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Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. (The Book of Proverbs 5:15)*
But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you? (Isaiah 36:12)* (See also 2 Kings 18:27)*
More than three million Chinese drink their own urine in the belief it is good for their health, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Urine therapy refers to one of several uses of urine to prevent or cure sickness, to enhance beauty, or to cleanse one's bowels. Most devotees drink the midstream of their morning urine. Some prefer it straight and steaming hot; others mix it with juice or serve it over fruit. Some prefer a couple of urine drops mixed with a tablespoon of water applied sublingually several times a day. Some wash themselves in their own golden fluid to improve their skin quality. Many modern Japanese women are said to engage in urine bathing. The truly daring use their own urine as an enema. Urine is not quite the breakfast of champions, but it is the elixir of choice of a number of holy men in India where drinking urine has been practiced for thousands of years. The drink is also the preferred pick-me-up for a growing number of naturopaths and other advocates of "nature cures." The main attractions of this ultimate home brew are its cost, availability and portability. It is much cheaper than that other "water of life," whiskey (uisge beatha), which also has been hailed for its medicinal qualities. Unlike whiskey, however, urine is always available, everyone carries a supply at all times, and, for most people, there are no intoxicating side effects. Furthermore, the urge to overindulge is almost absent when drinking urine. The same can't be said for good single malt such as Highland Park or a good whiskey such as Black Bush.
Many advocates claim that urine is a panacea. There is practically nothing it won't cure. Urine is said to be effective against the flu, the common cold, broken bones, toothache, dry skin, psoriasis and all other skin problems. It is said to deter aging and is helpful with AIDS, allergies, animal and snake bites, asthma, heart disease, hypertension, burns, cancer, chemical intoxication, chicken pox, enteritis, constipation, and pneumonia. Urine is said to be effective against dysentery, edema, eczema, eye irritation, fatigue, fever, gonorrhea, gout, bloody urine, smallpox, immunological disorders, infections, infertility, baldness, insomnia, jaundice, hepatitis, Kaposi's sarcoma, leprosy, lymphatic disorder, urticaria, morning sickness, hangover, obesity, papilloma virus, parasitoses, gastric ulcer, rheumatism, birthmarks, stroke, congestion, lumbago, typhus, gastritis, depression, cold sore, tuberculosis, tetanus, Parkinson's disease, foot fungus, and diabetes and other endocrine related diseases. Some enthusiasts see urine therapy as a divine manifestation of cosmic intelligence. They use urine to unleash their kundalini, sending it straight into the third eye, bringing instant enlightenment.*
With such wondrous properties, it is amazing that science bothered developing medicine when it had the key to good health already in the bottle, so to speak. Each of us is a walking pharmacopoeia. Homer Smith (Man and His Gods) once wrote that "man is a machine for turning wine into urine." Little did he know that man is a machine for turning just about anything into a medicinal tonic. According to urninophiles, the medical establishment has conspired to keep us ignorant of the wonder drug we all carry in our bladders. One self-proclaimed expert on the subject claims
...the medical community has already been aware of [urine's] astounding efficacy for decades, and yet none of us has ever been told about it. Why? Maybe they think it's too controversial. Or maybe, more accurately, there wasn't any monetary reward for telling people what scientists know about one of the most extraordinary natural healing elements in the world.*
This is a common argument from defenders of alternative therapies: the greed of medical doctors leads them to conspire against chiropractors, chelation therapists, etc. The evidence for this conspiracy wouldn't fill a specimen beaker. Part of the alleged conspiracy to keep us ignorant of the wonders of our own wee wee is the fact that many people think urine is poisonous. Urine is generally not toxic and you will not die of uremic poisoning if you start your day off with a cup of your own golden fluid. However, it hardly seems fair to blame the medical establishment for the general public's ignorance on this matter. In any case, just because something is not toxic does not mean it is good for you. Hair is not toxic, either, and even though it might be a good source of roughage, it is generally not desirable to put hair in food.
