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Bovine Colostrum

Medically reviewed on Jun 4, 2018

Scientific Name(s):Bovine colostrum

Common Name(s): Cow milk colostrum


Bovine colostrum has been used to treat diarrhea, to improve GI health, to boost the immune system.


Bovine colostrum is a difficult preparation to standardize because its antibody content may vary widely. Some clinical studies have been performed with hyperimmune colostrum, which may have a specific antibody titer; however, most products do not meet this criterion. Studies administering 25 to 125 mL of liquid formulations or 10 to 20 g of dry powder have been reported.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Bovine colostrum is well tolerated. A few symptoms, including mild nausea and flatulence have been reported.


Bovine colostrum appears to be safe and effective. There is no data in the literature concerning any toxicities.

Colostrum is the premilk fluid produced from mammary glands during the first 2 to 4 days after birth. It is a rich natural source of nutrients, antibodies, and growth factors for the newborn. 1


Colostrum contains immune factors, immunoglobulins, antibodies, proline-rich polypeptides (PRP), lactoferrin, glycoproteins, lactalbumins, cytokines (eg, interleukin 1 and 6, interferon γ), growth factors, vitamins, and minerals. 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 Specific bovine colostrum growth factor has been purified, stimulating synthesis of certain cell lines, for example. 6 Colostrokinin is also a constituent isolated from bovine colostrum, responsible for uterine and intestinal contraction, and lowering of blood pressure. 7

Uses and Pharmacology


Bovine colostrum, with its rich pool of nutrients, has successfully supported and maintained a variety of cell cultures. 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12

Animal data

Various concentrations of bovine colostral constituents, including certain immunoglobulins, have been studied in calves fed colostrum or colostral supplement products. 13 , 14 , 15 , 16 , 17

Clinical data

Certain immune factors and antibodies also fight a variety of organisms, allergens, or toxins including pneumonia, candida, and flu. Constituent lactoferrin prevents pathogens from getting the iron they need to flourish. Lactalbumins and cytokines (interleukin 1 and 6, interferon γ) are also important as antivirals and anticancer agents. 5

Antidiarrheal and GI aid

Several studies show how bovine colostrum concentrates, including G immunoglobulin isolates, are highly successful alternative agents used to improve GI health and to treat diarrhea caused by a variety of pathogens. In > 50% of AIDS patients, diarrhea and subsequent weight loss pose a problem. The severity of symptoms in some cases and sometimes unidentifiable pathogens unaffected by antibiotics welcome alternative therapy with bovine colostrum.

Animal data

Using a specialized colostrum preparation in animal studies, bovine colostrum has been shown to have a high capacity for neutralization of bacterial toxins and high effectiveness in treating severe diarrhea. 18

Bovine colostrum supplementation, in another report, has been shown to prevent NSAID-induced gut injury in various in vivo and in vitro models, suggesting its possible usefulness for certain ulcerative bowel conditions. 1

Clinical data

In one study, 29 AIDS patients received a bovine colostrum preparation. The average stool per day decreased from 7.4 before therapy to 2.2 after treatment. 19 A 25-patient study of HIV subjects with chronic diarrhea administered bovine colostrum preparation also confirms therapeutic effectiveness, resulting in 64% of patients experiencing complete (40%) or partial (24%) remission of diarrhea. 20 Cryptosporidium , a human GI parasite, can also cause life-threatening diarrhea in immunodeficient patients when antibiotics or other anti-diarrheals may be ineffective. Bovine colostrum therapy has reduced significantly oocyst excretion of pathogen in stools vs placebo and relieved a previously untreatable AIDS patient of severe Cryptosporidium -associated diarrhea. 21 , 22 Lactobin , a registed bovine colostral product, shows antibody reactivity and neutralization against certain E. coli strains and shiga-like toxins. 23 Immunoglobulin preparation supplementation was found to protect against Shigellosis ( S. flexneri ), and suggests its usefulness in high-risk groups including travelers and military personnel during Shigella outbreaks. 24 Bovine colostrum use against organisms Yersinia enterocolitica and Campylobacter jejuni has also been reported. 25 Bovine colostrum also inhibits Helicobacter pylori and Helicobacter mustelae by binding to certain lipid receptors, which may modulate the interaction of these pathogens to their target sites. 26 One report investigates the bovine colostral immunoglobulin proteins and how they are subject to degradation by gastric acid and intestinal enzymes under certain conditions. 27

Other uses

The immune-boosting properties of bovine colostrum have been promoted as performance enhancers and anti-aging/healing supplements. Certain Web pages, for instance, promote significant fitness gains for athletes, noting its “anabolic effects” and claiming it can “promote muscle growth.” 28 One clinical trial finds bovine colostrum supplement to increase serum IGF-1 concentration in athletes. 29 IGF-1 is a growth factor that speeds up protein synthesis and slows catabolism. 23


Bovine colostrum is a difficult preparation to standardize because its antibody content may vary widely. Some clinical studies have been performed with hyperimmune colostrum, which may have a specific antibody titer; however, most products do not meet this criterion. Studies administering 25 to 125 mL of liquid formulations or 10 to 20 g of dry powder have been reported. 30 , 31 , 32 , 33


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

A few symptoms, including mild nausea and flatulence, were seen in certain trials, but most have reported bovine colostrum to be well tolerated. 18 , 19 , 20 At least 2 allerginicity studies have been performed in humans. 34 , 35


There is no major toxicity associated with bovine colostrum supplementation.


