All About Colostrum

FASCINATING COLOSTRUM: An Ancient Food for Modern Times (Chapter 2)

by John Heinerman, Ph.D.



Health Lessons from Ancient Egypt
As mankind evolved into civilized societies some of the practical health knowledge from prehistoric times carried over. The use of colostrum as a therapeutic agent for different medical problems was one of these. Of course it went by other names, but the healing integrity of the substance remained the same.

From the world's oldest known surviving medical text we know that colostrum was frequently employed by surgeons when treating different types of wounds in 2800 BC. The famous Egyptian language scholar, James Henry Breasted, translated the remaining fragments and included his own scientific commentaries in a two-volume work entitled The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1930).

The papyrus was so named after the young American Egyptologist, Edwin Smith, who saved the document from ultimate destruction by purchasing it in several different pieces from some 19th century tomb robbers. Based on a single reference to it in another later medical papyrus (Ebers), Breasted believed that the Smith Papyrus was anciently called "Secret Book of the Physician," and was around in the latter part of the Old Kingdom period of ancient Egypt.

Other Egyptian medical papyri invariably contained elements of magic and mysticism among their numerous remedies, but not so with Smith's document. It was unique because of its strict scientific discipline-no prayers to any Egyptian gods could be found in it at all.

In all, 48 cases were preserved in this treatise, beginning at the top of the head and proceeding downward to the thorax and spine, where the document unfortunately breaks off. The surgeon writing up each case must have had background experience with embalming, for his methods of stitching; bandaging, splinting and casting surely reflect the knowledge of someone who worked in funeral preparations at one time.

The Smith Papyrus contains different "one-of-a-kind" items that no other Egyptian medical papyri have:

Taking a patient's pulse is mentioned 2,500 years before it appeared in Greek medical treatises.

For the first time in recorded human speech, the word "brain" occurs. That word never surfaced again until some 2,000 years afterwards in Greek medical documents.

At least 2 ½ millennia before the Greeks, Egyptian surgeons understood the heart to be the governing force in the cardiac system.

uscles, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels were known to the Egyptians in 2800 Be. It wouldn't be until around 400 BC that the Greeks would discover these things for themselves.

Medical schools existed at least 2 ½ millennia longer in Egypt than they did in the time of the Greek "father of medicine", Hippocrates.

In the Egyptian medical system of 2800 BC there was always a clear distinction between doctor and surgeon.(The Smith Papyrus was exclusively for surgeons').

Colostrum Following Surgery
The most common injuries reflected in this medical treatise are fractures and broken bones. Little wonder, when consideration is made of the tens of thousands of mechanics and workmen employed on the vast public works projects such as temples, palaces and pyramids, where accidents must have been plentiful indeed! Therefore, it isn't difficult to understand why there are 33 cases of injured bones among the 48 cases mentioned in this treatise.

After resorting to surgical measures, the ancient surgeon's two favorite remedies for an injury were "fresh meat" and "new birth milk." (Cows were abundant in Egypt as suggested by the 41 st chapter of Genesis.) The repaired injury was first rinsed with "new birth milk" or colostrum, after which a piece of "fresh meat" was applied, but only for the first day. It was bound on and then usually followed by an application of lint saturated with ointment composed of a little "new birth milk", melted animal fat and honey, which was also held on with elaborate bandages. The treatise suggests that "new birth milk" or colostrum be gi ven to the patient internally to prevent tetanus from occurring in cases of serious injury to the skull.

Some of the other interesting materia medica mentioned in The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus are a decoction of willow (essentially salicin from which aspirin was first derived), employed as a disinfectant; eill ammoniac application for allaying inflammation; and for astringent purposes, a solution containing salts of copper and sodium.

In a 1983 issue of Endocrinology (112 (6) 2215-7: 13-18), doctors specifically mentioned that the oligo- and polysaccharide compounds in colostrum bind many types of bacteria and prevent them from attaching to or entering the body through the mucosal membranes. Talk about a déjà vu experience! The surgeon author of Smith Papyrus had "already been there, done that, and moved on" numerous times to other patients some 4,800 years ago from our present time!

Help for Different Body Systems
The entire body is composed or made up of 11 various systems. These can be semi-dependent to some extent, but still interconnected enough to function as a whole for general well being. Colostrum is good for all of them, only in different ways.

