Goat Milk and Life
Jewish Traditions Healing Skin Ailments
Reading Time: 6 minutes
When Chana’s son was very young, he was allergic to dairy. He could not have anything made with cow milk in any form, and soymilk wasn’t cutting it for him. This was before all the plant-based alternative milks became commonplace, so options were limited. This story begins when Chaim was five years old. A friend of Chana’s had dairy goats. Out of curiosity and attempting to find a type of milk that her son could drink, she requested a small amount of goat milk from the friend for Chaim to try. This trial was a success, but Chana did not live near enough to this friend to get a consistent supply of goat milk. She did not live in a very rural area, and goats were not that popular 25 years ago. However, she banded with a few neighbors and together they bought a single dairy goat to share between them.
Since that fateful day 25 years ago, Chana has moved to a more rural area and added more goats. While her town is quite small, it attracts a lot of tourists in the warmer months of the year. Quite a few of these tourists make their way to her little farm. Many of these visitors come for one particular reason: treatment for a skin ailment. This treatment doesn’t come in the form of lotions or ointments; it comes from the goat milk itself.
Quite a while ago, although not so far back to when Chana bought her first goat, her friend’s mother was visiting. This mother was from Iran but had immigrated to Israel where she stayed to raise her family. Her daughter, raised in Israel, married an American man and moved to the United States where she met Chana and they became friends. The mother had a skin condition on her hand. Chana doesn’t know exactly what it was, but the skin was red, scaly, and itchy. Knowing that Chana had dairy goats, the mother asked for Chana to milk a goat, squirting the milk directly from the teat onto her hand 18 times. This is an ancient Jewish remedy for skin ailments and is referenced in ancient texts. As a little girl, this mother had witnessed this as a healing remedy in Iran. Slightly dubious, but knowing how nutritious and beneficial goat milk can be, Chana did as she was asked. One hour after squirting milk onto the mother’s hand, the inflamed skin was less red and visibly better. She did this application of 18 squirts of milk twice more. On the last time, Chana had to actively search on the mother’s hand to find a spot that was inflamed because it had gone down so much. After the third application of fresh goat milk, the inflammation and itchiness were completely gone.
After this amazingly quick skin healing, Chana decided to try this remedy on other skin ailments and has had quite a bit of success over the years. One day she had conjunctivitis (pink eye) and didn’t want to go to the doctor. It must have taken a bit of fancy maneuvering, but she managed to squirt herself in the eye 18 times. “It stung the first couple of squirts,” she says. With several applications each day, the pink eye was completely healed within two days. That’s faster than the medication from the doctor. When Chana’s grandson was only a year old, he had horrible thrush in his mouth. The sores would keep him up crying all night, and no one was getting any sleep. Chana gave him the 18 squirts of goat milk straight in his mouth, and he slept through the whole night. By the next morning, the sores were completely healed. Chana has helped many people whose babies were suffering from thrush. She says, “When they were freaked out by the animal and screaming, it gave me a better target.” These babies often feel relief so quickly that they are willingly taking a bottle during the car ride home.
One friend of Chana’s wasn’t so certain of getting milk shot straight into her mouth. She requested the milk to be put in a cup which she would immediately drink. She did this several times, but the sores in her mouth did not improve. It was only when the milk was squirted directly from the teat onto the sores that they began to heal. Chana has also experimented with trying a fewer number of times squirting the milk, and it never gave quite as good of results as the perfect number 18 did. Chana believes that there must be enzymes or antibodies present in the milk that begin to dissipate as soon as it hits the air. Even the short amount of time that it takes to milk into a cup and drink it seems to be enough for whatever extra benefits present to die off. The milk must be directed right from the teat with no elapsed time or contact with holding vessels along the way. However, not every skin condition responded as well to Chana’s treatment. She says that cold sores and eczema respond better to pure cream.
In Jewish culture, the number 18 is very significant. This is because, in written Hebrew, the same symbols are used for letters and numbers. This means that words also have a numerical value. In Hebrew, the word for life is “chai.” This is not pronounced like the Indian tea. It begins with the Germanic or Semitic “kh” sound and rhymes with “high.” When you add up the value of the letters that make up the word “chai,” they add up to 18. Therefore, the number 18 is often used to allude to life. Chana shares, “It is common to give and receive gifts in multiples of $18 or ‘chai,’ which in part signifies a good omen for life. In fact, there is a longstanding Jewish tradition of gifting, contributing or donating in increments of $18 to individuals, or even to organizations. Often, these gifting rituals take place in connection with a celebration, honoring and/or remembrance of loved ones. This custom is especially common during all life-cycle events, including rites of passage: birth, bar or bat mitzvahs, and weddings as well as expressing condolences. The act of giving, gifting, or donating $18 or a multiple thereof is commonly referred to as “giving chai.” This nomenclature extends to multiples, as the number 36 is commonly referred to as “double chai.” Symbolically, these gestures are representative of giving a gift of life. Another place in Jewish culture where the number 18 holds significance is at the initiation of the Sabbath day. Their Shabbos begins as they light candles 18 minutes before sunset on Friday evening.
Whether squirting a skin ailment 18 times with goat’s milk is giving “life” or just imparting some great enzymes or antibodies, it seems to work. It doesn’t work wonders on everything, but it does work well for a number of ailments. Thrush was always the ailment that responded the quickest, and Chana is still helping many people to this day with her goats. Will you try squirting fresh goat’s milk on your skin problems?
Originally published in the May/June 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.