Healing Properties and Health Benefits of Camel Milk
When I first heard of drinking camel milk, my initial reaction was, "Huh?" But, after spending a few years working in the Middle East, I am now familiar with the many benefits it has to offer.
For centuries, camel milk has been one of the staple foods for the Bedouin Arabs. In the harsh and arid desert country, it not only replaces water, but also provides the essential nutrients to keep people healthy.
The locals drink this stuff fresh, and sometimes, they drink it when it is slightly sour (in the fermented form). However, they believe that this pasteurized version has fewer nutritional and healing qualities.
The Health Benefits
The Bedouins have benefited from the milk's many medicinal values and they believe that the camel's diet must consist of certain plants in order to enhance the milk's curative powers. However, research has shown that even without these special plants the milk still aids with the following:
- General well-being: The numerous nutrients help promote the body's natural defenses. 
- Anti-aging: The Alpha hydroxyl acid that is present helps smooth fine lines. 
- Cancer: Contains anti-tumor properties. 
- Diabetic: The presence of high levels of insulin-like protein (about 52 micro units/ml) help reduce diabetes. 
- Liver disease: Contains antiviral properties that help reduce liver inflammation. The milk also has many nutrients that are required for healthy liver function. 
- Autism: It is rich in immunoglobulin, which will strengthen the body's autoimmune system. This helps treat and heal autism. 
- Thalassemia: The curative properties protect our body from oxidative injury. 
- Acne and eczema: The anti-microbial properties will act as a natural cleanser. 
- Arthritis: The lactoferrin helps remove free iron from the joints of arthritic patients.
- Tuberculosis: The antibacterial and antiviral properties are known to destroy the mycobacterium tuberculosis. 
- AIDS: AIDS patients in Africa drink it to help them recover. 
Many people can benefit from its healing properties. However, as with any alternative or traditional remedies, please seek your doctor's advice before consuming.
Works of Research
Below are several works of research that confirm and document these benefits.
- Safe for Children: Gulf News reported that studies done by Pediatric Allergy-Immunology Clinics of the Hamad Medical Corporation showed children that are allergic to cow's milk can safely take camel's milk.
- Effect on Cancer Cell Growth: Studies done by King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, and University of Alberta, Canada all showed successful applications of camel milk for cancer treatment.
- Effect on Autism: Prof. Reuven Yagil of Ben-Gurion University, Israel concluded that the milk has benefits that can treat autistic children.
- Hepatitis C Virus (HCV): Studies show positive results in impeding the growth of HCV. This study was subsidized by an Egyptian-Spanish joint fund and published in Virology Journal (September 2012 issue).
- Is Pasteurized Camel Milk Effective?: The Bedouins believed that only fresh camel milk is effective in healing ailments. However, studies by Dr. Millie Hinkle showed positive results for similar ailments when using the pasteurized version.
For more published reports and bodies of research, see the "Reference and Further Reading" section below.
Camel Milk vs. Cow Milk
Cow's milk is easily available and is cheaper, but it has its side effect. One example is lactose intolerance. This is where camel milk excels.
To start with, camel's milk is known to be the closest to the human mother's milk and it is easier for babies to consume. Research studies from around the world also confirm that it is highly nutritious. The composition of whey proteins and caseins in camels milk differs from cows milk, which could be the reason for its healing properties.
When compared to cow milk, camel milk is:
- Lower in lactose
- Higher in potassium, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc and sodium.
- Lower in cholesterol
- Contains three times the amount of vitamin C
- Has ten times the amount of iron
- Contains higher unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins
- Has more Vitamin A
- Has a higher protein level
- Contains ten times the amount of antibacterial and antiviral properties
- Easily absorbed: It doesn't coagulate easily, even in an acid environment like our stomach. Hence, it is easily absorbed by our digestive system.
- Dissolves better: In powder form, it will dissolve better.
- Lower Yield: A camel produces a lower yield at 13 pints (6.2 liter) as compared to cows at 50 pints (23.7 liter)
With these benefits, camel milk does have its advantages. However, its scarcity makes it more expensive than cow's milk.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ranked camel's milk as the healthiest animal milk.
What Does It Taste Like?
In 2007, I had my first taste of it freshly milked from a camel's farm in Dubai. It was warm and smelled strong. It was also mildly salty. My stomach was not used to this milk and I had diarrhea for the next two days. Maybe I should have drunk it slowly to allow my stomach to digest it. However, my Arab friend reassured me that this is a normal reaction for first-timers because it 'cleanses the system.'