Drawing from my own personal experiences as well as evidence from numerous medical and scientific journals, I've compiled a fairly good, compact but thorough, list of therapeutic uses for the body's different operating systems. I've chosen to approach the matter in this manner instead of attempting to deal with the many individual maladies, which plague each or several systems. I believe that by doing so the reader may have an expanded understanding of just how comprehensive in coverage colostrum may be. The usual method of associating colostrum with this, that or another disease type is too self-limiting. My approach tends to cover broader ground, both in a treatment as well as a preventative sense.


1. CARDIOVASCULAR: consists of the heart and blood vessels by which blood is pumped and circulated. Many cardiac diseases are the result of immune sensitization to cardiac antigens. Such immune mediated injury results in the presence of inflammatory cells within the myocardium, leading to myocarditis. New England Journal of Medicine 330 (7):1129 (April 21, 1994). Colostrum immunoglobulin can prevent this from happening.

2. CIRCULATORY: flexible channels through which blood and nutrient fluids circulate and form a closed route of deli very that starts and ends at the heart.

Certain colostrum compounds are effective against different types of ameba, some of which infect the blood. Advances in Experimental Medicine & Biology 2l6B: 1347-52 (1987). In the latter half of 1988, I recommended Sovereign Laboratories colostrum LD capsules (10 per day) to a 32-year-old white woman who contracted the naegleria ameba from an indoor chlorinated public swimming pool. In two months of steady therapy her blood infection was satisfactorily arrested. Colostrum also helps to prevent blood platelets from becoming sticky and bunching up like clusters of grapes which could eventually lead to a stroke.

3. DIGESTIVE: the organs here can be separated into two principle groups: (A) the alimentary canal and (B) the accessory digestive organs. The alimentary canal is perhaps better known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine (small bowel) and large intestine (large bowel). The accessory digestive organs are the teeth, tongue, gallbladder and a number of large digestive glands-the salivary glands, liver and pancreas. This system basically stretches from the mouth all the way down to the rectum. One practitioner, Dr. Bernard Jensen, classified part of these organs (the upper and lower bowels) as a separate system, which he designated as the eliminative system.

Medical science has pretty much determined "that the gut can be a reservoir for systemic infections." Archives of Surgery 125:403 (March 1990). Pathogenic bacteria can move from the gut into the circulatory system with very little effort when the health of the GI tract has been compromised in some way. This sets the stage for inflammatory joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Clinical & Experimental Rheumatology 8:75-83 (1990). However, "immunoglobulin from bovine colostrum contains [significant] antibodies [that are used] against a wide range of bacterial, viral and protozoa pathogens as well as against various bacterial toxins" that lurk in and spread out from the GI tract. Clinical Investigator 70:588 (1992). Colostrum also effectively protects the gut against Heliobacter pylori bacteria, which has been implicated in most primary duodenal ulcer disease. Journal of Infectious Diseases 177:955-61 (April 1993).

4. ENDOCRINE: this consists of a series of ductless glands that secrete messenger molecules called hormones into the circulatory system. The major organs here in terms of importance are: the pituitary gland, the thyroid gland, the parathyroid glands, the pineal gland, the pancreas, the thymus and the gonads (male testis and female ovary). Through the many different hormones generated by these organs, the endocrine system controls and integrates the functions of other organ systems in the body. In playing a general integrative role, this system resembles the nervous system, with which it closely interacts. Other endocrine structures may also be found in the Gl tract, kidneys and skin.

Hormones are molecular triggers in that they initiate a wide array of physiological responses in many different organs and glands scattered throughout the body. These numerous integrated responses keep the body in a state of wellness at all times. However, as we become older the quantity of such vital hormones tends to diminish quite a bit. The most common evidence for this is the "decrease in the lean body mass, the increase in adipose-tissue mass and the thinning of the skin." These conditions are brought about, in part, by diminished secretions of human growth hormone, insulin¬like growth factor one (IGF-l) and corresponding hormones. But when they are reintroduced into the body through supplementation, fat tissue subsides, lean muscle mass is reacquired and the skin becomes thicker again. New England Journal of Medicine 323:1-6 (July 5,1990). Colostrum contains significant levels of human growth factor, IGF-l and related compounds which reintroduce key hormones to the body that trigger physiological responses favorable to its well-being. Journal of Biochemistry 251:95-103 (1988); Comparative Biochemical Physiology 94A (4):805-08 (1989).

5. INTEGUMENTARY: the skin and its appendages (sweat glands, oil glands, hair and nails) make up the body's outer organs.

