Healing Properties and Health Benefits of Camel Milk
Raw Camel Milk
When I was asked to drink raw 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 health benefits of camel milk.
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 provides the essential nutrients to keep people healthy.
The Bedouins drink raw camel milk that is freshly milked. Sometimes they drink it when it is slightly sour, in the fermented form. They believe the pasteurized version has fewer nutritional and healing qualities.
Camel Milk Health Benefits
The Bedouins also believed that the camel's diet must consist of a certain type of plants to enhance the milk's curative power.
However, research showed that even without these special plants it is still potent and amongst the camel milk health benefits are:
- General well-being: The numerous nutrients help promote the body's natural defenses. 
- Anti-aging: The Alpha hydroxyl acid that is present in camel milk helps smooth fine lines. 
- Cancer: Camel milk also contains anti-tumor properties. 
- Camel Milk and Diabetes: The presence of high levels of insulin-like protein (about 52 microunits/ml) help reduce diabetes.  .
- Liver disease: Contains antiviral properties that help reduce liver inflammation. Camel 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.  . You can read more about autism and camel milk, here.
- Thalassemia: The curative properties protect the 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 camel milk to help them recover.  .
Research on Camel Milk Health Benefits
Below are several works of research that confirm and document the benefits of camel milk:
- Children with Lactose Intolerance: Gulf News reported that studies by Pediatric Allergy-Immunology Clinics of the Hamad Medical Corporation showed children who are allergic to cow's milk can safely take camel's milk.
- Camel Milk for Cancer Cure: Studies at both King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, and the University of Alberta, Canada showed successful applications of camel milk for cancer treatment
- Autism and Camel Milk: Prof. Reuven Yagil of Ben-Gurion University, Israel feed camel milk to autistic children and concluded that it has a positive effect on treating autism.
- Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and Hepatitis E Virus: Studies show positive results with camel milk in impeding the growth of HCV and Hepatitis E Virus. These studies were 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 camel milk.
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 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: However, camel produces a lower yield at 13 pints (6.2 liters) as compared to cows' higher yield of 50 pints (23.7 liters)
With these camel milk health benefits, we should switch from cow milk to camel milk. But due to its low yield, farmers prefer to raise cattle. So, camel milk supply is limited and expensive.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ranked camel's milk as the healthiest animal milk.
How Does Camel Milk Taste Like?
In 2007, I had my first taste of a freshly milked camel milk from a 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 for better digestion. 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. This camel milk curdle is commonly consumed by the traveling Bedouins.
Updated April 2017: On my recent trip to Saudi Arabia in March 2017, I had a chance to drink pasteurized camel milk sold at the supermarket. How does it taste like? It tastes awesome. In fact, I can't tell the difference from this pasteurized camel milk to a pasteurized cow milk. So, if you had a chance give it a try. It not only taste good but it's full of health benefits as well
Camel Milk Products
The followings are camel milk products that are available but in limited quantities.
Camel Milk Cheese
The Bedouins and the camel herding tribes will process excess camel milk into cheese. Camel milk does not coagulate easily and the common method of using rennet does not work. So, they use a process known as "lactic fermentation," in which milk sugar is decomposed into lactic acid, turning the milk sour. Camel milk cheese doesn't taste as good as cheese made from cow milk but it is more nutritious.
Now, 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.
Camel Milk Butter
Just like cheese, camel milk butter is not easy to produce due to the poor coagulation and the time taken to produce it. Some farms have found a way to process that churns out decent camel milk butter. Again, it is in limited quantity and it is more expensive than other kinds of butter.
Camel Milk Chocolate
The world's first camel milk chocolate was produced by Al nassma, a company in Dubai in late 2008, available only in the UAE. But you can buy it online if you search for camel milk chocolate.
Camel Milk Ice-Cream
Al Ain Dairy from the UAE launched their ice cream made from fresh camel milk, which is suitable for people with lactose intolerance. It is available in chocolate, cardamom, saffron, and the all-time favorite, vanilla flavors.
It is sold under the brand name Camelait, that also includes flavored camel milk and camel milk powder.
Camel Milk Powder
Fresh camel milk is not available in my country but selected Middle eastern shops are selling camel milk powder. I tried the Aadvik Camel Milk Powder, produced by a company in India. It is 100% camel milk that is freeze dried and no additives. It is also gluten-free. I like the taste and it is also available on . Amazon
Camel Milk Soap
Camel milk soap is very popular in the Middle Eastern countries as it is good for the skin especially if you have eczema. Unfortunately, camel milk soap is not 100% camel milk but only 25%. The other main ingredient is fat. Buy only soaps with natural vegetable oils, such as olive oil which gives added benefits for skin with problems. Animal fat is widely used in all types of soap but why wash in some animal's body fat?
Where to Buy Camel Milk
If you live in the Middle East, parts of Africa, China, Russia, or northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, fresh camel milk is easily available. In some of these countries, you can even buy at the supermarket.
If you live outside of these countries or in an area where camel rearing is non-existent, your best bet is to buy camel milk powder online. Or buy in the capsule form, which is more convenient and taken with you to work or whenever you are away from home. Both forms are available on Amazon.com.
Camel Milk 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 followings are examples of camel farming in non-traditional camel-producing countries that show its growing importance.
Camel Milk in 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 use and to ethnic residents who use it in traditional foods.
Farming in the 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 ecosystem and studies 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.
Camel Rearing Industry in Australia
Camels were imported into Australia as early as the 1860s and were 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?
Acceptance of 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? Will 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.
Camel Milk Production
References and Further Reading
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Mazlan