Sleepy Tonic Recipe

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A recipe inspired by my childhood. Anijsmelk (aniseed milk) is an old-fashioned Dutch nightcap. The warmth of the milk, and the soothing flavours and benefits of aniseed, honey and sesame, work wonders for the stomach and the mind.

Drinking hot milk before bed has been used a sleep remedy for thousands of years across Europe and in Ayurvedic medicine. The bioactive peptides in milk, when taken before bed, have been scientifically proven to improve sleep, which means that your mother was right about it being a powerful sleep medicine after all. If you’re dairy intolerant, feel free to use any other “milk” that suits you best (although I can’t guarantee its effectiveness).

Makes 1 serving
Ready in 10 minutes


  • 1 tbsp of aniseed (anise) (optional)
  • 1 tbsp of black sesame seeds (optional)
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz) nonhomogenised organic milk
  • honey or Fermented Honey to taste


  1. To prepare your sleep aid, blend the aniseed and black sesame seeds (if using) with a dash of milk in a blender, to create a paste. You can also use a pestle and mortar.
  2. Place all of the ingredients (including the paste, if making) in a saucepan and warm through over a gentle heat until hot. Add honey of choice, to taste, and strain before serving.

Also from Tonic:

Stressed? Tired? Hungover? Sick? In Tonic, Tanita de Ruijt will have you pillaging your kitchen cupboards to make surprisingly effective – and inexpensive – remedies to cure whatever ails you. Inspired primarily by traditional medicine and wisdom from the East, these recipes have been carefully crafted to support your body’s natural defences, and keep you feeling good on a daily basis. Recipes include the immune-boosting Turmeric Tonic, to more eclectic Love Potions, Salvation Shrubs and Make-Your-Own Probiotics. Including a helpful ailment index plus an extensive medicinal guide to everyday herbs and spices, Tonic offers all-natural, effective ways to treat basic complaints quickly, safely, and effectively at home.

Recipes excerpted with permission from Tonic by Tanita de Ruijt, published by Hardie Grant Books January 2018, RRP $19.99 hardcover.

Inspiration for edible alchemy.