What is Colostrum*?


Colostrum is nature's perfect first food. It supplies immune and growth factors along with a perfect combination of vitamins and minerals to insure the health, vitality, and growth of the newborn. Colostrum has applications for every generation and it is never too late to start gaining the benefits of life's precious first food.

Colostrum is the pre-milk substance produced from all mammals at birth. True bovine colostrum is the pre-milk in the udder when the calf is born. This true colostrum can be collected during the first milking within 16 hours after birth. After this it becomes transitional milk and after 5 days after birth it is milk.

It is estimated that colostrum triggers at least fifty processes in the newborn, including transferring the immune factors and the memory from the mother's own immune system. Bovine colostrum balances the immune system and is a natural source of many vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids. Supplementation of colostrum enhances the efficiency of amino acid and carbohydrate fuel uptake by the intestine, making more nutrients are made available for muscle cells and other vital tissues and organs.

What Are the Major Components in Colostrum?

The most important components of colostrum can be broken down into three major categories: Immune System Factors, Growth Factors, and Nutritional Components.

Immune Factors

Proline-Rich Polypeptides (PRPs)

Growth Factors

Insulin-like Growth Factor
(IGF-1, IGF-2)

Transforming Growth Factor
(TGF-α, TGF-β)
Epithelial Growth Factor
Epidermal Growth Factor
Fibroblast Growth Factor
Platelet Derived Growth Factor
Nutritional Components



Amino Acids

Essential Oils

Immune Factors

Proline-Rich Polypeptides (PRPs)

Proline-rich polypeptides (PRPs) act systemically, modulating the complex immune system and are therefore the most important ingredient in colostrum.

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Peptides are short chains of amino acids — the building blocks of proteins — without the complex tertiary structure of proteins. Proline-rich polypeptides (PRPs), so-called because they contain an unusually high proportion of the amino acid proline, are intercellular signaling molecules that have the unique ability to modulate the immune system, turning it up when needed or turning it down when it is overactive.

Immunomodulating colostral peptides appear under various names in literature, including transfer factor, colostrinin and Proline-rich polypeptides (PRPs).

They work as hormones that regulate the thymus gland (bodies central command for the immune system), stimulating an underactive immune system or down-regulating an overactive immune system.

Learn more about peptides in references.

Immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA, IgE, IgM, IgD)

The immunoglobulin fraction in bovine colostrum is composed of approximately 70-80% IgG, 10-15% IgA, 10-15% IgM, while IgE and IgD are found in small amounts.

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The function of these immunoglobulins (antibodies) is as follows:

  • IgG — predominant immunoglobulin in bovine milk colostrum; primary function is to identify and help destroy invading pathogenic microbes.
  • IgA — predominant immunoglobulin in human milk and colostrum; primary role is as first line of defense, protects mucosal surfaces and prevents the attachment of pathogens to them.
  • IgM — primary role is "first to fight;" enhances phagocytosis by destroying invading pathogens.
  • IgE — involved with the allergic reaction and histamine-associated allergic reaction; also involved with active defense against enteric parasites.
  • IgD — attached to B cells; it stimulates lymphocytes to produce antibodies by presenting antigens to them.

Laboratory analyses of both immune and growth factors from bovine colostrum indicate that they are identical to those found in human colostrum except for the fact that the levels of these factors are significantly higher in the bovine version. Bovine colostrum is actually 40 times richer in immune factors than human colostrum. For example, human colostrum contains 2% of IgG (immunoglobulin G) while cow colostrum contains 86% of IgG, the most important of the immunoglobulins found in the body.

Local protection in the form of immuno-supplementation with bovine milk antibodies has been shown to be an effective means of providing local protection to the GI tract.


Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein that helps deprive bacteria of the iron they require to reproduce and releases iron into the red blood cells enhancing oxygenation of tissues. Lactoferrin modulates cytokine release and its receptors have been found on most immune cells including lymphocytes, monocytes, macrophages and platelets.

α - Lactalbumin and β - Lactoglobulin

These are the major nutritional whey proteins in milk and colostrum.


Cytokines are small proteins that are secreted by specific cells of the immune system. They are a category of signaling molecules that are used extensively in cellular communication. They are proteins, peptides, or glycoproteins.


Lysozymes can help support the immune system.


Lactoperidase-thiocyanate, peroxidase, and xanthine oxidase oxidize bacteria through their ability to release hydrogen peroxide.