1. Playford R, et al. Bovine colostrum is a health food supplement which prevents NSAID induced gut damage. Gut 1999;44:653-58.
2. Rumbo M, et al. Detection and characterization of antibodies specific to food antigens (gliadin, ovalbumin and beta-lactoglobulin) in human serum, saliva, colostrum and milk. Clin Exp Immunol 1998;112(3):453-58.
3. Behrman R, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics 16th ed. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Co. 2000;155-56.
4. Joseph M, et al. Research shows colostrum to be one of nature's most potent, broad-spectrum substances. Chiropract J 1998 Mar;12(6):33,41,45.
5. Fauci A, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill. 1998;1753,1760.
6. Kishkawa Y, et al. Purification and characterization of cell growth factor in bovine colostrum. J Vet Med Sci 1996;58:1,47-53.
7. Budavari S, et al, eds. The Merck Index 11th ed, Rahway, NJ: Merck and Co. 1989.
8. Steimer KS, et al. Serum-free growth of normal and transformed fibroblasts in milk: differential requirements for fibronectin. J Cell Biol 1981;88(2):294-300.
9. Steimer KS, et al. The serum-free growth of cultured cells in bovine colostrum and in milk obtained later in the lactation period. J Cell Physiol 1981;109(2):223-34.
10. Tseng MT, et al. Selective maintenance of cultured epithelial cells from DMBA-induced mammary tumours by bovine colostrum supplement. Cell Tissue Kinet 1983;16(1):85–92.
11. Pakkanen R, et al. Bovine colostrum ultrafiltrate: an effective supplement for the culture of mouse-mouse hybridoma cells. J Immunol Methods 1994;169(1):63-71.
12. Viander B, et al. Viable AC-2, a new adult bovine serum- and colostrum-based supplement for the culture of mammalian cells. Biotechniques 1996;20(4):702-7.
13. Garry FP, et al. Comparison of passive immunoglobulin transfer to dairy calves fed colostrum or commercially available colostral-supplement products. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;208(1):107-10.
14. Mee JF, et al. Effect of a whey protein concentrate used as a colostrum substitute or supplement on calf immunity, weight gain, and health. J Dairy Sci 1996;79(5):886-94.
15. Morin DE, et al. Effects of quality, quantity, and timing of colostrum feeding and addition of a dried colostrum supplement on immunoglobulin G1 absorption in Holstein bull calves. J Dairy Sci 1997;80(4):747-53.
16. Hopkins BA, et al. Effects of method of colostrum feeding and colostrum supplementation on concentrations of immunoglobuln G in the serum of neonatal calves. J Dairy Sci 1997;80(5):979-83.
17. Quigley J, ΙΙΙ, et al. Effects of a colostrum replacement product derived from serum on immunoglobulin G absorption by calves. J Dairy Sci 1998;81(7):1936-39.
18. Stephan W, et al. Antibodies from colostrum in oral immunotherapy. J Clin Chem Clin Biochem 1990;28(1):19-23.
19. Rump JA, et al. Treatment of diarrhoea in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients with immunoglobulins from bovine colostrum. Clin Investig 1992;70(7):588-94.
20. Plettenberg A, et al. A preparation from bovine colostrum in the treatment of HIV-positive patients with chronic diarrhea. Clin Investig 1993;71:42-45.
21. Okhuysen P, et al. Prophylactic effect of bovine anti- Cryptosporidium hyperimmune colostrum immunoglobulin in healthy volunteers challenged with Cryptosporidium parvum . Clin Infect Dis 1998;26:1324-29.
22. Ungar B, et al. Cessation of Cryptosporidium -associated diarrhea in an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patient after treatment with hyperimmune bovine colostrum. Gastrenterology 1990;98:486-89.
23. Lissner R, et al. A standard immunoglobulin preparation produced from bovine colostra shows antibody reactivity and neutralization activity against Shiga –like toxins and EHEC-hemolysin of Escherichia coli O157:H7. Infection 1996;24(5):378-83.
24. Tacket CO, et al. Efficacy of bovine milk immunoglobulin concentrate in preventing ilness after Shigella flexneri challenge. Am J Trop Med Hyg 1992;47:3,276-83.
25. Lissner R, et al. Antibody reactivity and fecal recovery of bovine immunoglobulins following oral administration of a colostrum concentrate from cows (Lactobin) to healthy volunteers. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 1998;36(5):239-45.
26. Bitzan M, et al. Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori and Helicobacter mustelae binding to lipid receptors by bovine colostrum. J Infect Dis 1998;177:955-61.
27. Petschow BW, et al. Reduction in virus-neutralizing activity of a bovine colostrum immunoglobulin concentrate by gastric acid and digestive enzymes. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1994;19:228-35.58.
29. Mero A, et al. Effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on serum IGF-I, IgG, hormone, and saliva IgA during training. J Appl Physiol 1997;83(4):1144-51.
30. Playford RJ, MacDonald CE, Calnan DP, et al. Co-administration of the health food supplement, bovine colostrum, reduces the acute non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug-induced increase in intestinal permeability. Clin Sci (Lond) . 2001;100:627-633.
31. Antonio J, Sanders MS, Van Gammeren D. The effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in active men and women. Nutrition . 2001;17:243-247.
32. Sarker SA, Casswall TH, Mahalanabis D, et al. Successful treatment of rotavirus diarrhea in children with immunoglobulin from immunized bovine colostrum. Pediatr Infect Dis J . 1998;17:1149-1154.
33. Mero A, Miikkulainentti, Riski J, Pakkanen R, Aalto J, Tahala T. Effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on serum IGF-I, IgG, hormone, and saliva IgA during training. J Appl Physiol . 1997;83:1144-1151.
34. Savilahti E, et al. Low colostral IgA associated with cow's milk allergy. Acta Paediatr Scand 1991;80(12):1207-13.
35. Lefranc-Millot C, et al. Comparison of the IgE titers to bovine colostral G immunoglobulins and their F(ab′)2 fragments in sera of patients allergic to milk. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 1996;110(21):56-62.

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