Researchers from Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan have published their findings of a study of the benefits of mare’s milk in the journal Functional Foods in Health and Disease. High in albumin, which helps regulate blood pressure, and with anti-inflammatory benefits, it is suggested it could even reduce the risk of cancer due to the casein protein which is toxic to breast cancer cells.
For centuries, Mare’s milk – called saumal in Kazakh – has been consumed in the central Asia regions, touted for its healing properties and used for alleviating tuberculosis, anaemia, diabetes, inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s and skin conditions including as psoriasis and eczema. Kumis, a fermented mare’s milk product, helps regulate blood pressure. As a blood tonic it is associated with an increase in the number of red and white blood cells. Mare’s milk also contains high lactose levels, easily-digested albumin, and reduced fat and casein content, the latter a milk protein difficult for human bodies to digest.
Professor Almagul Kushugulova, who led the research, said: “Mare’s milk has been consumed throughout Kazakhstan and Central Asia since horses were first domesticated and it is one of the most beneficial animal fats found in nature. It primarily affects the digestive system and contains lysozyme and lactoferrin, which have antimicrobial properties to help fight disease-causing bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Also, due to its rich composition of enzymes, it selectively stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria and limits to growth of unwanted bacteria in our guts.”
Mare’s milk is more similar in composition to human milk, and thus is generating interest in the baby food product industry. Most children with a severe cow’s milk allergies seem to cope better with mare’s milk. With the World Health Organisation predicting that 50% of the world’s population will suffer from cow’s milk allergy by 2025, it could provide an alternative means to deliver the important nutrients. It is estimated that about 30 million people currently consume equine milk.
So how does one find mare’s milk? Horse dairy farms offers these products in fresh or frozen form but are mostly located in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands and typically cost about 10 euros ($15 CAD) per litre. Some North American organic grocery stores carry it. Powdered mare’s milk such as Equilac can be purchased online, has a long shelf life of up to 18 months and can be mixed with water or dairy products such as yogurt.
Fun fact: According to equilac.com, in an appearance on the HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”, the Dalai Lama described how in 1995 he reduced the incidence of alcoholism in Mongolia by convincing his followers to switch from vodka to the fermented horse milk beverage known as airag or kumis, which has a much lower alcohol content.