Written by Gabriele Dennert and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated February 8, 2017


What is it?


Colostrum is the milk secreted by mammals within the first few days after giving birth. Most often, colostrum in CAM stems from cows, but also colostrum from other sources including human colostrum has been used.


Colostrum contains high concentrations of immunoglobulins (IgG, IgM, IgA), cytokines (interleukin 1beta, interleukin-6, tumour necrosis factor alpha, interferon gamma), growth factors (insuline-like growth factors I and II, transforming growth factor-beta, epidermal growth factor), lactoperoxidase, and lactoferrin.1

Application and dosage

Preparations of colostrum, predominantly from bovine sources, are marketed as powder or capsules as dietary products for oral intake. The average recommended daily dosage is 1 to 2 g per day, but recommendations up to 20 to 60 g per day can be found.2

Some local providers also offer fresh colostrum from cows or goats.


The use of colostrum as part of nutrition and for health promotion has a long tradition in diverse cultures, including Western scientific medicine.3 Colostrum dietary products are marketed by several companies.

Claims of efficacy

The different constituents of colostrum have been ascribed antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and hypertension controlling effects in humans through an active and passive immune response.4 Regarding cancer, colostrum has been claimed to act against cancer cells and alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms.

Alleged indications

Colostrum is marketed for a wide range of indications, especially colitis,5 diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal disorders,6 infections, recovery after surgery, prevention of gastrointestinal side effects of drugs and treatment of different rheumatic pain syndromes.7 Cancer patients use it to prevent therapy-associated adverse effects (especially those associated with an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract), to alleviate diarrhoea, “boost” their immune system or to achieve an anti-proliferative effect.

Mechanisms of action

Oral intake of colostrum has been reported to modulate the human immune system in healthy athletes and lead to higher concentrations of cytotoxic/suppressor T cells and IgG after intensive training periods.8 In vitro studies suggest bovine colostrum may exhibit anti-inflammatory properties9 by inhibiting the NFkappaB activation and cyclooxygenase-2 expression.10 An anti-proliferative effect of oral bovine lactoferrin has been found in an animal study in rats11 and in in-vitro studies in human cancer cells.12

Prevalence of use

No data could be identified how many cancer patients use colostrum.

Legal issues

Bovine and goat colostrum are available as dietary supplements. In the US, hyperimmune bovine colostrum has received orphan status for the treatment of AIDS-related diarrhoea.13,14

For fresh colostrum, regulations differ between European countries. Some countries prohibit trading of colostrum for human nutrition, while it is allowed in other countries if special hygiene regulations are followed.

Costs and expenditures

Prices range between 0.10 Euros (powder) and 0.60 to 0.90 Euros (capsules) per gram bovine colostrum. Monthly expenses sum up to 3 to 50 Euros for 1-2 grams per day.

Citation Gabriele Dennert, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Colostrum [online document]. http://ws.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Dietary-approaches/Colostrum. February 8, 2017.


  1. Inoue M, Okamura T, Sawada A, Kawa K: Colostrum and severe gut GVHD. Bone Marrow Transplantation 1998; 27: 402-403.
  2. Antidoping Schweiz (2003/2011): Kolostrum [online document], available at https://www.antidoping.ch/sites/default/files/downloads/2014/111026_fb_colostrum.pdf, last accessed 8th February 2017.
  3. Lewison EF, Brown RW, Thomas JW, Sykes JF, Ovary Z: “Protective” colostrum in the treatment of patients with advanced breast cancer. Archives of Surgery 1960; 81: 169/997-176/1004.
  4. Sloan Kettering Center: Bovine colostrum [online document]. http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/bovine-colostrum, last accessed 8th February 2017.
  5. Khan Z, Macdonald C, Wicks AC, Holt MP, Floyd D, Ghosh S, Wright NA, Playford J: Use of the `neutraceutical´, bovine colostrum, for the treatment of distal colites: results from an initial study. Alimentary Pharmacological Therapy 2002; 16: 1917-1922.
  6. Playford RJ, Macdonald CE, Johnson WS: Colostrum and milk-derived peptide growth factors for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000; 72: 5-14.
  7. Kelly GS: Bovine colostrums: a review of clinical uses. Alternative Medicine Review 2003; 8: 378-394.
  8. Shing CM, Peake J, Suzuki K, Okutsu M, Pereira R, Stevenson L, Jenkins DJ, Coombes JS: Effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on immune variables in highly trained cyclists. Journal of Applied Physiology 2007; 102: 1133-1122.
  9. Shing CM, Adams MJ, Fassett RG, Coombes JS: Nutritional compounds influence tissue factor expression and inflammation of chronic kidney disease patients in vitro. Nutrition 2011; 27: 967-972.
  10. An MJ, Cheon JH, Kim SW, Park JJ, Moon CM, Han SY, Kim ES, Kim TI, Kim WH: Bovine colostrum inhibits nuclear factor kappaB-mediated proinflammatory cytokine expression in intestinal epithelial cells. Nutrition Research 2009; 29: 275-280.
  11. Masuda C, Wanibuchi H, Sekine K, Yano Y, Otani S, Kishimoto T, Tsuda H, Fukushima S: Chemopreventive effects of bovine lactoferrin on N-butyl-N-(4-hydroxybutyl)nitrosamine-induced rat bladder carcinogenesis. Japanese Journal of Cancer Research 2000; 91: 582-588.
  12. Tokuyama H, Tokuyama Y: Bovine colostric transforming growth factor-beta-like peptide that induces growth inhibition and changes morphology of human osteogenic sarcoma cells (MG-63). Cell Biology International Reports 1989; 13: 251-258.
  13. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA Orphan Drug List [online document]. http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/00/mar00/030100/lst0094.pdf, last accessed 8th February 2017.
  14. Kelly KM: Bringing evidence to complementary and alternative medicine in children with cancer: Focus on nutrition-related therapies. Pediatric Blood & Cancer 2008; 50: 490–493.
  15. Tollemar J, Gross N, Dolgiras N, Jarstrand C, Ringdén O, Hammarström L: Fungal prophylaxis by reduction of fungal colonization by oral administration of bovine anti-Candida antibodies in bone marrow transplant recipients. Bone Marrow Transplantation 1999; 23: 283-290.
  16. Otto W, Najnigier B, Stelmasiak T, Robins-Browne RM: Randomized control trials using a tablet formulation of hyperimmune bovine colostrum to prevent diarrhea caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in volunteers. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 2011; 46: 862–868.
  17. Bishop D. Dietary supplements and team-sport performance. Sports Medicine 2010; 40: 995-1017.
  18. Leszek J, Inglot AD, Janusz M, Byczkiewicz F, Kiejna A, Georgiades J, Lisowski J. Colostrinin proline-rich polypeptide complex from ovine colostrum - a long-term study of its efficacy in Alzheimer's disease. Medical Science Monitor 2002; 8: PI93-6.