02 July, 2010

Of Camel urine and milk

Camels. With hardly any fat and almost no cholesterol, camel meat is excellent for health. For centuries, camel wool - which is golden-brown, soft, lustrous, healthy to put on and durable - has been used to make rags, blankets, fabrics and clothing. Very few people outside the Middle East and Muslim countries use camel milk; they do not know of its many benefits which include: improving skin tone and reducing wrinkles; sustaining the immune system; and enhancing male virility. As for camel urine, it is said to have several medicinal properties which includes treating cancer. Here in Hadhramaut, from time immemorial, people have always highly regarded and valued camels. A short distance from the center of Mukalla, there is a man who specializes in selling camel urine and milk.
"Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made? And at the Sky, how it is raised high? And at the Mountains, how they are fixed firm? And at the Earth, how it is spread out? Therefore do you give admonition, for you are one to admonish." Quran-Al-Kareem: Surat al-Ghashiya ~ 17-21
Not any female camel produces milk or urine for medicinal purposes; this is what I am told by those who know. The milk producing camel, is carefully selected. This camel is always carefully and tenderly taken care of and often separated from other camels. Most of the time and especially at nights, its mammary glands are covered by a piece of cloth tied with a string on the camel - so as not to allow its young one to suckle the priced milk whenever it wants. Still, the baby camels are always well fed, healthy and strong.
Every early morning, the owner of the camel attends to those needing camel urine for medicinal purposes. Before getting the urine, he lets the camel drink some water and then by prodding the camel, it urinates in a plastic jar; he then sells the urine to the waiting customers. The most beneficial of urine, is said to be that of Bedouin camels called najeeb.
Then he milks the cow, filling bottles.
And glasses. And like the urine, he immediately sells them. Always, every morning, immediately - he sells all the urine and milk that he gets from the camel. It takes him no more than two hours - collecting the urine, milking, selling and feeding the camels.
Some of the sick drink the urine or the milk or the two mixed, right there when fresh; they say that the fresher the urine and especially the milk - the more effective it would be. Those who delay in coming to buy, miss getting the urine or milk; on many days, many fail in getting any left.
The urine and milk are only sold in the mornings. About 250ml of urine and 600ml of milk costs a total of the equivalent of between 3 to 5 US$.  After the milking is completed, the baby camel is then allowed to suckle as much as it wants.

Camel urine: laboratory tests are said to indicate that camel’s urine contains high levels of potassium, albuminous proteins, and small amounts of uric acid, sodium and creatine. The urine is believed to have a lethal effect on the germs that cause many diseases. It can also be used as an antiseptic and can be used for cleaning wounds and sores. Among the uses of camel’s urine, many women use it to wash their hair, to treat dandruff and diseases of the scalp; make it stronger, thicker, longer, and to make it lighter and more lustrous. Camel’s urine is also efficacious in the treatment of swelling of the liver and other diseases such as abscesses, sores that appear on the body and toothache, and for washing eyes. Camel’s urine is said to act as a slow-acting diuretic, but it does not deplete potassium and other salts as other diuretics do, because camel’s urine contains a high level of potassium and proteins. It is believed too, to be effective against some types of bacteria and viruses.

As for camel milk:  it is believed to be anti-infection, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, anti-hepatitis, and even treat AIDS - these are bold claims to make about any substance. Scientists have attempted to verify or disprove the claims. What they have found is that there is some scientific basis for some of the claimed cures, but that the experimental design has not always been sound. Essentially, there are two ways in which the curative capacity of camel milk can be tested. First is to have a rigorous experimental procedure and having double blind trials with humans. The second is to have more information on the constituents of camel milk, specifically the components which could be responsible for the claimed medical properties.

Close analysis of camel milk does show some medicinal potential. The milk protein lactoferrin, which is present in large quantities in camel milk - ten times higher than in cow milk, does have some anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Fermented camel milk is high in lactic bacteria, which have been shown to be effective against pathogens including Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Salmonella and Escherichia. And vitamin C content in camel milk is generally double that in cow's milk. In Russia, Kazakhstan and India there are many examples of camel milk - as much as a litre a day - being prescribed to hospital patients to aid recovery from tuberculosis, Crohn's disease and diabetes. A natural component of cow and human milk, lactoferrin is also found throughout the human body; it occurs in all secretions that bathe mucous membranes, such as saliva, tears, bronchial and nasal secretions, hepatic bile and pancreatic fluids. Exactly how lactoferrin functions is not entirely clear, but it is known to enhance the immune response, both directly and indirectly, in reaction to a wide range of immune challenges, and is an essential factor in the immune response in humans.

Still - proper, more extensive and intensive scientific experiments, research and analysis of camel urine and milk has to be done to show the full potential and benefits of each.

Post Script and the latest - Can Camel Urine or Milk cure Cancer?:

February, 2013 -

Researchers from King Abdulaziz University (Jeddah) have tested the effectiveness of micro and nanoshells for delivering a substance from camel urine, PMF701, thought to be a cure for cancer. These findings will be presented at the 2nd Biotechnology World Congress. National Geographic

Researchers in Saudi Arabia say they have identified a substance in camel urine that could cure cancer, but the early stage research is awaiting approval from the Saudi Food and Drug Authority before further studies can be conducted. SciDev

For more: on camel urine go here and here. And for more on camel milk go here, here, here, here and here

Note: anyone wanting to use camel urine or milk for medicinal purposes must consult a proper physician before doing so.