May 25, 2011

Immunities & Milk (Another of My Theories)

I have another theory. This one has nothing to do with egg laying myths like the last one, but as you've probably already guessed, it has something to do with immunities and milk. Of course, this in itself isn't a theory I can lay claim too. The fact that immunities are passed on to the baby through it's mother's milk is well known. So based on that, here's what I've been observing and the conclusion I've come to.

Surprise, feasting on poison ivy

Observation #1 - Goats eat poison ivy. This is good since we have a lot of poison ivy around the place. The property was neglected for a number of years so when we bought it, poison ivy was a well established vine growing in the yard, in the fields, and up many of the trees, where it would flower and  sprinkle seeds all over the ground. One of the reasons we got brush goats first, was to help us deal with the poison ivy (and kudzu).

Observation #2 - For the first two summers, Dan and I were constantly battling nasty rashes from poison ivy. Dan especially, who seems to get it just by looking at it. I have seen him so bad, that his eyes were swollen shut. I get off easier, actually having only developed an allergy to it in recent years.

Observation #3 - Now that our goats have freshened, we are consuming goats milk, in our coffee, on cereal, as yogurt, as whipped cream, as yogurt cheese, and as whey.

Observation #4 - Even though we're still in contact with poison ivy, our cases this summer have been extremely mild and quick to heal.

Do you get where I'm going with this?

Conclusion (my theory) - That we have developed an amazingly increased immunity to poison ivy by consuming milk from goats who eat it. IOW, they are passing on an immunity in their milk.

If you do an internet search on "eating poison ivy for immunity," you'll find the full gamut of responses. Everything from "it works for me, I do it every year," to "it's dangerous, you'll die of anaphylactic shock". I've never tried eating it and couldn't convince DH to. What I can tell you is that consuming milk from a poison ivy eating goat appears to have increased our immunity to it!

This is probably one theory that I won't be able unofficially research (volunteer anyone?) All I can say is, I believe it and it's a welcome added value to our goats milk.


  1. Sounds very possible to me. You could have a whole new marketing tool on your hands.

  2. Leigh, I believe this theory as well. It is THE main reason I keep hanging in with the goats instead of pursuing getting a cow, which would give way more milk with less feed and fencing cost. I believe goat's milk is helpful for fighting all types of plant allergies.

  3. That is amazing now if you could think of something to reverse all the damage that was done to us by eating by products of all the hormones and anti-biotics we have been consuming for years-your so lucky to have your own resources. my husband already has MRSA he caught at the VA hospital

  4. If your theory is true, you have a gold mine on your hands! Cool!!

    Now, if you make soap out of your goats' milk, will that same immunity pass through the soap to people who garden? Could using the soap before and after gardening help reduce the risk, or at least make any subsequent rash session much lighter? Hmmm...

  5. Jane I forgot to mention eating local honey for allergies. A lot of folks swear by it. Those who pooh-pooh it mainly seem to be those who prefer pharmaceuticals. All I'd need would be a never ending supply of poison ivy!

    Michelle, I hadn't thought about other plant allergies, but you are probably right about that. Kinders are supposed to be cheaper to feed because they are good at feed to milk conversion, plus being smaller they eat less. I admit the Nubians are high maintenance. I'm researching alternatives to commercial feed. If we can provide all our own, goats could be much more cost effective.

    Judy, good point. I'm so sorry about your husband. That's discouraging. We have had absolutely spectacular results against infection with fresh garlic. Nothing as serious as MRSA, but my DH used to be plagued with sinus infections. He not only gets them less, but can also pretty much nip them in the bud with garlic drinks (1 or 2 cloves fresh garlic liquefied in a blender with tomato juice and a tsp of powdered ginger).

    Benita, good questions! I know folks have good results with local raw honey for allergies. And others actually eat budding poison ivy leaves for immunity. It seems there must be something in the ingesting of it that gives us a systemic boost. Soaps are good, but would be a topical remedy rather than an immunity boost. Still, it would be something to experiment with!