Furthermore, while it is true that some of the constituents of urine are being used and tested for their potential or actual therapeutic value, it does not follow that drinking one's urine is therapeutic. It may be discovered that one of the chemicals in human urine is effective for fighting cancer. However, drinking one's own urine is not likely going to supply enough of any cancer-fighting substance to do any good. It is also true that some of the substances in urine are good for you. For example, if you are ingesting more vitamin C (a water soluble vitamin) than your body needs or can process, you will excrete it in your urine. It doesn't follow that drinking your urine is a good way to get vitamin C into your body. An orange or a tablet might be preferable. However, if you are urinating excess vitamin C, what do you think your body will do with the vitamin C you ingest with your urine? If you guessed that it would get rid of it, you guessed right. The reason your urine contains vitamins and minerals is that your body didn't need them or couldn't use them. You might as well pour water into a full glass as reuptake your excess vitamins and minerals. Even urea, which can be toxic in very high doses, occurs in such minute quantities in the average person's urine that there is very little chance of poisoning from drinking one's own urine.
Unfortunately, however, not everybody can just jump right in and start drinking their own urine without negative side effects. The Chinese Association of Urine Therapy1 warns that
Common symptoms include diarrhea, itch, pain, fatigue, soreness of the shoulder, fever, etc. These symptoms appear more frequently in patients suffering long term or more serious illnesses, and symptoms may repeat several times. Each episode may last 3-7 days, but sometimes it may last one month, or even worse over 6 months. It is a pity that many give up urine therapy because of such bad episode [sic]. Recovery reaction is just like the darkness before sunrise. If one persists and overcomes the difficulty, one can enjoy the eventual happiness of healthy life.
These same people advise that "All kinds of throat inflammation can be helped by gargling with urine to which a bit of saffron has been added" and "drinking one ounce of urine . . . is more beneficial to the average person than a fully staffed multi-billion dollar medical center." I was unable to find their evidence for these claims. Perhaps the evidence was produced at the First World Conference on Urine Therapy which took place in India in February 1996. Or maybe it came up in 1998 during the Second World Conference on Urine Therapy held in Germany.
religion and urine
The origin of this unusual practice seems to be certain religious rites among Hindus, where it is called amaroli in tantric religious traditions. The tantric tradition is known for flouting conventional behavior as a means of establishing the moral superiority of its practitioners. It is also possible that this practice is related to superstitions based on sympathetic magic. Since urine is emitted from the same bodily organ used in sex, perhaps it was thought that by drinking one's urine one was swallowing some sort of sexual energizer. In any case, it is unlikely that Indians some 4,000 years ago had scientific reasons for drinking their own urine.
In Siberia, some found drinking urine was a way to continue the hallucinogenic and spiritual effects of special mushrooms:
In many regions where the fly agaric was consumed, it was a very expensive article of trade-so expensive that frequently a tribesman traded a reindeer for one or two mushrooms. At certain times and in some areas, the mushrooms were naturally rare and hard to find. During the long Siberian winters, the more affluent tribesmen were able to store up supplies of the dried mushrooms in large quantities for winter consumption. The poorer individuals, none the less anxious to use the agaric, were often frustrated by the cost and limited supply of the plants.
Whether as a result of this scarcity or not, these people discovered that the urine of an intoxicated person was capable, when drunk, of inducing a similar intoxication in another individual. The effects from the urine are said to be only slightly less inebriating than of the dose of the mushroom itself. An early account of this curious practice states of the Koryaks that "when they make a feast, they pour water on some of these mushrooms and boil them. They then drink the liquor, which intoxicates them; the poorer sort, who cannot afford to lay in a store of these mushrooms, post themselves on these occasions round the huts of the rich and watch the opportunity of the guests coming down to make water and then hold a wooden bowl to receive the urine, which they drink off greedily, as having still some virtue of the mushroom in it; and by this way they also get drunk."
Not only is the urine of another person drunk but an individual may utilize his own urine, frequently still warm, thus prolonging the action of the original mushrooms or renewing their effect several times. A drunken Koryak may even carry his own urine with him on a reindeer trek to continue his intoxication as long as possible.*
This gives new meaning to the Beatle's line: "Get high with a little help from my friends."
blood, amniotic fluid, and urine
Another rather unscientific notion which seems to be accepted by urinophiles is that urine is really blood, since it is the byproduct of blood filtering by the kidneys. It is unlikely that if you need a blood transfusion that urine will work just as well.
