When last December I wrote a post ‘Master of the Desert – The Camel’, I didn’t know of the research station at Al Ain, a city in Abu Dhabi, a Camel Farm in the United Arab Emirates. The technical manager there and also a veterinary Professor is Dr Raziq Kakar, an international camel dairy specialist, who is from Pakistan. Before starting his work here, he traveled to forty-six countries and lived with nomads in mountains and desert sands for his research. Al Ain is home to United Nations Heritage and other archaeological sites from the Bronze and Neolithic ages. Today, it is a city with over half a million residents.
The pictures above are of the city of Al Ain.
His work on the great attributes of the desert flora, especially the plant Tribulus Terrestris and its connection to the medical properties of camel’s milk, is of great importance. Dr Raziq is devoted to the research of plants, earth, animals, and ecosystems.
This extraordinary plant Tribulus Terrestris grows in many countries worldwide. Because of the plant’s active substances that can be used for curing many disorders, interest in it is increasing, and it is currently one of the most studied medicinal plants. The main biologically active substances in TT are steroidal saponins, flavonoids, alkaloids, and lignan amides, the most studied being the steroidal saponins.
Dr Raziq describes Tribulus as the beauty of the desert whose presence or absence decides the health of the desert fertility. He compares Tribulus to the sun, as its yellow flowers absorb energy from the sun and moisture from the sand and dew. He rightly describes the plant as beautiful and special, as it is resilient to the hardship of the weather changes of the desert.
On his website, Dr Raziq classifies the use of Tribulus; in his words: the plant has medicinal value, directly when used as a herb, and indirectly through camel urine and milk. It is a perennial plant that sprouts in spring. Tribulus is very much liked by camels.
Dr Raziq writes that the camel is a unique gift of nature. And this is an indisputable truth. Camels are extraordinary animals, seemingly created by the desert, and therefore equipped in every way to withstand the harshness of the journeys. Interestingly, when the camel moves, it uses both legs on one side, and in the next movement both legs on the other side. This gives the rider the sensation of being on a ship, and that is why the camel is known as The Ship of the Desert. Without camels, there would be no trade that flourished across the countries bordering the African deserts and Arabic countries. The substantial wealth of various countries, like Mali, Ghana, or Chad to Syria, Iran, Iraq, and beyond, came from transporting salt, called ‘white gold’, textiles, gold, and many other goods. Without camels, this would not have been possible. And yet, they were originally native to the Arabian Peninsula and introduced to Africa around the ninth century BC.
The camel is an example of the perfection of nature’s design. Tall, 7-feet high with the hump, with long legs, he can easily carry a heavy load. The characteristic hump on his back contains fat which is indispensable as a source of energy when there is no food around. As he can drink in one go 40 gallons of water, he can travel a long distance without drinking or eating. The eyes have three eyelids and two rows of eyelashes to prevent sand, even in a sandstorm, entering his eyes. For the same reason, his ears are furry and his nostrils close between two breaths. His even-toed feet don’t sink into the sand because on touching the ground the two toes spread wide, thus allowing the camel to walk unperturbed. Normally docile, when provoked they use their big-lipped snout to spit green gunk from their stomach, and they kick expertly with all four legs. Camel milk is very healthy as it contains less fat than cow’s milk and is rich in iron, vitamins, and minerals. It is now becoming the drink of choice for many people.
Recently, scientists found that camel blood has unusual diminutive antibodies that may be used in fighting cancer. Called nanobodies, their binding can fit into crevices on molecules and remain functional within cells. These are still early stages of the research but nevertheless promising.
There are two types of camel: the one-humped, smooth-haired dromedary of the desert and two-humped, shaggy coated Bactrian living in Asia. Dr Raziq works with dromedary camels on the farm he manages in the United Arab Emirates.
And here is a picture of a Mongolian Bactrian camel:
Camel milk has been used for the cure of complex ailments over long periods of history. Now, different scientific studies are being conducted and many are underway to explore the magic powers of camel milk and to find the molecules in camel milk that are materialising the healing of different diseases.
Scientists give some examples of the precious molecules found in camel milk. One of the best examples is the immunoglobulins. The immunoglobulins of camel milk combat autoimmune diseases by strengthening the immune system, and can fight some bacteria like tuberculosis and protect the body from bacterial and viral infections.
They add that camel milk contains various protective proteins and enzymes which have antibacterial and immunological properties that strengthen the antibacterial and antiviral activities. Camel milk is a unique and healthy product with especially anti-allergic and anti-diabetic effects. Several studies have shown that camel milk has some therapeutic potential in both type-1 and type-2 Diabetes mellitus. It is suggested that drinking half a litre of camel milk per day contributes to decreasing fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, and plasma insulin levels in both types of diabetes. The healthy effects of camel milk are attracting increasing attention from consumers and the food industry.