  6. My husband new of a lady who grew up on goat's milk and was immune to poison ivy. When she went away to college and was not drnking the milk, she started reacting to the plant. When she resumed drinking the milk back on the family farm after school, she became immune again.
    A little backyard science to support your theory.

  7. It is quite fascinating to hear your real life experience with this. My wife and I often discuss such things and wonder if we build up immunites from the foods we grow or forage for, and my wife is a firm believer in eating local honey for just this reason. Very interesting.

  8. Well...I already do the local honey thing. Don't know whether I can say I "swear by it" since my plant allergies are pretty extensive.

    However, now I'm wondering about looking for some local goat's milk. As an infant I was weaned on goat's milk, but that was a long, long time ago.

    My dh grew up on a dairy farm and thought he was "immune" to poison ivy. 15 years after leaving the farm, we bought our current house with it's share of poison ivy in the woods. Within weeks of moving into this house, he had a raging case of poison ivy...his first ever at age 34.

    You may really be onto something.

  9. I can think of many ways this applies in nature- why wouldn't it to you?!
    Very cool post, thanks for sharing.

  10. wow, after reading other posts about PI immunity as a child- I was also, i was brought up on a local farm's raw cows milk they eat PI?
    This is very interesting!!

  11. wow! I haven't been in any kind of contact with poison ivy for about 20 years but the last time I got it was really I would be willing to try anything if I knew I were going to be around the stuff.
    I really hope your theory is could get rich off of it. he he

  12. that is one plant we don't have over here - we are "blessed" with loads of ground elder, but at least it doesn't endanger our health (only my sanity, because it pops up as soon as I have pulled it all out:)). but maybe it's like with other poisons? I know that people in former times used to take tiny amounts of a poison to lessen the reaction in case they were poisoned - and apparently it worked with some.... why not via the milk?

  13. Interesting theory & makes sense.
    I always wondered how some people seem immune to poison ivy. I grew up running through a lot of woody & weedy places & never had reactions. There was a ton of jewel weed in a creek bed that was one of our favorite spots so there must have been some PI around.

    Thanks for more good reasons to keep the goats.

  14. Here in California we have poison oak...and the goats love it! We've noted the same thing...drink the itching! I'm sure the local honey helps with allergies, too...

  15. My mom got into poison oak (west coast equivalent to poison ivy) when she was pregnant with me. I can pick it and not even itch, or itch for a very short (5 minutes) time.

    If I were still in college, I would run a test for you. It would be really easy - one group of people who react to poison ivy (PI) would drink goat's mild from non-PI eating goats, which the other group (also reactive to PI) would drink goat's milk from PI- eating goats. To be conclusive, it would be ideal to have at least 100 in each group - maybe AGDA should sponsor it!!

  16. I loved reading this. I'm getting very interested into how to boost our immunity naturally, so this gives me something to think about :)
    I usually get seasonal allergies really bad about this time of year through June. So instead of buying OTC medicines I am trying to keep them from hitting me to hard by drinking certain teas. So we will see how it goes :)

  17. Josephine, thank you for that tidbit! Makes me wonder what her goat ate and if it was raw. I'm thinking that may make a difference too.

    Mike, I think there must be a correlation there, between health and locally grown foods. If honey and milk make a difference, then I should think all the foods we eat are important. I know certain foods are touted as immunity boosters (onions, garlic, beets.)

    Valerie, thank you for that! I'm wondering about the goat's (or cow's) diet and whether or not you and your DH drank the milk raw. Pasteurizing does kill beneficial enzymes and bacteria as well as harmful ones.

    Peaceful, good question! I'm now wondering if the fact that the milk was raw was key. Thanks for sharing your own experience.

