Humans have been using milk from donkeys for cosmetic and health purposes since antiquity, particularly the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Today, dozens of new businesses in Greece are producing donkey milk for the global markets.
Hippocrates, the Greek physician who is considered the father of medicine, was the first to write about the medicinal virtues of donkey milk. He prescribed the milk for a variety of ailments, including fevers, healing wounds, and liver problems.
Sources from antiquity state that ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra used to bathe in donkey milk to keep her skin soft and glowing. It is said that the milk of 700 donkeys was used to fill her tub.
Ancient Roman poet Ovid also suggested women use donkey milk on their faces to improve the health an appearance of their skin.
Donkey milk has many health benefits
Today, we know that this milk is gentle and soothing for people with sensitive skin and it’s far richer in vitamin C than cow’s milk, while being equally rich in proteins.
Additionally, it is well tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant and donkey milk often contains more probiotics,which are essential to gut health, than cow’s milk.
Throughout Europe, milk from donkeys was traditionally given to small children as a “formula” to help give them essential nutrients. It also has a sweet, pleasant taste, which makes the drink enjoyable for kids. This practice remained popular in many countries until fairly recently.
Donkey milk has many dermatological benefits as well, and it is widely used by people with skin diseases such as psoriasis, eczema or extensive dryness as it is considered to be a natural way to ease their symptoms.
Why is it so expensive?
This milk though is not an easy thing to find. Since donkeys don’t produce as much milk as cows do, their product is quite expensive. One pound of donkey milk (less than half a kilogram) costs around $1,000 (€860).
But despite its expensive price, the demand for donkey milk around the world is constantly growing, and so is the business.
Countries such as South Korea, Belgium, and Switzerland are among the leaders in global production of donkey milk, but Greece has nothing to be envious about, since the country is getting its fair share of business.
Many new businesses have already started their journey of milk production in the global markets, generating profits and creating new jobs for the Greek economy, especially in the countryside, where donkeys live.
A good example of this prosperous business that is gaining ground in the Greek market is the story of donkey milk production in Macedonias’ Nigrita.
The milk from that region is so prized for its nutritional and cosmetic properties, that it costs more than French champagne.
It is often sold for over 50 euros per liter, while its processing results in various other products such as cheese, food supplements, cleansers, moisturizers, anti-aging soaps, sweets and liqueurs.