Al Ain Farms specialises in many excellent dairy and other products:
Dr Tahereh writes: “Nowadays, the researchers follow other suitable alternative treatments for insulin. Camel milk contains insulin-like proteins, which do not form coagulum in the acidic media of the stomach that can be an effective alternative for insulin. Camel milk improves the glycemic control and decreasing insulin resistance in diabetic conditions. A high amount (about 52 U/L) of insulin is detected in camel milk, and using camel milk with diabetes patients causes a reduction of blood sugar and required insulin dose of about 30%. Daily drinking of camel milk may meet about 60% of the insulin required in diabetic patients. Camel milk improves other aspects related to diabetes such as obesity, inflammation, wound healing, and oxidative stress damage. Therefore, camel milk and some of its effective components influence insulin secretion by their effect on the pancreatic beta cells and insulin receptor function in the insulin-sensitive tissues. Therefore it is a potential therapy for controlling diabetes mellitus 1, high cholesterol level, liver and kidney disease, decreasing oxidative stress, and improving wound healing. Camel milk lactoferrin has immuno-modulatory effects on beta-cells of the pancreas and reduces insulin doses required in diabetes 1 and 2 patients
Obviously, camel milk effects include an effect on insulin receptor function and signaling and glucose transport in the insulin-sensitive tissues, an effect on insulin secretion by the pancreatic b-cells, via the survival, growth, and activity of the pancreatic cells, negative modulation on the glucagon receptor.”
Dr Raziq’s work studying the connection between the plants of the desert and the medicinal quality of camel milk, and promoting camel milk as food with unique healing powers, is therefore of great importance. This research is the reason for camel milk featuring for the first time on the global World Milk Day list since it began 20 years ago.
Dr Raziq’s work offers a solution to the complex problems in today’s world. The vast increase in pollution through the use of pesticides, petrol fumes and overuse of plastic in the past decades is now linked to many children suffering from mental problems and autism.
“The camel milk works across a range of physical and behavioral issues, making it a highly effective alternative. Parents of children with autism remain a key and growing market, as studies show the milk is safe and effective and can lead to behavioral and medical improvements,” stated Christina Adams, author of several publications on camel milk and editorial board member of the Journal of Camel Science. She is the author of the award-winning book ‘Camel Crazy. A Quest in the Mysterious World of Camels.’ She writes in minute detail how camel milk profoundly changed her autistic son’s life, from a severely affected young child to a now independent adult capable of doing all the things other 20-year-olds are. Her work gave scientists important data to include in their research.
Christina Adams writes that camel milk has been used for centuries as a healing substance and highly nutritious food. She suggests that camel milk may be beneficial in treating conditions associated with inflammation, which may include:
autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
attention deficit disorder (ADD)
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
gastrointestinal problems: irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea
food allergy, intolerance, and sensitivity
chemotherapy-induced fatigue, anemia, mouth sores and other side effects
and many others.
Christina Adams won the Nautilus Award.
Dr Tahereh Mohammadabadi, Associate Professor, Khuzestan Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources University, Iran, writes:
“The fatty acids in camel milk are also better for human hearts as they contain more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids than cow milk. Low in allergenic proteins, camel milk is also the best alternative to human milk and for children with severe food allergies or eczema.”
Dr Raziq agrees: “Having been in the camel’s world of research and development, I have been advocating the camel as the animal of choice in the challenging environments as a model animal. The camel (Arabian and Bactrian) milk is also rich with super and unique nutrients, some act as anti-infectious and immune boosters. Camel milk makes the immune system stronger as it contains a series of protective proteins such as lysozyme, lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, immunoglobulin G, and immunoglobulin. I hereby suggest clinical trials for the camel milk as an agent of antibodies against the viral infections in particular with the COVID-19. Camel milk has already been studied as support in diabetes management.”
As an ethnoecologist and desert explorer, Dr Raziq advocates closer links with nature whenever we are. During his daily walks, he notices: “The desert is not only beautiful but a place where you can enjoy the vast horizons and the fragrance of the deserts’ flora. The desert after the rains converts into echoing green sand, rich with a diversity of flora and fauna. The whole picture makes the scene very attractive, which works as an ECOTHERAPY. I’m sure, daily walks will work as a healing agent for your health and thoughts.”
