Home / Articles / #8 October 2014 / Andrey Golovinov, Sergey Narozhny: "Milk and Dairies. Wisdom of Ayurveda"

Andrey Golovinov, Sergey Narozhny: "Milk and Dairies. Wisdom of Ayurveda"

Andrey Golovinov (Kazakhstan) studied Ayurveda since 1994. Disciple of Vaydya Vachaspati Gauri Lal Chanana, founder of Ayurvedic school Bheshaja Bhavan in New Delhi, since 2002. Studied yoga-therapy in B.K.S. Iyengar tradition in Mayapur, India, 2003. Completed half-year course of Panchakarma methods in Ayurvedic College of Trivandrum, Kerala, 2004-05. Member of International Ayurvedic Conference «Science meets Consiousness» in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, 2006. Clinical practice of Panchakarma in Arya Vaydya Chikitsalaya clinic, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 2008. Founder and owner of private Ayurvedic clinic in Almaty city, Kazakhstan. Now Andrey working on translation of classical Ayurvedic scripture Ashtanga Hridayam Samhita from Sanscrit into Russian. Member of Editorial Board of Indian «International Ayurvedic Medical Journal»

Ayurveda specifically points up the necessity of regular milk consumption, moreover it states: every healthy person should drink milk. A person who is unable to digest milk might be considered unhealthy and requiring treatment that finally would allow him to start drinking milk. A postulate about usefulness of milk is not a subject to any doubt in Ayurveda. Why does milk has such an importance? 

To justify it there are several reasons:

milk possess a combination of many supporting health qualities:

- vrishya - aphrodisiac nourishing reproductive tissue (shykra-dhatu) right after assimilation;

- ojasya (ojasya) - increases ojas (essence of tissues);

- dipana (dīpana) - increases digestive fire;

- jivaniya (jīvanīya) - supports life, improves blood circulation in body tissues;

- prinana (prīṇana) - satisfies, nourishes and enriches body tissues;

- manaskar (manaskar) - improves activity of the mind;

- balya (balya) - gives forces;

- milk supports defensive mechanisms of the organism (vyādhikṣamatva, immunity) which manifests in increasing the ability to resist a developing disease (vyādhi utpad pratibandhakatva) and also in active resistance to its progress, and decreasing its heaviness (vyādhi bala virodhitvam);

- milk anekauṣadhi-rasaprasādaṃ prāṇadaṃ is a gift, an essence of many remedies giving life (Su. 45.48);

- milk regards to sarvasatmya group - products that are useful for everyone (sarva-prāṇabhṛtāṃ - all living beings), useful for all ages (jātisātmyāt – from birth), it is mentioned in Sushruta Samhita, Sutrasthana, part 45, 48-49

Opinions that milk is not digested, causes meteorism, allergy and other health problems are wrong, i.e. such consequences may be caused by incorrect consumption of ordinary water. If a person has no problems with digestion or any secondary diseases, then correctly prepared milk taken in reasonable quantity would be digested normally and nitrify the body.

Moreover, it is considered that cow milk is the best (among other types of milk) as it is the best rasayana-dravya (rejuvenating, increasing the duration of life, healing substance) and also it increases ojas (immunity basis) more than other types of milk.

Hatha-yoga-pradipika recommends milk for a daily ratio of a yoga practitioner.

kṣīrā … pathyam ॥

Qualities and action

Ashtanga Hridayam text says (Sutrasthana, part 5):

svādu-pāka-rasaṃ snigdham ojasyaṃ dhātu-vardhanam || 20 ||
vāta-pitta-haraṃ vṛṣyaṃ śleṣmalaṃ guru śītalam |
prāyaḥ payo 'tra gavyaṃ tu jīvanīyaṃ rasāyanam || 21 ||
kṣata-kṣīṇa-hitaṃ medhyaṃ balyaṃ stanya-karaṃ saram |
śrama-bhrama-madā-lakṣmī-śvāsa-kāsāti-tṛṭ-kṣudhaḥ || 22 ||
jīrṇa-jvaraṃ mūtra-kṛcchraṃ rakta-pittaṃ ca nāśayet |

Milk possesses sweet taste and vipaka (metabolic effect of food or medicine on a stage of final assimilation of substance by body tissues. Sweet vipaka has anabolic effect). It is oily, strengthens ojas, nourishes tissues, calms down Vata and Pitta, possesses qualities of aphrodisiac (increases vital forces of the organism in general, also increases sexual ability), increases Kapha. It is heavy and cold. Cow’s milk revitalizes and rejuvenises.