Pathogenic viruses and bacteria require iron for reproduction purposes. Lactoferrin is one of the components found in mammalian colostrum. It binds up the iron needed by such pathogenic agents, thereby denying them the ability to spread more. Colostrum lactoferrin has successfully inhibited human herpes simplex virus-1 in vitro infection and its replication in human embryo lung host cells. Japanese Journal of Medicine, Science and Biology 47:73-85 (1994). Epidermal growth factor, essential for healthy skin and muscle tissue, is another hormone stimulator occurring in colostrum. Gann,75:109-12 (Feb. 1984); and BioI. Neonate 57:35 (1990).

6. LYMPHATIC: this system is closely related to the cardiovascular system. It actually is made up of two semi-independent parts: 0) the lymphatic vessels and (2) the lymphoid tissues and organs. The lymphoid organs -- the lymph nodes, the spleen, the thymus, the tonsils, the aggregated lymphoid follicles in the small intestine (Peyer's patches) and the appendix are important components of the immune system.

A prominent microbiologist has declared that "colostrum has ... a systemic effect on the immune system." In his opinion colostrum is "clearly one of the richest immunological cocktails" ever produced in the mammary glands of dairy cows. (B.M. Ley, Colostrum: Nature's Gift to the Immune System Temecula, CA: BL Publications, pp.68-69, (997). Colostrum strengthens the body against rotavirus, which has been routinely implicated in acute diarrhea in infants and young children. Acta Paediatr. 84:995-1001 (995). Cryptosporidia1 diarrhea is common to AIDS patients and usually leads to malnutrition and eventual death but can be successfully contained with regular bovine colostrum treatments. AIDS 4: 581-84 (1990). Even as far back as 1950, the Polish-American microbiologist, Albert Bruce Sabin, the inventor of the oral polio vaccine, presented convincing scientific data showing the presence of poliovirus inhibitory factors in colostrum. American Journal of Diseases of Children 80: 866 (950). Some years later he reported a major advance in cancer research, claiming to have evidence in support of the viral origin of human cancer and the possible role of colostrum in its prevention only. M. Magnusson and R. Goring, Editors, Chambers Biographical Dictionary Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers Ltd., p.1282 (1993). One of the dramatic cases of a severely compromised immune system was that of Kaye Wyatt of Sedona, AZ. At one point in her long struggle she declared, "My immune system was losing its fight against continual bacterial and viral infections -I was dying!" But a naturopathic physician introduced her to colostrum and completely turned her life and health around for the better. Daniel G. Clark, M.D. and Kaye Wyatt, Colostrum, Life's First Food (Salt Lake City, UT: CNR Publications, 1006; pp. 3,7).

7. NERVOUS: there are three distinct but interconnecting systems which comprise the whole: (1) the central nervous system (CNS), (2) the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and (3) the autonomic nervous system (ANS)¬which is divided into the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The CNS comprises the brain and spinal cord. The PNS lies outside of these two and accounts for sensation, and the movement of skeletal and visceral muscles. The ANS causes movement of the smooth muscle, cardiac muscle and glands. Its two divisions counterbalance each other with contractions/secretions (the sympathetic) and rest/relaxation (the parasympathetic) to conserve energy.

Deep within the brain is the choroid plexus. This tissue secretes most of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which flows from the upper brain downward into the third and fourth ventricles or cavities near the brain stem. From there it either wells up over the brain's surface or flows down the spinal canal. Ultimately it is absorbed into the bloodstream. CSF is a clear, colorless liquid that constantly bathes the brain and spinal cord. Scientists now think that its currents carry important signals for sleep, appetite and sex.

