When I was a child and had difficulty falling asleep, my mother would get out the old enamel saucepan she kept beside the stove and heat up a cup of milk for me. The pot was white with a blue rim and I think it was used especially for this purpose, as I can’t remember her ever using it for anything else.

She’d splash a little milk in, stirring for a minute with one of her wooden spoons, and then hand the task over to me while she searched the cupboard for the right spices. “Just stir very slowly,” she’d say, “and tell me when it steams.”

When the steam would suddenly rise up out of the pot, she’d turn off the flame and trickle in a spoonful of golden honey while I stood back and watched. Then she’d pour the milk into a mug and sprinkle it with various powdered spices. I didn’t know what they we’re then, and believed them only to be a magic sleeping powder  (I’ve recently gotten her to admit that it was mixture of nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon). Then we’d walk back to my bedroom, me cupping the warm mug in my hands, inhaling the exotic spiced steam, and she’d read a few pages of a story while I sipped the milk. It never took much more than a few sips and a few pages before I was out. It was a rare occasion when I made it to the bottom of the cup.

 ashawgandha Ashwagandha

Whether it was the ritual – the hypnotic stirring and the sweet milky steam – or the relaxing qualities of the milk and herbs – I can’t say. But that warm milk had some sort of sleepy time magic to it. And now that I am grown, I find I still occasionally need a little of that magic just as I did as a child. This is my version of my mom’s sleepy time drought. May it bring you sweet zzz’s as it has always done for me.

Sleepy Time Milk


  • 1 cup milk of choice (I like almond, which is high in the relaxing mineral magnesium)
  • 1 teaspoon ashwagandha root
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • ½ tsp each cardamom and cinnamon
  • pinch each of nutmeg

Serves One

Note: Ashwagandha is a restorative and relaxing root from India used to promote rest in those with a depleted constitution. This milk is equally effective without it, but I include it because of the nourishing, building effects it lends.


  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan with the ashwagandha root and black peppercorns.
  2. When the milk starts to steam, turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Allow to infuse for 15 – 20 minutes.
  3. Strain the milk to remove the herbs and return the milk to the saucepan over low heat.
  4. Add the honey and stir until the honey is dissolved and then remove from heat.
  5. Add the rose water, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Sweet dreams!

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Writer Danielle Charles Davies has a BSc in Herbal Science from Bastyr University and in addition completed two years of clinical training at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism. She has a Masters Degree in Writing and has written for the the American Herbalists Guild and has also served as a food columnist. Her musings, and recipes, can be found at her blog, Teacup Chronicles.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.