It is useful for those feeling weak after traumas; it strengthens the mind, gives forces, promotes breast milk and has laxative effect. Cow’s milk cures emaciation and debility, dizzies, diseases of poverty and bad luck (alaksmi – bad luck, poverty, vulnerability and diseases caused by them), breathing problems, cough, pathologic hunger and thirst, chronic fever, urinating problems and bleeding. It is also used in treatment of alcoholism (qualities of alcohol are opposite to ojas).

This description shows many positive effects. They arise from an appropriate consumption of milk. Yes, milk increases Kapha-dosha. Yes, it is heavy, cold and oily. But all so called negative effects are caused by these natural qualities of milk in case of its inappropriate consumption (for example, drinking too much milk, or too cold milk etc.).

Proper consumption of milk is useful at any age especially in cases of emaciation, for kids and older people.

Warm cow’s milk right after being milked (dharosna) increases forces; it is light and refreshing. Such milk is like nectar. It balances tri dosha and stimulates digestion. But when milk becomes cold it misbalances tri dosha.

Regular consumption of cold milk along with other factors may lead to rheumatic diseases; at the same time warm milk right after milking (dharosna) does not possess such pathological influence. Cow’s milk is useful when it is in dharosna state, or when it is correctly prepared. Goat’s milk is useful when it gets cool after boiling.

Milk from a black cow has better qualities, it calms down tri dosha. Milk from a cream coloured cow calms down Vata and Pitta-dosha, milk from a white cow increases Kapha-dosha and it is more difficult for digesting.

Influence of milk taken at different time of the day

First of all it is useful to drink milk during the daytime. Milk taken at midday nourishes and acts as aphrodisiac and also as a digestive stimulator increasing appetite; it gives forces, calms down Kapha and Pitta-dosha; it helps in urinary problems. Milk taken in the morning gives forces, strengthens the body, and supports digestive fire. Milk taken in the evening calms down tri dosha, gives forces being useful for children, improves eyesight, stimulates spermatogenesis, and cures emaciation and other diseases. But if you drink milk late at night you should not go to sleep right away. A person who gets asleep right after taking milk shortens his life. Do not take milk right after food, it may not be digested.

When milk is taken together with sugar it increases Kapha-dosha and calms down vayu (Vata- dosha).

Some texts display an opinion that at night hours only milk can be consumed. But in this case milk should be taken separately and a person does not go to sleep right away.


Milk should not be consumed if its colour or taste have changed, or it became acid (but not yet turned into yogurt) or bad. It should not be mixed with acid or salted tastes, or any fruits, including bananas (Charaka-samhita Sutra 26.84: moca payasā saha viruddham – milk and banana do not match each other), as such combination may cause various disorders, for example, severe skin disease (kustha).

Milk also should not be taken in incompatible combinations (for example, with honey as honey should not be heated while milk should be taken hot).

Besides, milk is contraindicated in cases of decreased agni (agnimandya), beginning fever (navajvara), amadosha (painful states connected with accumulation of badly or not fully digested food) and other pathological states of Kapha-etiology mostly.


Properly prepared milk is specifically useful for those who has a strong (or even pathologically strong) digestive fire and those who are starving. Milk promotes production of breast milk among feeding mothers.

Besides, milk is indicated for people with the following disorders: severe thirst or severe hunger, chronic fever, debility, bleeding, swops, heartburn, heart diseases (but only of Vata-type and having balanced agni), diarrhea, traumas of chest, urinary problems and others. However, in the most of the mentioned cases milk is only a part of a complex rational therapy.

Milk skin (kṣiīra phena) possesses qualities of lightness (laghu) and oiliness (snigdha), it soothes tri dosha and it cools (śīta virya). It increases appetite, digestive fire and gives forces. It is useful in diarrhea (atisāra), supressed agni (agnimāndya) and chronic fever (jīrṇajvara). It cures colic (śūla), edemas (śopha), amadosha (āmadoṣa), cough (kāsa) intermittent fever (viṣama jvara); chest wounds (uraḥ sandhāna), hiccup (hikkā) and anhelation (śvāsa).