The taste varies according to the animal's diet and the amount of water it had drunk. Some say it is mildly sweet like low fat cow's milk. Others say it tastes like salty vanilla-flavored milk.
Unlike cow's milk, camel's milk is opaque white in color.
I have not tried the fermented version and I don't think my stomach is strong enough for that. However, this form is commonly consumed by the traveling Bedouins.
Camel Milk Products
The following are other camel milk products that are available, albeit in limited quantity.
The Bedouins and the camel herding tribes will turn excess camel milk into cheese. Because camel milk does not coagulate easily, the common method of using rennet does not work. It is instead made through a process known as "lactic fermentation," in which milk sugar is decomposed into lactic acid, which makes the milk sour. The cheese that you get does not taste the same as what you are used to.
However, under the auspices of United Nation's FAO research work, camel milk can now coagulate using vegetable rennet and calcium phosphate. The end product is a low cholesterol cheese. Due to limited production, it is only sold in small quantities.
Just like cheese, butter from camel milk is not easy to produce due to poor coagulation and the long time required to produce it. However, some farms have a preparation process that churns out decent camel milk butter. Again, there is a limited quantity and it is more expensive than other butters.
Ice-Cream and Chocolate
Chocolate and coffee flavored ice-cream and chocolates are now available for all to enjoy.
Recently, Al Ain Dairy from the UAE launched their ice cream made from fresh camel milk, which is suitable for people with lactose intolerance. It comes in chocolate, cardamom, saffron, and the all-time favorite, vanilla.
Camel milk soap is very popular in Middle Eastern countries. It is claimed to be good for people with eczema. But, this soap is not made with 100% camel's milk. In most cases, it is only 25%. The other main ingredients is fat. Buy soaps that do not use animal fat, but rather natural vegetable oils, such as olive oil.
If you prefer something scented, there are brands that sell lavender, sweet rose, peppermint, and other essential oils.
Muhallabia: a Middle Eastern Dessert
Muhallabia is a Middle Eastern milk pudding with pistachio or almonds sprinkled on top. Normally made using cow milk, it can also be made with camel milk and is said to be creamier and tastier.
Where to Buy
If you live in the Middle East, parts of Africa, China, Russia, or northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, buying fresh camel milk is not a problem. In some of these countries, you can even buy them at the supermarket.
If you live outside of these countries or in an area where camel rearing is non-existent or rare, your best bet is to buy the powdered form online. Alternatively, you can buy it in capsule form, which is more convenient and can be taken with you to work or whenever you are away from your home. Both forms are available on Amazon.com.
A Tool to Raise Economic Standards
The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognized camel milk as an important commodity to raise the economic standard for people who live in arid and semi-arid desert areas. It will be marketed and sold based on its nutritional and health benefits. This will bring in additional income to people who produce and sell it.
Production in Non-Traditional Camel Rearing Countries
The following examples of camel farming in non-traditional camel-producing countries show its growing importance.
Sales in the USA
It used to be illegal to sell or even produce camel milk in the U.S. It was not until 2009 that the Food and Drug Administration legalized its domestic production and consumption. In 2012, the FDA finally gave approval for camel milk to be sold throughout the U.S.
Since production costs are still expensive for American camel breeders, current sales are limited to medical usage and to ethnic residents who use it in traditional foods.
Farming in Netherlands
After his university research on the commercial viability of camel milk, Frank Smits was convinced that he should venture into this unknown territory. In 2006, he started the first and only commercial camel farm in the Netherlands and now exports camel milk to Britain and Belgium.
Research Center in India
To help improve the socio-economic status of people in arid and semi-arid zones, the Indian government established The National Research Center on Camels in Bikaner, Rajasthan, India. Camels were identified as an important animal for this harsh and fragile desert eco-system, and researches were conducted to help camel owners improve their economic status.
Part of the program states that camel milk will be sold at subsidized rates to poor families who have diabetic members or children with disabilities.
Industry in Australia
Camels were imported into Australia as early as the 1860s and were mainly used as working animals in the semi-arid desert areas. Now, camels are reared for their milk and meat. With an increased demand for camel meat and milk in Asia and parts of the Middle East, Australia now exports most of its supply of camel products.
Farm in Netherlands
Will You Try Camel Milk?
Would You Try Camel Milk?
Several studies on the healing properties of camel milk by reputable universities and institutions have led to its higher level of acceptance outside of traditional camel-rearing communities.
What about you? Would you try camel milk if you know you suffer from the above ailments?
One Aussie girl gave it a try to see if it helps her bowel problem. Read her experience here on Yahoo News.
References and Further Reading
© 2013 Mazlan