Last Editorial Review: 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Apolactoferrin, Bovine Lactoferrin, Human Lactoferrin, Lactoferrina, Lactoferrine, Lactoferrine Bovine, Lactoferrine Humaine, Lactoferrine Humaine Recombinante, Lactoferrines, Lactoferrins, Recombinant Human Lactoferrin.


Lactoferrin is a protein found in cow milk and human milk. Colostrum, the first milk produced after a baby is born, contains high levels of lactoferrin, about seven times the amount found in milk produced later on. Lactoferrin is also found in fluids in the eye, nose, respiratory tract, intestine, and elsewhere. People use lactoferrin as medicine.

Some people worry about getting “mad cow disease” from medicinal lactoferrin taken from cows, but this risk is generally considered very small. Additionally, most medicinal human lactoferrin is taken from specially engineered rice.

Lactoferrin is used for treating stomach and intestinal ulcers, diarrhea, and hepatitis C. It is also used as an antioxidant and to protect against bacterial and viral infections. Other uses include stimulating the immune system, preventing tissue damage related to aging, promoting healthy intestinal bacteria, preventing cancer, and regulating the way the body processes iron.

Some researchers suggest lactoferrin might play a role in solving global health problems such as iron deficiency and severe diarrhea.

In industrial agriculture, lactoferrin is used to kill bacteria during meat processing.

How does it work?

Lactoferrin helps regulate the absorption of iron in the intestine and delivery of iron to the cells.

It also seems to protect against bacterial infection, possibly by preventing the growth of bacteria by depriving them of essential nutrients or by killing bacteria by destroying their cell walls. The lactoferrin contained in mother's milk is credited with helping to protect breast-fed infants against bacterial infections.

In addition to bacterial infections, lactoferrin seems to be active against infections causes by some viruses and fungi.

Lactoferrin also seems to be involved with regulation of bone marrow function (myelopoiesis), and it seems to be able to boost the body's defense (immune) system.


What Is Viral Hepatitis? How You Catch Hepatitis A, B, and C See Slideshow

Uses & Effectiveness

Possibly Effective for...

  • Hepatitis C. Some patients with hepatitis C seem to respond to lactoferrin taken from cows. Doses of 1.8 or 3.6 grams/day of lactoferrin are needed. Lower doses don't seem to work.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Helicobacter pylori infection (an ulcer-causing bacterial infection). There is conflicting research about the effectiveness of adding lactoferrin from cows (bovine lactoferrin) to standard ulcer treatments. Some studies show bovine lactoferrin improves the effectiveness of some prescription medications. Other studies show no benefit. However, studies do agree that treating Helicobacter pylori infection with bovine lactoferrin alone isn't effective, even at high doses.
  • Stimulating the immune system.
  • Preventing damage related to aging.
  • Promoting healthy bacteria in the intestine.
  • Regulating iron metabolism.
  • Fighting bacteria and viruses (antibacterial and antiviral agent).
  • Use as an antioxidant.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of lactoferrin for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Lactoferrin is safe in amounts consumed in food. Consuming higher amounts of lactoferrin from cow's milk might also be safe for up to a year. Human lactoferrin that is made from specially processed rice appears to be safe for up to 14 days. Lactoferrin can cause diarrhea. In very high doses, skin rash, loss of appetite, fatigue, chills, and constipation have been reported.


Hepatitis C virus causes an infection of the ______________. See Answer

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Lactoferrin is safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women in food amounts. But larger medicinal amounts should be avoided until more is known.


The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For treating hepatitis C: 1.8 to 3.6 grams of lactoferrin from cows (bovine lactoferrin) per day.

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Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

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