Preparing milk

Milk that got cold after milking is difficult for digestion. When it is heated (boiled) and taken warm or hot, it soothes (mainly) Kapha and Vata-dosha; when it is boiled and cooled down, it soothes Pitta-dosha.

Ashtanga Hridayam text says (Sutrasthana, part 5):

payo 'bhiṣyandi gurv āmaṃ yuktyā śṛtam ato 'nya-thā || 28 ||
bhaved garīyo 'ti-śṛtaṃ dhāroṣṇam amṛtopamam |

Taking raw or improperly prepared milk causes exceeded secretion of mucus (and as consequence blocking of the channels) and heaviness.

Mandanapala Nyghantu text (8.83) also mentions:

āmamāmapradaṃ ksīramabhiṣyandakaraṃ guru

Non-boiled milk (taken without preparing) produces mucus and is heavy [for digestion], it gives amadosha (endogenous toxins created by accumulation of not properly or not fully digested food).

Consumption of properly prepared milk has opposite effects. However, if milk is boiled for a long time it becomes heavier and fatter in proportion to evaporation.

Fresh milk (dhāroṣṇa) is ideal milk, it has only positive qualities. If milk has already became cold after milking or was kept for some time it should be warmed again to become similar to fresh milk. Some spices contributing to digestion and constitution can be added to it. It is done in order to compensate natural heaviness and coldness of the milk. Heat milk until it is about to start boiling, but do not boil it, repeat thrice. Then pour it from one bowl to another from a certain height so that to fill it with air and make it lighter. Milk should be hot but comfortable to drink. In cases of exceeding Pitta-dosha it should be taken slightly warm. Quantity of milk depends on digestive abilities: it should not cause heaviness during or after digestion or increase Kapha-dosha. It is not recommended to warm up boiled milk again.

Bhavaprakasha (14.10) says:

bālavatsavivatsānāṁ gavāṁ dugdhaṁ tridōṣakr̥t |

Milk collected from cows that were deprived of their calves [for example, a calf was taken away, got lost or died], causes excess of [all] three doshas.

Dairy products

From of old there are known many products made of milk and almost all of them greatly differ from milk in their action. It shows that they are considered to be different products. Ashtanga Hridaya text, Sutrasthana, part 5, verse 29-41, sheds light on this question. Let’s refer to translation.

Curdled milk, kéfir, yogurt and similar products (dadhi)

amlapākarasaṃ grāhi gurūṣṇaṃ dadhi vātajit || 29 ||
medaḥśukrabalaśleṣmapittaraktāgniśophakṛt |
rociṣṇu śastam arucau śītake viṣamajvare || 30 ||
pīnase mūtrakṛcchre ca rūkṣaṃ tu grahaṇīgade |

Dadhi has acid taste and acid vipaka, provides reinforcing action (grahi); dadhi is heavy, hot, soothes Vata-dosha, increases adipose tissue, semen, force, Kapha, Pitta and blood; increases digestive fire and causes edemas. [Taking dadhi] promotes appetite, eliminates aversion to food, cures alternating fevers, fevers with chills, rhinitis (Vata-type), dysuria and if contains low fat cures malabsoption syndrome.

Charaka in the beginning of part 27 of Sutrasthana describes the most distinct actions of various groups of products. Dadhi is causing edema (dadhi śophaṁ janayati).

naivādyān niśi naivoṣṇaṃ vasantoṣṇaśaratsu na || 31 ||
nāmudgasūpaṃ nākṣaudraṃ tan nāghṛtasitopalam |
na cānāmalakaṃ nāpi nityaṃ no mandam anyathā || 32 ||
jvarāsṛkpittavīsarpakuṣṭhapāṇḍubhramapradam |

Dadhi should not be taken at night and especially it should not be hot. Also it [dadhi] is not recommended to take during spring, summer and autumn. [Dadhi] should not be taken without honey, ghee, sugar, amalaki or without mung beans soup. [Dadhi] should not be taken daily and also it should not be immature (for example, when milk became acid but not yet turned into curdle milk). Otherwise, consumption of dadhi would contribute to liability to fevers, bleeding, herpes (or erysipelas), eighteen types of severe skin diseases (including  psoriasis and others), anaemia, dizziness.

