Donkey's Milk History

For centuries, donkey milk has been cherished for its therapeutic, healing, nutritional and cosmetological properties.

Donkey Milk throughout the Ages

As a healing aid, donkey milk has been used for more than 5,500 years. In ancient Egypt, for instance, donkey milk was used in herbal medicine and taken as an oral preparation to cure internal or external inflammation, particularly for children. The ancient Greeks also used donkey milk for its medicinal properties. Indeed Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.), the highly-acclaimed ancient Greek physician who gave his name to the Hippocratic Oath, recommended donkey milk as a cure for a variety of ailments including poisoning and arthritis, and to assist in the healing of wounds.

But in the era of ancient Rome, people began to use donkey milk for a variety of different functions. For one, it took on a symbolic significance as the drink of the aristocracy. Also, women began using donkey milk as a cosmetic product for the skin. They bathed in donkey milk and produced beauty masks with donkey milk extract for the face. Cleopatra VII, the Queen of Egypt from 51-30 B.C. possessed huge herds of donkeys so that she could bath daily in donkey milk, as did Poppaea Sabina (30-65 A.D.), the second wife of Emperor Nero. Both these women were well-known for their ability to seduce the most powerful leaders of the day with their legendary youthful beauty.

Donkey Milk Proves Its Worth

One of the first studies that scientifically established the beneficial properties of donkey milk took place in France in 1877. The French Welfare State (Assistance Publique) ran an experiment at a unit for abandoned babies in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Hospital, in Paris. The experiment primarily involved feeding donkey milk to babies instead of human milk. The research found that the babies responded very well to donkey milk; they grew stronger and healthier and didn’t demonstrate any nutritional deficiencies. Indeed, the French people continued their affection for donkey milk throughout the 19th century and up to the beginning of the 20th century. Many donkey milk dairies sprang up throughout the country, especially in and around Paris, and many French doctors recommended donkey milk to their patients, both young and old, for such ailments as persistent coughs, intestinal irritation and anaemia. As the French naturalist Buffon (1749-1804) stated in his Histoire Naturelle, “Donkey milk is a tested scientific remedy for certain diseases.” In some areas donkey milk even replaced maternal milk with infants even being encouraged to suck directly from the donkey’s udder!

Donkey Milk and Historical Figures

In modern times, a long list of historical figures have drunk donkey milk for its healing benefits. King Francis I of France (1494–1547), suffering from the stresses of war and an unhealthy diet, drank donkey milk after being recommended it by his doctor and soon regained his health and vitality. So too, Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France overcame health problems by drinking donkey milk. And the list goes on; Pauline Bonaparte, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Pompidou, Joseph Kessel (the 20th century journalist and novelist); all of these historical figures drank donkey milk to benefit from its amazing nutritional qualities!