Breast milk is a cornerstone of building a baby's immune system. But can it actually help adults fight a cold? We got the scoop.

By Rachael Schultz
Updated: February 21, 2019
Photo: Araya Diaz / Getty Images

Forget vitamins and herbs-Tamera Mowry may have discovered a new home remedy for feeling under the weather: drinking breast milk. Yep, she seriously just took that Sister, Sister bond to a whole new level.

"Soooo, my sister is desperate for some healing. She's sicky poo and I sent her an article on how breast milk has healing properties and was okay with drinking my #breastmilk," her sister, Tia, wrote on Instagram. "Ps, she's had some before and I mean, she's my twin."

"Oh my gosh. Tia. This is amazing," Tamera says in the Instagram video. "Your breast milk is the best milk I've ever tried in my life. Oh my god." (Related: What Is a2 Milk-and Should You Be Drinking It?)

Tia makes a good point: Breast milk (or fortified formula) *is* a cornerstone of building a baby's immune system. But does it actually hold any magic for adults? We found out.

Can breast milk really heal you?

While there are no studies on adults drinking breast milk, there's science to support the idea that breast milk can help you recover from a cold, explains Stephanie Canale, M.D., family medicine physician at UCLA Santa Monica and founder of at-home breast milk testing kit Lactation Lab.

"Breast milk has an immune cell package full of proteins and cells that are important to set up proper immune function and your microbiome after birth," Dr. Canale explains. The only catch? These microbiomes are well-established as an adult, and breast milk enzymes aren't going to re-write it. (Related: The Step-By-Step Stages of a Cold-Plus How to Recover Fast)

Think of it like this: A baby's immune system is basically undeveloped land. Breast milk (or fortified formula) helps build the fortress that is your immune system and microbiome-the defensive walls that will keep you healthy. Once you're an adult, that fortress has withstood the test of viruses and pathogens and is well-calloused; breast milk isn't going to move any bricks around.

What breast milk might offer adults, though, is the benefits of live cells. "Live cells fight an infection; you ingest them and they don't let the virus infiltrate your system," Dr. Canale explains.

In other words, breast milk offers the soldiers against either a bacteria or virus-but probably at an equal dose to any other cold remedy or a high dose of vitamin C, she adds.

So, should you try it?

Certain diseases like HIV are transmitted via bodily fluids, including breast milk, so you never want to drink untested milk from a stranger, Dr. Canale says. But assuming it's someone you know and trust the health of, there's no real downside or risk to drinking breast milk as an adult.

But there's not really a reason to drink it, either. "It's questionable what benefit drinking breast milk would offer an adult, but if it's your sister or your good friend, sure you can try it-it's not going to be harmful," Dr. Canale says. If drinking another adult woman's breast milk is just too much for you to handle, see these 10 home remedies for cold and flu (that don't involve anyone else's bodily fluids).

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