Takra (butter milk)

takraṃ laghu kaṣāyāmlaṃ dīpanaṃ kaphavātajit || 33 ||
śophodarārśograhaṇīdoṣamūtragrahārucīḥ |
plīhagulmaghṛtavyāpadgarapāṇḍvāmayāñ jayet || 34 ||

Easy [for digestion], astringent and acid by taste, takra increases digestive fire, soothes Kapha- and Vata-dosha. It cures edema, ascites, haemorrhoid, malabsoption syndrome, retention of urine, anorexia, gulma, diseases of the spleen, and complications from wrong consumption of ghee, intoxication and anaemia.

Preparing takra

Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthana, part 45, verse 85):

manthanādipṛthagbhūtasnehamardhodakaṃ ca yat nātisāndradravaṃ takraṃ

Two parts of dadhi are mixed with one part of water, [a mixture] is churned [with hand mixer] until butter is separated; [liquid] is takra [it should not be] too much thick nor too liquid.

In modern India it is the basis for preparing lassi, a drink. However, there is a small mentioning concerning it (Sushruta-samhita, sutra 20.13):

atō'nyānyapi saṁyōgādahitāni vakṣyāmaḥ … kadalīphalaṁ payasā dadhnā takrēṇa vā …

Now various harmful combinations [of products] will be mentioned… banana [should not be mixed] with milk, dadhi or takra.

Vagbhata confirms it (Ashtanga-hridaya-samhita, Sutra 7.35):

saha virūḍhakam ... phalaṃ kadalyāstakreṇa dadhnā ...

Banana is incompatible with takra or dadhi.

Whey (mastu; a liquid separated in the process of preparing curdled milk)

tadvan mastu saraṃ srotaḥśodhi viṣṭambhajil laghu |

Whey possesses the same qualities as takra. It is light, has laxative action, cleans the channels and alleviates constipation.

Charaka Samhita says the same (Sutrasthana, part 27):

ślēṣmānilaghnastu maṇḍaḥ srōtōviśōdhanaḥ || 228 ||

Whey soothes Vata- and Kapha-dosha, cleans the channels.

Butter (navanita)

navanītaṃ navaṃ vṛṣyaṃ śītaṃ varṇabalāgnikṛt || 35 ||
saṃgrāhi vātapittāsṛkkṣayārśo'rditakāsajit |
kṣīrodbhavaṃ tu saṃgrāhi raktapittākṣirogajit || 36 ||

Butter produced from dadhi possesses cooling effect and quality of aphrodisiac. It improves digestive fire, structure and colour of the skin, it gives forces. It improves intestinal absorption, soothes Vata-, Pitta-dosha and is favourable for blood. It cures emaciation, haemorrhoid, facial palsy, and toss. Butter directly produced from milk improves intestinal absorption. It stops bleeding and cures diseases of the eyes.


śastaṃ dhīsmṛtimedhāgnibalāyuḥśukracakṣuṣām |
bālavṛddhaprajākāntisaukumāryasvarārthinām || 37 ||
kṣatakṣīṇaparīsarpaśastrāgniglapitātmanām |
vātapittaviṣonmādaśoṣālakṣmījvarāpaham || 38 ||
snehānām uttamaṃ śītaṃ vayasaḥ sthāpanaṃ param |
sahasravīryaṃ vidhibhir ghṛtaṃ karmasahasrakṛt || 39 ||
madāpasmāramūrchāyaśiraḥkarṇākṣiyonijān |
purāṇaṃ jayati vyādhīn vraṇaśodhanaropaṇam || 40 ||

Melted cow’s butter ideally serves to the purposes of strengthening intellect, memory, prudence, metabolism and force [resistance to pathological developings]. It raises the quality of life and increases lifetime. It improves semen and eye sight. It suits ideally for old people and kids as well as for those desiring [healthy] descendants, beauty, youth and pleasant voice. It cures depletion after [psychic and physical] traumas. It helps in erysipelas and herpes, in emaciation after surgery (variant: stab wounds), cauterization (variant: burns). It cures Vata and Pitta diseases, intoxications, insanity, dryness, bad luck (variant: diseases caused by poverty) and fever. Ghee is the best among all the oils. It cools. It is the best means for controlling aging. Being prepared [by different methods with different substances] in a form of ghrita it possesses innumerable [healing] forces and is able to cure thousands of diseases. Old ghee [ten years old or more] cures alcohol or drug intoxication, epilepsy, dizziness with faints, diseases of head, ears, eyes and women’s diseases. It purifies and cures ulcers and wounds.

