor memory, mild cognitive impairment: Saffron brahmi milk--Soak 1 pinch saffron in a little hot water for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile bring 1 cup milk to the boil and add 1 tsp brahmi (gotu kola). Let steep for 10 minutes and strain. Now and add the saffron and its soak water to the milk. Drink this preparation at bedtime.
Using milk externally
- Burns and scalds: immediately pour on cold milk or soak affected area in cold milk.
- Eye irritant: If the eye has been exposed to a irritant, immediately irrigate with cold milk.
- Acne: make a face mask with nutmeg, milk and honey and apply
- Beauty: milk is used in an array of facial masks and similar treatments.