Does urine therapy work?

Is drinking wee a cure for all ills?

Download Perspecs
Perspecs

Drinking to health?

By Diane Cooke

Urine therapy has been widely used for centuries in Nigeria, but research suggests that the practice should be discouraged.

Consumption of ito malu (cow urine) and human urine is a common form of traditional remedy for convulsion and related health conditions in children.

Some parents use it in cases of febrile convulsion; the most common type of convulsion in childhood, which is usually frightening to parents and which, according to the National Institute of Health Consensus Statement, is defined as an event in infancy or childhood, usually occurring between three months and five years of age, and associated with fever but without evidence of intracranial infection or defined cause for the seizure.

Lack of proper delivery of health care services in the country has strongly supported the increase in alternative therapy, including the advocacy for urine therapy. Many older people use human urine for wound sores, diabetes and even poisoning; while cow urine is mixed with herbal preparation for treating convulsion in babies. It is also used for the treatment of sickle cell anemia and even cancer.

Urine therapy was first described in the Damar Tantra, an ancient sanskrit text considered an offshoot of the canon Hindu scriptures, which promoted massaging the skin with fresh urine as a sort of cure-all. Subsequent texts suggest mixing it with food, liquid or other medical tinctures as a cure for cancer.

References to the practice have also been found in Egyptian and early Chinese medical texts—even the Aztecs reportedly used urine as a disinfectant (which is thought to be the origin of the urban myth regarding peeing on jellyfish stings—also a bad idea). The practice spread from the Indian subcontinent throughout the rest of Asia and into Western Europe by rise of the Roman empire.

Urine therapy remains a popular homeopathic remedy in China where an estimated three million regularly partake. In America, urine therapy has gained a sizeable following thanks to ringing endorsements from celebrated health experts and medical professionals like Madonna, who reportedly pees on her own feet to cure athlete's foot, as well as boxer Juan Manuel Márquez and MMA stars Lyoto Machida and Luke Cummo, who supposedly drink it for various perceived health benefits.

The practice is still common in China, according to Shanghai List. Last year, the country's Department of Policies, Laws and Regulations released a list of 748 unregistered organisations that earned money illegally through members. The China Urine Therapy Association was included on the list. However, it seems that the ban hasn't affected the group which has since expanded.

The organisation has more than 4,000 devotees, via the mobile chat app QQ, SCMP reports.

The organisation was founded in 2008 in Hong Kong. One proud member, an old man from Chengdu has been drinking his own urine for the past 23 years and claims that it cures all illnesses. A younger man from Wuhan has credited urine therapy with curing his hypothyroidism.

Bao Yafu, the chairman of the China Urine Therapy Association, consistently advocates for the benefits of drinking urine. His daily routine includes not just drinking it, but also washing his eyes and face with it.

According to Gizmodo.com, urine therapy is not advisable for the following reasons. Urine is a nitrogen-rich liquid byproduct created by the kidneys - it's the body's primary means of expelling water-soluble chemicals generated through the metabolic process. It is actually a secondary waste disposal mechanism. Blood first passes through the liver where toxins, dead cells, and various waste is removed and eliminated. then pumped through the kidneys where excess fluids and water-soluble molecules—nitrogen, vitamins, minerals, proteins, antibodies, and other metabolites—are extracted and transferred to the bladder to await expulsion.

There's a misconception that urine is sterile when it exits your body. It's not. That myth began in the 1950s. Edward Kass, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical, began screening pre-op surgery patients for urinary tract infections and the samples that passed were marked "negative." The notion that urine is sterile likely grew from those sample markings.

It's close—your pee is roughly 95 per cent water, five per cent metabolites. But recent studies have shown that like the surface of your skin, the inside of your skull, and the depths of your bowels, your urinary tract is host to bacterial colonies.

One such report from May, produced by a research team led by Evann Hilt of Loyola University of Chicago, found that small numbers of bacteria do, in fact, call your urethra home. The team suspects that the bacteria there behave much like those in the gut, with a mix of beneficial and detrimental bacterial species constantly vying for dominance.

Homeopathy advocates like Martha Christy, author of Your Own Perfect Medicine argue the reason that's not happening is that the medical community is conspiring to keep auto-urine therapy a secret since there is little financial profit for them in it. In reality, there has yet to be a rigorous scientific study confirming these benefits.

Download Perspecs
Download Perspecs