    Renee, that would be great; I'd love to be able to pay our place off and get more goats! More likely, someone will read this post, do the research, take all the credit, make a million, and then sue me for mentioning it on my blog. LOL

    Bettina, you are not missing a thing! Good point about trying to develop a tolerance to poison. In fact, isn't that the theory behind vaccinations?

    Michelle, I only developed an allergy to poison ivy in recent years, but I can't claim that it was the milk I was drinking, which was store bought. I've heard people swear by jewel weed as a cure for PI. Unfortunately, we don't seem to have any around here. It was one of the first things I looked for!

    Lynda, more great input! Thanks!

    Laura, that's another amazing thing and also worthy of research. I'm wondering though, if we could find 200 PI sensitive people who'd be willing to be guinea pigs! (And I'm all for ADGA sponsoring it :)

    Renee, I would love to know how this works for you. I hope you'll blog about it!

  18. I don't know much about such things but remember reading the reason the "milk maids" didn't get small pox was because most of them had a mild case of milk pox and built up an immunity to the pox. So why not for something like poison ivy and the milk from your goats.

  19. I found your blog a few days ago and have been reading it with interest. It's well known that eating local honey is great for seasonal allergies, so why wouldn't this work for goat's milk as well?

  20. Barb, another example. There seem to be quite a few good examples regarding disease and natural immunity.

    Weekend Homesteader, welcome! And thank you. Both for your kind words as well as your comment. :)

  21. How intriguing! I'm a firm believer in local honey, as the other commenters have said, and now I have even more reason to seek out goat's milk.

    Hey, Leigh - my zucchini is flowering, and we saw BEES flying around the flowers today. Pollination, here we come! I'm so excited!

  22. Thanks for the blog visit Leigh, i always enjoy seeing what you have in-store on your site. Richard from the Amish community of Lebanon county.

  23. Great theory! I am just about over my itchy poison ivy. We have been talking about getting goats for a while now... now I have another good reason why I would like them.

  24. Very interesting and intelligent assumption. When you think about it, that's just about the same way homeopathy works. Gads, if we could only all get back to the more "natural" stuff . . . foods we eat, remedies we use, laws we follow, etc.

  25. Debbie, make that local goats milk, LOL. Hurray for your zucchini! My summer squashes never appeared. :(

    Richard, I really enjoy your blog posts and love Jean's guest posts. Very interesting.

    Christa, from the comments, it seems I'm not the only one this has worked for! I would definitely encourage you to get goats. They really have a lot to offer.

    Mama Pea, thanks! I couldn't agree with you more about getting back to the simple, natural ways of doing things. Commercialism seems to have gotten us sooo far off track.

  26. Oh let me count the reasons goats are so good...Reason #517 Immunity to poison ivy :-)

    We don't have poison ivy....heck with the drought, we don't have much of anything green.... but we have seen a huge benefit of raw goat's milk here.

    My daughter who just turned 6 has horrible eczema..We seen multiple doctors, tried several treatments, RX's & every homeopathic remedy we could find with no luck....Some mornings she would wake up with bloody sheets because she clawed at herself through the night. :-( She loves shorts, but at the early age of 4 she was embarrassed to wear them in public because she didn't like people to see her "ugly" skin...

    On top of this she has respritory issues....hospitalized twice for puemonia in a 10 month period, takes Singulair daily, as well as breathing treatments.

    Switched from store bought milk to our goat's a week her worst eczema patches were not nearly as bad. By week 3 she wasn't needing her breathing treatments..... Eventually she didn't even have to take her daily Singulair.... Accidently fed the goats medicated feed so I bought milk & was feeding all the goat's milk to the bottle kids....Within 4 days she was gouging at her skin again, & we resumed her Singulair & breathing treatments..

    At this point I really noticed the one factor that had made a difference....

    Got her back on raw goat's milk and everything started vanishing again. Even when we lived for weeks in a cloud of smoke thanks to the wildfires, she didn't need a breathing treatment not once!!

