Donkey milk has been used by humans for alimentary and cosmetic purposes since Egyptian antiquity; doctors recommended it to treat several afflictions, due to its healing and cosmetic virtues.
Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC), was the first to write of the medicinal use of donkey milk and prescribed it for numerous conditions including poisoning, fevers, infectious diseases, edema, healing wounds, nose bleeds, and liver trouble. In the Roman era donkey milk was a recognized remedy; Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) in his encyclopedic work, Naturalis Historia, wrote extensively about its health benefits, i.e. to fight fever, fatigue, eye strain, weakened teeth, face wrinkles, poisonings,ulcerations, asthma and certain gynecological troubles, but it wasn't until the
Renaissance that the first real scientific consideration was given to donkey milk. Georges-Louis Leclerc the Comte de Buffon (1707–1788) mentions the benefits of donkey milk in his Histoire naturelle and Pauline Bonaparte (1780–1825), Napoleon's sister, is reported to have used donkey milk for skin care.
In France in the nineteenth century, Dr. Parrot of the Hospital des Enfants Assistés spread the practice of bringing motherless babies directly to the donkey's nipple (Bullettin de l’Académie de médicine, 1882). The donkey's milk was then sold until the twentieth century to feed orphaned infants and to cure delicate children, the sick and the elderly.
For this reason, in Greece, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland many donkeys are born on farms. Nowadays donkey milk is largely used in the manufacture of soaps and moisturizers, but new evidence show its possible medical use, especially to treat, under the supervision of a doctor, infants and children with cow's milk protein allergy (CMPA) and with appropriate precautions such as a natural "formula" for infants.