Glycoproteins are a digestive factor that has been shown to help immune and growth factors survive the passage through the highly acidic digestive system.

Growth Factors

Colostrum contains many growth factors, including insulin-like growth factor-1 and 2 (IGF-1 and IGF-2), Epithelial growth factor (EGF), Fibroblast growth factor (FGF), Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), and Transforming growth factors alpha β (TGA-α and TGF-β).

Growth factors, are peptides that function as intercellular signaling molecules to turn on or turn off the production of specific proteins in the target cells.

Their presence in colostrum is primarily to complete the growth and development of the newborn gut, but in older children and adults they help support a healthy gut wall.

Nutritional Components

Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids, and Essential Oils

Colostrum is a combination of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are naturally occurring in a perfect combination. Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, and E are found in small amounts while traces of all other vitamins, as well as minerals such as calcium, sodium, magnesium and zinc, are also present in colostrum. Colostrum is a rich source of both essential and non-essential aminoacids, as well as essential fats, including phospholipids, which enable colostral protein protection and easy absorption in the gut by forming liposomes around them.

Colostrum Product Safety and Dosage

1. Product Dosage

The amount of bovine colostrum required as a food supplement can vary depending on the age, weight and health of the person taking colostrum.

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  1. A healthy adult — the recommended dosage is 1-2 grams per day for health maintenance and support.
  2. A healthy adult under stress caused by sport, endurance, or other stress — studies in Europe on cyclists have shown that up to 101 grams per serving has been well tolerated. In a healthy adult human the body can tolerate up to 20 grams of protein every three hours, in some cases.
  3. A healthy adult not under extreme stress typically can tolerate between 2-10 grams per day. However, typical dosages are between 1-5 grams per serving. One to three servings per day should be safe.
  4. Studies performed on symptomatic children with rotaviral diarrhea also used 10 gram/day2. However, non-symptomatic healthy children and adolescents typically can take 1-2 grams/day.

1 Journal of Applied Physiology
2 The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal

2. Product Potency

The most active ingredient in the bovine colostrum are the biological peptides, called proline-rich polypeptides (PRPs).

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  1. PRPs are numerous in the colostrum, currently there has been 80+ colostrum peptides identified using HPLC/GC/MS1. They act to modulate TH1/TH2 cytokine production, and are therefore more commonly called “immune modulators.” The human body appears to well tolerate these peptides when orally ingested, in studies using isolated PRP liquid (no other colostrum components present). The reason that these PRPs are well tolerated is because these PRPs are identical to those in all mammals, so bovine PRPs have the same amino acid sequence and thus shape as those in human colostrum.
  2. The oral administration of these PRPs appears to cause some side effects in unhealthy cohorts.
    1. A detoxification reaction, similar to those experiencing a Jared-Herxheimer reaction can occur2. Typically this is noticeable in 10% of those when people first start to take the bovine colostrum. When this occurs the person is instructed to drink a 250ml glass of water before each dosage to help the body remove these toxins before they get redeposited into human tissues.
    2. The amino acid sequence of bovine IgG3 is different than in human IgG4, so bovine IgGs cannot be taken intravenously. However, oral ingestion is generally well tolerated because these antibodies work to destroy some pathogens in the human gut. Problems can exist initially if the person has a porous gut lining, caused by a number of factors, if some bovine IgG enters via the gut lining there can be some innate immune reactions that can take place, for a brief time.
  3. 1 Peptides derived from colostrinin patent application
    2 Transfer Factor and Its Clinical Applications
    3 National Center for Biotechnology Information
    4 National Center for Biotechnology Information

3. Bovine Colostrum Should Not be Taken by the Following Groups of People

The most active ingredient in the bovine colostrum are the biological peptides, called proline-rich polypeptides (PRPs).

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  1. Pregnant Women or Those Trying to Get Pregnant
    Pregnancy is indicated as a TH2 condition, or diseased state in the body. PRPs appear to reestablish a normal TH2/TH1 balance so it is recommended that pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant do not take bovine colostrum.
  2. People That Have Had Organ Transplants
    Bovine colostrum may interact with the immune-suppressing medications these people might be taking. Until clinical studies have been performed to prove the safety of bovine colostrum in these cases, it is recommended not to take bovine colostrum.

1 Transfer Factor and Its Clinical Applications

Learn more about colostrum in References.

* The statements on this page have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.