Say what? This was my reaction, when a colleague handed me an Israeli study about the therapeutic use of camel milk. I researched and talked about food all day, and this seemed pretty far out, even for me. The study involved children that were hospitalized with failure to thrive, because they could not tolerate any food whatsoever. But they did tolerate camel milk. Then over time, they slowly regained health, and their ability to digest regular foods. I was officially intrigued, but needed much more information.
Around this time, I discovered that we have a camel farm here in Longmont (!), Colorado Camel Milk, LLC. I contacted the farmer, Joseph, and learned of their thriving business selling and delivering raw milk, pasteurized milk, and kefir directly to customers from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. He estimated 90% of these customers use it therapeutically. My thoughts: WHO are these people and WHAT are they using it for? I asked to speak with any of his customers that would talk to me, and my phone began to ring. I am also a data geek with a serious affection for solid scientific studies, so I turned to the public repository PubMed, and rolled up my sleeves. Here is a summary of what I learned:
Local camel milk customers fit two profiles: 1) People that are looking for a cow milk alternative. These folks (and children) often do very well on camel milk because it is easily digested and lacks the irritating B-lactoglobulin that is found in cow milk. In addition, it looks tastes and smells like 2% cow milk, so there is no rocky transition from cow to camel milk, as there might be from cow to goat milk. 2) People/parents using it therapeutically.
Published, peer reviewed studies have demonstrated camel milk’s therapeutic uses for conditions including autism, type I and type II diabetes, liver disease, and hepatitis, as well as improved wound healing. (Please note: there is an insulin-like protein in camel milk, so Type I diabetics should work closely with their physician when introducing camel milk). In vitro studies also demonstrated that it is highly anti-bacterial and anti-viral.
Nutritionally speaking, camel milk is naturally higher in protein and lower in fat and cholesterol than cow milk. It is also very high in powerhouse antioxidants vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc, and studies have shown it raises the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione. In addition, it is easily digested and immune boosting (IgG or Immunoglobulin ‘G’).
Camel milk was approved by the FDA in 2009. In a few large Middle Eastern farms, mechanical milking has been successfully implemented (after considerable challenges), but most camel farms worldwide still milk by hand, and its price reflects this labor cost. Need I say, unhappy camels would sooner stomp and spit on you than allow milking, so by default, camel milk is from a happy animal.
Are you curious? I was too. I’ve gone from mildly freaked out to thinking my husband and I should quit our day jobs and buy camels. If you give it a try, I would love to know your experience. Maybe we can pool our pennies and buy a herd.
In health, Lindsey Oliver
I have no professional affiliation with Colorado Camel Milk, LLC. I do have an affiliation with healthy food and an obsession with PubMed.