Bright green matcha lattes are dead — moon milk photos are all the rage on Instagram nowadays. Look up the #moonmilk tag on Instagram and you'll see photos of frothy pastel liquids in ceramic containers, sometimes garnished with edible flowers and spices. As the name suggests, moon milk is a warm, milk-based drink that's meant to be sipped when the moon comes out, aka at night.
Technically, moon milk started as an Ayurvedic sleep aid, but has really taken off with wellness influencers, frankly because the colorful lattes are very photogenic. Sky's the limit as to what can go into moon milk, but most recipes just stick to calming ingredients that are intended to promote sleep. Most people mix the milk with a blend of adaptogens, such as ashwagandha and reishi, as well as spices, like turmeric and cinnamon.
So, what's the tea with moon milk? Well, first of all, we know that adaptogens, herbal compounds that are supposed to work in conjunction with your body's stress hormones, are not as amazing as everyone says they are. In fact, adaptogens have yet to be recognized as a proven "cure" for anything by any major health organization. And since the Food and Drug Administration considers herbal remedies like adaptogens "dietary supplements," that means they don't regulate adaptogens either. Until there's more scientific proof that adaptogens do literally anything, moon milk is essentially just milk with spices.
But warm milk has been recommended for a long time to help with sleep, so there's some truth to the concept, says Melissa Bailey, MS, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian in Philadelphia. "Dairy milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, the same one found in turkey, that helps your body process serotonin and melatonin to sleep," she says. That said, dairy milk contains such a tiny amount of tryptophan (0.08g/100g of milk) that it's probably not the only reason why people say moon milk lulls them to sleep, she says. Plus, most influencers use non-dairy milks in their moon milk, anyways.
All the other spices people put in their moon milk, like cinnamon and turmeric, could have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, Bailey says. Since sleep loss has been linked to inflammation, you could extrapolate that over time these spices could somehow indirectly improve your sleep. "But the truth is that you would have to drink a large amount of moon milk every night to truly reap the sleep benefits," she says.
Who knows, though? It's entirely possible that simply the ritual of preparing a warm drink helps people fall asleep faster, Bailey says. "Just like a cup of coffee is a ritual in the morning that helps you wake up," she says. So, while you can't really count on the ingredients in your moon milk to make you drowsy, perhaps the simple intention behind it is all that matters.