Other dairy products

Ayurveda-shastras also describe qualities of some other dairy products like cream (sara, santanika), unripe curdled milk (mandaka), cheese, panir, curd (kilata); low-fat curd made of takra (takra-pinda); beestings (pijusha, cow’s milk collected during the first seven days after calving); milk collected during the second and the third week after calving (morata);  coagulated milk with takra or dadhi added to it while cooking (kurchika); raw, sour milk made by adding into it some curdled milk (kshira-schaka) and other products.

According to Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, part 27:

tridōṣaṁ mandakaṁ ... | 228 |
...pīyūṣō mōraṭaṁ ca-iva kilāṭā vi-vidhāśca yē || 234 ||
dīptāgnīnāmanidrāṇāṁ sarva ēva sukhapradāḥ |
guravas-tarpaṇā vr̥ṣyā br̥ṁhaṇāḥ pavana-apahāḥ || 235 ||
viśadā guravō rūkṣā grāhiṇas-takrapiṇḍakāḥ |

Unripe curdled milk disturbs the balance of all three doshas… Beestings, milk of the second and third weeks after calving, cheese, panir, curd help to those with pathologically strong digestive fire and those with insomnia problems. They are heavy, rich, nourishing body tissues and semen, products; they soothe Vata-dosha. Low-fat curd (made of takra) is aphrodisiac; it is heavy for digestion, cleansing from mucus, and has drying and reinforcing action. 

According to Bhavaprakasha (1.14.):

santānikāguruḥ śītā vṛṣyā pittāsravātanut |
tarpaṇī bṛṃhaṇī snigdhā balāsabalaśukralā || 35 ||

Santanika is difficult [for digestion], oily, cooling; it eliminates pathologies of Pitta-dosha, Vata-dosha and blood (rakta); it nourishes and enriches the body, gives forces and it is aphrodisiac.

It concerns a fresh layer of skimmer taken from the top of boiled milk.

Description of kurchika and kilata can be found in commentaries of Chakrapanidatta to Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, 5.10-11:

kūrcikaḥ kṣīreṇa samaṃ dadhi takraṃ vā pakvaṃ; kilāṭaḥ kūrcikapiṇḍaḥ

Kurchika is coagulated milk with takra or dadhi added while preparing it. Kilata (cheese, panir, curd) is a solid mass pressed from kurchika.

In this shloka Charaka says that these products – kurchika, kilata (cheese, panir, curd) and dadhi – are not for daily consumption.

kūrcikāṁśca kilāṭāṁśca ... dadhi na śīlayēt || 11 ||

It is also confirmed by Vagbhata, effects of kilata, pijusha, morana and similar products are described in Sutrasthana, part five:

balyāḥ kilāṭa-pīyūṣa-kūrcikā-moraṇādayaḥ|
śukranidrākaphakarā viṣṭambhigurudoṣalāḥ || 41 ||

Kilata, pijusha, kurchika, morana and similar products give force, increase semen, Kapha and urge to sleep, they are heavy [for digestion], cause obstruction of the channels and constipation as well as  misbalance all the three doshas.

Dairy products and yoga practice

In general, Hatha-yoga-pradipika recommends yoga practitioners to consume dairy products but does not recommend to take dadhi or takra:

dadhitakra … apathyamāhuḥ ॥

In conclusion it should be marked that one should wisely concern consumption of dairy products, as even a healthy person can daily benefit only from certain of them (for example, milk, ghee). Milk products would support health only if taken properly taking into consideration not only their qualities and actions but individual characteristics of a person – type of constitution, degree of digestive fire, vikriti and also place and time of consumption, season of the year and many other factors.

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