What is Lactoferrin?

Lactoferrin, a protein isolated from milk, impedes viral invasion by disrupting their binding to cells and boosts natural killer cell activity.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in November 2022. Written by: Laurie Mathena.

Lactoferrin is a protein found in milk that provides antimicrobial activity and has immunomodulatory properties.1

It is present in many tissues and required for effective protection against external threats.2

While some lactoferrin is produced in the body, it can also be absorbed from oral intake, bolstering the body’s defenses.3

Laboratory, animal, and clinical research demonstrates lactoferrin’s activity against a wide range of viruses, including those that cause the common cold and flu.1

Lactoferrin Fights Common Viral Illnesses

Lactoferrin is an important component of the body’s defense against infections. It works by helping to block viral invasion of cells and by amplifying the immune system’s power to eliminate viral infection from the body.1

Found in mucous, saliva, and other secretions, lactoferrin helps prevent pathogens from gaining entry through the linings of the oral cavity, nasal cavity, airways, and digestive system.4

One unusual feature of lactoferrin is the diversity of viruses it can shield against. It possesses robust antiviral activity against viruses that cause the common cold and flu, gastroenteritis (stomach flu), hepatitis B and C, herpes simplex, Epstein-Barr virus, and more.1

In one study, healthy women taking oral lactoferrin experienced a reduced onset of symptoms of both the common cold and gastroenteritis.5

In another, oral lactoferrin was shown to reduce the incidence and severity of the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis.4

How Lactoferrin Works

Lactoferrin works several ways to defend against viral infections.

First, it disrupts viruses from binding to cells.6 This can stop the virus in its tracks, before it has a chance to enter cells and cause illness.

Second, it activates specific immune functions, such as natural killer (NK) cells and increases NK cell numbers. This can help prevent the spread of a virus in the body.

Lactoferrin may also help block the ability of viruses to reproduce even if they’re already inside cells. 1 This helps limit the spread of the virus, potentially reducing the severity of the resulting illness.

Added Benefits

Lactoferrin has shown great promise in fighting against age-related bone loss.8

It can also help prevent “dry eyes” after cataract surgery. This loss of tear film and quality can produce symptoms such as pain, irritation, and poor vision.

When patients were given lactoferrin one day after surgery, they showed a 95% improvement in tear quality and quantity after 60 days of supplementation compared to controls.9

Supplementing with Lactoferrin

Lactoferrin is a versatile substance with a wide range of benefits. A typical dose of lactoferrin is 300 mg once or twice daily.

Taken orally, lactoferrin is readily absorbed and can play an important role in bolstering defenses against viral illnesses.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


  1. Costagliola G, Nuzzi G, Spada E, et al. Nutraceuticals in Viral Infections: An Overview of the Immunomodulating Properties. Nutrients. 2021 Jul 14;13(7).
  2. Kowalczyk P, Kaczynska K, Kleczkowska P, et al. The Lactoferrin Phenomenon-A Miracle Molecule. Molecules. 2022 May 4;27(9).
  3. Zhang Y, Lima CF, Rodrigues LR. Anticancer effects of lactoferrin: underlying mechanisms and future trends in cancer therapy. Nutr Rev. 2014 Dec;72(12):763-73.
  4. Wakabayashi H, Oda H, Yamauchi K, et al. Lactoferrin for prevention of common viral infections. J Infect Chemother. 2014 Nov;20(11):666-71.
  5. Oda H NM, Wakabayashi H, et al. Questionnaire survey on the subjective effects of a lactoferrin supplement. Jpn J Complement Altern Med. 2012;9(2):121-8.
  6. Berlutti F, Pantanella F, Natalizi T, et al. Antiviral properties of lactoferrin--a natural immunity molecule. Molecules. 2011 Aug 16;16(8):6992-7018.
  7. Kuhara T, Yamauchi K, Tamura Y, et al. Oral administration of lactoferrin increases NK cell activity in mice via increased production of IL-18 and type I IFN in the small intestine. J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2006 Jul;26(7):489-99.
  8. Bharadwaj S, Naidu AG, Betageri GV, et al. Milk ribonuclease-enriched lactoferrin induces positive effects on bone turnover markers in postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2009 Sep;20(9):1603-11.
  9. Devendra J, Singh S. Effect of Oral Lactoferrin on Cataract Surgery Induced Dry Eye: A Randomised Controlled Trial. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015 Oct;9(10):NC06-9.