Proline is a nonessential amino acid occurring in the brain and CSF. It is believed to have an important role in brain and nerve functions. E. R. Braverman, M.D. and C.C. Pfeiffer, M.D., The Healing Nutrients; New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing; pp. 211; 217(1987). An immunologically active polypeptide that is rich in proline has been found in colostrum. Molecular Immunology 20:1277 (1983). This means that colostrum can be very useful for the function of the central nervous system (CNS). Additionally, cerebrospinal fluid (CFS) contains such sleep-inducing substances as interleukin-l, a protein involved with immune system functions. Science News 151 :356; (June 10, 1995). It is believed by some scientists that colostrum antibodies help to initiate the production of body interleukin-1, if not to actually contribute it, or, quite possibly, to do both through a specific RNA (ribonucleic acid) peptide known as "transfer factor". Progress in Drug Research Basel: Birkhauser Verlag, 42:310-91 (1994). This undoubtedly helps to explain why those who take bovine colostrum regularly every night before retiring enjoy such deep and restful sleep as compared with those who don't supplement in this manner. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disease of the CNS. In one particular study MS patients were orally administered IgA-rich bovine colostrum every morning for one month with daily dosages of 100 milliliters. Doctors in charge of this experiment noticed that patient disabilities decreased somewhat and a general improvement in their conditions became evident. Medical Microbiology & Immunology 173 (2): 87-93 (1984) Thus, we can discern from the selected pieces of evidence given that colostrum is of great value for all three types of nervous systems at different levels of performance.

8. REPRODUCTIVE: all other body systems operate almost continuously for the general maintenance of good health. But this particular system "slumbers" until puberty, after which it awakens in adulthood for the common purpose of producing offspring in both sexes. The primary sex organs are the male testes and the female ovaries.

Reproduction is as basic a function as sleeping and eating. Scientists suspect cerebrospinal fluid may influence it as well. Various studies have reported that gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) appears in the CSF of animals and humans, suggesting that it influences sexual behavior in both types of mammals. The brain's pineal gland secretes the sleep-inducing, reproductive acti vating and biorhythmic controlling hormone melatonin. This is secreted directly into the CSF. Science News 155:59; (Jan.23, 1999). Colostrum undoubtedly assists in the release of both of these hormones (GnRH and melatonin), since it is known to give "enhanced sexual performance" and "shockingly younger" sexual energy in those who faithfully use it. Dr. Morton Walker, Townsend Letter For Doctors, Issue No. 189, (April 1999); and Kaye Wyatt in Dr. Daniel G. Clark's Colostrum: Life's First Food,Salt Lake City: CNR Publications, p.9 (1998).

9. RESPIRATORY: the chief organs here include the nose and nasal cavity, the pharynx, the larynx, the trachea, the bronchi and their smaller branches and the lungs, which contain terminal air sacs. Air oxygen is inhaled and waste carbon dioxide is exhaled to keep us alive.

Those who are afflicted with asthma usually have hypersensitive lungs that are easily provoked into constrictions. But the potent immune-boosting proline-rich polypeptide found in colostrum can help to regulate or reduce this respiratory sensitivity, thereby making airflow normal and uninterrupted.

Beth M. Ley, Colostrum: Nature's Gift to the Immune System; Temecula, CA: BL Publications, p.44 (1997). Those who have used bovine colostrum from Sovereign Laboratories report wonderful improvements in other types of respiratory ailments. Ronna Lee Hoffman of Parkersburg, West Virginia, gave one capsule daily to her five-year-old daughter to "treat her allergies" (handwritten testimonial dated September 1997). Pat Newson of Salt Lake City, Utah started taking one half teaspoon three times daily and got "over my cold on the third day" (handwritten testimonial dated September 26, 1995). (Both testimonials courtesy of The Center for Nutritional Research; in Sedona, AZ).

10. SKELETAL: strong yet surprisingly light, it consists of bones, cartilage, joints and ligaments. Together these comprise almost 20% of human body weight. The 206 known bones of the body's skeleton are grouped into the axial and appendicular skeletons. The first forms the long axis of the body and includes the skull, spinal column and rib cage. The latter consists of the bones of the upper and lower limbs, including the girdles (bones of the shoulder and hip) that attach the limbs to the axial skeleton.

At least one major alternative medical journal has proposed that colostrum be used in conjunction with spinal manipulation for a more satisfying chiropractic treatment. The justification given for this is that several colostrum compounds (including IGF- l) help to reduce muscle tension and inflammation; promote cartilage repair; and generally ensure better overall skeletal health. The American Chiropractor, pp.4-5 (Nov. 1991).

11. URINARY: this is the body's purification plant, which allows internal fluids to be constantly filtered of waste contaminants that are frequently voided as urine. The major components of this system are kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder and urethra.

From childhood through late middle age, most problems that affect the urinary system are infections. Escherichia coli produces 80% of all urinary tract infections. But the various immunoglobulins in colostrum protect the urinary tract from this type of enteropathogenic bacterium. Journal of Medical Microbiology 13(2): 265-71; (1980).


PDF of Dr. Heinerman's complete article available HERE.

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