    I have no scientific proof, no way to back up these claims.... I can only say that goat's milk makes my daughter's life so much more comfortable, and I feel so much better knowing she's feeling great without the constant need of medication.

    Oh & I took her shopping and the past few weeks she has happily wore her various shorts to school shame free :-) The look on her face when she tried them on & checked her legs in the mirror was priceless.

    Don't care about feed cost, upkeep, or work, as long as I am able to provide proper care, I will always have the goats :-)


  27. Crystal, what a fantastic testimony for raw goats milk! I'm wishing I had it available for my son when he lived at home. He had terrible asthma and I wonder if it would have helped.

    I can honestly say that some digestive problems that I had in the past are clearing up. I'm really amazed because I thought milk was the problem. Maybe it was; maybe it was the type of milk and the way it was processed. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing!

  28. speaking of goats, how is jasmine doing?

  29. Chris, thank you for asking. Jasmine's udder is having some spectacular results with an herbal salve I made. I'm planning to post an update and details sometime next week. I figured I'd better toss a few other topics in there as I'm sure some folks are getting tired of hearing about goats, LOL

  30. I hope you've read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. He would totally agree with your assessment.

  31. Sharon, it's on my reading list. Unfortunately my reading list is way too long and my time is way too short. :)

  32. That's a very interesting theory! We have poison ivy growing all over our place and I've had it the last two years. Now I want to do some more research on this topic. I'm also wondering if people can become immune to mosquito bites some how since we are also plagued by these.

  33. The fact that the term immunity is used for a poison is preposterous. the term Immunity would relate to T Cell absorption of DNA recoding to become immune to something, like when your sick but cant catch the same cold twice. A goats DNA has the ability to absorb the poison in the plant, and also a goat without any suckling from a mother fed direct formula from birth can still absorb the poison as easily as the mother without ever having transfer of mothers milk. what may be plausible is a chemical that bolsters resistance to the poison from the goats milk. However this has never been proven to my knowledge that any chemical exists in goats milk that would bolster said resistance. Not to mention cross species absorption of antibodies which has no relevance here. if in fact, a huge if, this magical chemical exists then why have the California Department of Agriculture and UCD found no traces of anything when testing goats and poison oak / ivy in their studies. Again there may be a chemical unknown but more likely just like you find all over the net, its an American Folklore

  34. Jen, immunity to mosquito bites would be great. :)

    Anonymous, except that the problem is actually an allergic reaction, not poisoning. You're mixing apples with oranges.

  35. I just visited the Dr this after noon. She said I looked good and that my lungs sounded great. she asked about wheezing and I told her I had to use my inhaler only 3 or 4 times during my recent trip to India, but not since I had returned to Arizona. She said she was amazed with my chronic history with asthma the year before. This issue was what lead to my getting diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. I had never had asthma or any other allergies, before, but was suddenly really suffering for over a year. I even developed a gluten intolerance. The Dr. added that she could not believe that I was symptom free, being that all the junipers were doing their thing full on. I told her my recent addition of dwarf Nigerian goats to my life was helping me, by providing raw milk. I thought that the enzymes were helping me to digest and absorb the herbal medicines that I had been taking for over a year with no response, they seemed like they were finally getting inside my system and beginning to help. Based on her juniper comment, I had an epiphany and asked her do you think that drinking my goats milk is helping me to build immunity against the juniper, because my goats love to eat juniper! I likened it to eating local honey to build immunity against other pollen allergies. She said maybe, it sounds possible. So now I am researching if others have experience with juniper in particular. All I am reading about is similar situations involving poison ivy. If it works with that, then I am convinced this could truely be the case with my goats eating the juniper, me drinking their raw milk and not having reactions any more!

  36. Stephanie, that is extremely interesting. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I am very much interesting in following you along on this (my son has asthma). I saw your google+ page but didn't find a blog. Do you have one? Or at least drop back by from time to time to share what you're learning.


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