Dr Raziq works on many projects that could improve the lives of people globally, as he would like to turn parts of the desert into agriculturally productive fields. His work also includes ideas of using camel waste as a fertiliser. It might not be long before he includes research on turning camel waste into renewable gas. Camel waste could be sealed into tanks without oxygen, where it is broken down by naturally occurring micro-organisms into biogas, before being used to help heat homes and cook meals. Farmers are increasingly rushing to exploit the cattle’s waste product to provide green energy. Scientists believe that alongside hydrogen, biomethane could be playing a critical role in achieving net-zero carbon emissions. Such an innovative project would be a step towards supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy and paving the way for similar projects in the future.
Dedicating his life to study the many extraordinary properties of camel milk, Dr Raziq work is paying dividends, as there are now quite a few camel farms in Europe and in other parts of the world. Thanks to Dr Raziq’s extensive research, I have recently become a devotee of camel milk myself and drink a half-pint daily. In my future posts, I shall report on all the benefits, I will no doubt, have in a short time. Thank you, Dr Raziq.
For those who would like to know what camel milk tastes like – it tastes just like milk because it is milk.
Below are images of the Bedouin tribe:
There are also other known benefits of drinking camel milk – the Bedouin tribes in Africa are well known to be slim, no one is ever obese; they drink camel milk as they are camel herders. As we are forever dieting here, perhaps, camel milk could provide a solution.
Dr Raziq wrote also very eloquently about the 70 good things trees provide:
cooling of air
nesting opportunities for birds
habitat of insects, rodents, birds and many other animals
landmark on the earth
strengthening and conservation of soil
trapping and fixing carbon from the air
provision of oxygen
fragrance of flowers
fragrance of fruit
a subject of fairytales
historical background, many trees have a history
involved in the water cycle
deflect harsh sunshine
protect coasts and provide habitat in mangroves
use for furniture
handicrafts made from different parts of the tree
tyres made from sap of rubber trees
and many more…..
But we should also ask what can we do for the trees. The exchange should always be mutual. Christina Adams writes in her book about the only tree, an acacia, in the compound of The Camel Farm:
“The sound of past centuries grow fainter as I look back at the old souk tree. She’s endured the indignities of a thousand years, ….. she’s been torn by wind, bumped by trucks, deprived of even drink, But she lives on with no visible help, surviving in her silence.”
Perhaps a gift of water, just a few buckets daily, could be possible? It would certainly prolong this tree’s life and make it happy.
Empathy with nature and all that we call by this name are important, because:
. HUMANS NEED NATURE TO SURVIVE
PS Latest developments
Message to Dr Raziq,
After reading your post about the pollution of plastic in the desert I thought that you might be interested in a plastic-eating enzyme. Scientists are saying that a plastic-eating enzyme cocktail could be a significant leap forward in tackling pollution. Two years ago researchers created an enzyme called PETase that broke down clear plastic into its chemical parts.
PET is used to make single-use drinks bottles, clothing, and carpets and can take hundreds of years to degrade. But PETase shortened this to days. And now, mixed with another enzyme, MHETase, the compound can digest plastic up to six times faster – in just hours.
This could mean plastic being made and reused endlessly, cutting our reliance on fossil fuels such as oil and gas.
The study, in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, was a joint project by the University of Portsmouth and Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US. Professor John McGeehan, of Portsmouth’s Centre for Enzyme Innovation, said: ‘This is a significant leap forward because the plastic that ends up in our oceans is going to take hundreds of years to break down naturally. The faster we can make the enzymes, the quicker we can break down the plastic and the more commercially viable it will be.’
Reply from Dr Raziq:
I know about such enzymatic potential to degrade/decompose plastic, a very revolutionary invention in waste management science. Such enzymes and other biotech solutions work at the mass level, applied by municipalities and other WM companies. I’m sure that the UAE government uses all the possible sustainable and environmentally friendly techniques to decompose solid waste including plastic. Here is a very good mechanism to collect waste, bins are installed everywhere and the trucks collect the waste on regular basis.
The problem here is the scattered plastic in form of bottles, bags, and other food bins, etc. The nonsense people just throw it in the desert when they visit the desert and eat food over there. Such type of plastic is scattered everywhere and mostly stuck in the desert flora, leading to the death of the plant. The animals, especially camels ingest such waste while grazing on the flora. Such waste has multifaceted losses to the desert ecosystem at large.
The only good way is to collect such waste from the desert, put in bags, and drop into the waste bin. I’m doing my best and collecting almost 10 kg of waste each week from some parts of the desert. The empty animal feedbags are scattered as the untrained staff of the livestock farms do not care while dumping such waste. Unfortunately, such bags decompose into small pieces and directly go into the animals’ gut leading to the body organs and result in ill health and death.
I made some videos, articles, lectures (for school kids), and interviews to appeal the people to please not throw the solid waste in the desert and at least bring some extra waste from the desert back to the bins. It will really help.