By Kristen Chandler
If you have a child or know someone who suffers from an allergy to cow’s milk, you are probably aware of the many non-dairy alternatives. Soy milk. Almond milk. Coconut milk. Rice milk. Oat milk. Camel milk. Donkey milk.
Wait …. donkey milk???
Benefits of Donkey Milk
As unusual as it sounds, research shows that donkey milk has a lot of nutritional and health benefits. The composition of minerals, proteins and fatty acids in donkey milk is similar to that of human milk. In fact, donkey milk resembles human milk more than cow’s milk does. Donkey’s milk also contains a lower fat content than cow’s milk.
In countries outside of the United States, donkey milk has been used as a milk substitute for infants and children who can’t drink breast or cow’s milk. Donkey’s milk can benefit adults as well. Scientists suggest that because of its many benefits, donkey milk may improve athletic performance. Studies have shown that donkey milk may help in the prevention of artery hardening. It also contains high levels of omega-3 and omega-6, which can help lower cholesterol. Additionally, the calcium levels are high, and donkey milk contains Lysozeme, which can help fight intestinal infections.
Because of its ability to enhance the immune system, donkey’s milk can also be used cosmetically to help with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Recently, it has become a popular ingredient in soaps and creams. However, the cosmetic use of donkey’s milk is not a new trend—Cleopatra was known to take baths in it; Hippocrates wrote about its numerous medicinal advantages; it was a hot commodity in Ancient Rome; and it was used for many medicinal purposes in France.
Donkey Milk and Allergies
Donkey’s milk is naturally hypoallergenic. It is tolerated by about 90 percent of infants who have food allergies, more specifically cow’s milk protein and soy allergies. Because the proteins in goat and sheep milk are very similar to those found in cow’s milk, these are not able to be substituted, leaving people with few options.
There are a couple of things to consider, however, before using donkey’s milk. The lactose content is extremely high, so it’s not recommended for people who are lactose intolerant. Also, because of allergies and its similar makeup to human milk, infants who are given donkey milk should be tested for allergies first and then evaluated.
Donkey’s milk doesn’t have enough calories on its own to feed newborns, but scientists say it could soon be made into formula.
The Downside of Donkey Milk
Don’t go scanning the grocery aisles for donkey milk just yet. While you can buy beauty products made from donkey milk online, donkey milk ready to drink isn’t sold commercially in the United States at this time. (However, if you have seen it or know somewhere within the United States that sells it, please let us know in the comments section). There are farms within the United States where donkeys are milked, but mostly for their own use. There is a Facebook group called Donkey Milk for Health that offers information about donkey farms in the United States.
One of the reasons this milk is harder to acquire is because donkeys don’t produce as much milk as cows do. Donkeys only have two teats to be milked, and they can produce milk for only about six months after delivery. Furthermore, they can only produce their milk when there are foals present, and they must feed them before any milk can be taken.
The European company Eurolactics is in the process of creating and selling food, beverage and cosmetic products made from the milk of donkeys. They do sell fresh milk, but only in Italy. They also have an online shop. A date has not been announced, but they plan to expand their market to not only include Europe, but Asia, Australia and the United States as well.
In closing, while it’s not common right now, at least not in the United States, we may be hearing more about the use of donkey milk as a cow’s milk substitute in the future. We would love to hear your thoughts on this! What do you think about the use of donkey’s milk as a dairy substitute? Have you used it cosmetically or otherwise?