Definition of milk sickness in US English:

milk sickness


  • A condition of cattle and sheep in the western US, caused by eating white snakeroot, which contains a toxic alcohol. It sometimes occurs in humans who have eaten meat or dairy products from affected animals.

    • ‘She was also a herbalist and healer and showed Anna a plant that we now call ‘milkweed’, which had caused the same symptoms as the milk sickness did in her own tribe.’
    • ‘Often fatal, milk sickness was caused by a poison passed through the milk from cows grazing in woods and uncultivated land in the midwestern United States where a form of the snakeroot plant grew.’
    • ‘Abraham's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died of milk sickness in 1818 and was buried on this hill.’
    • ‘There used to be entire epidemics of milk sickness where people would be fine one day and dead the next.’
    • ‘Tremetol may be transmitted through the milk and butterfat to humans and other animals, causing milk sickness in them.’