Another misleading claim being made by urninophiles is that amniotic fluid is nothing but urine: fetal urine. If it is good for the fetus, it should be good for all of us. Here is what urine expert Martha Christy has to say on the subject:
. . . the amniotic fluid that surrounds human infants in the womb is primarily urine. Actually, the infant "breathes in" urine-filled amniotic fluid continually, and without this fluid, the lungs don't develop. Doctors also believe that the softness of baby skin and the ability of in-utero infants to heal quickly without scarring after pre-birth surgery is due to the therapeutic properties of the urine-filled amniotic fluid.
Some of the chemicals found in amniotic fluid are not going to be found in most urine samples. It is misleading, to say the least, to claim that amniotic fluid is "primarily" urine. It would be more accurate to say that they are both primarily water. I don't know what doctors she is talking about, but most parents will tell you that when their babies came out of the womb their skin was anything but beautiful. Comparisons to wrinkly prunes are quite common. So is comparison to one's skin after being in the swimming pool for a long time. The baby's skin becomes soft only after it has been out of its liquid environment for some time. There is a reason for that, according to Kim Kelly, a naturopathic doctor and nurse from Seattle. Newborns don't produce oil from their sebaceous glands until several weeks after their birth, which is why they often appear to have dry, flaky skin. Rather than amniotic fluid contributing to soft skin, according to Kelly, babies in the womb are protected by vernix, a creamy substance that serves as a barrier between the baby and the amniotic fluid. So, unless your urine is full of vernix, using it as a skin lotion is unlikely to work as a moisturizer.
the nature of urine
What is urine? Urine is usually yellow or clear, depending upon a person's health and diet. It usually has an ammonia-like odor due to the nitrogenous wastes that make up about 5% of the fluid (the remaining 95% is water). Certain foods can affect the odor, however. For example, asparagus breaks down into several sulfur-containing compounds that imparts a putrid odor upon excretion.*
Urine is a slightly acidic fluid which carries waste from the kidneys to the outside world. The kidneys have millions of nephrons which filter toxins, waste, ingested water and mineral salts out of the bloodstream. The kidneys regulate blood acidity by excreting excessive alkaline salts when necessary. The chief constituent of the nitrogenous wastes in urine is urea, a product of protein decomposition. Urea is, among other things, a diuretic. Average adult urine production is from one to two quarts a day. The bladder, where urine is stored for discharge, holds on average about 16-20 ounces of fluid, though the average discharge is about half that amount. In addition to uric acid, ammonia, and creatine, urine consists of many other waste products in minute quantities.
Being a waste product does not mean that a substance is toxic or harmful. It means that the body cannot absorb the substance at the present time. We might think of many of urine's constituents as if they were leftovers from a meal. We could throw the excess food away or we could eat it later after diluting it substantially with water and putting it in the blender. With urine, unfortunately, we cannot ingest waste products in the form they had when first ingested.
For most people most of the time, one's own urine is not likely to be harmful. However, it is not likely to be healthful or useful except for those rare occasions when one is buried beneath a building or lost at sea for a week or two. In such situations drinking one's own urine might be the difference between life and death. As a daily tonic, there are much tastier ways to introduce healthful products into one's blood stream.
See also alternative health practice.
1 72, Wu Kon Lio Road, Wuku Industrial Park, Taipei Hsien, Taiwan, R.O.C. Tel: G886-2-2988446.
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"Why Bogus Therapies Often Seem to Work" by Barry L. Beyerstein, Ph.D.
"Taking the Piss - Is Urine Drinking a Good Idea? Paul Willis interview Dr. Robert Farnsworth, a leading Australian urologist
From culture to cow urine: The moral paradoxes of India's Hindu right (A new soft drink featuring cow urine as its central ingredient is part of a radical Hindu movement in India that wants to eliminate all things Western, like Coca Cola. Gau Jal, or Cow Water, is being touted by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a healthy alternative to major soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi.* Many Indians consume cow dung and urine, believing that they are conducive to good health. Groups like the RSS pose the greatest dilemma for democracies: free speech allows advocating the end of equality and freedom. Such groups are noticeable in non-democracies, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, but they can wreak havoc even in the world's largest democracy, India.)
* Yes, I know, I've taken this quote out of context. I'll do anything for a joke. Apparently, the true message of the passage is to warn against adultery. As far as I know, not even Deuteronomy or Leviticus advise drinking urine. However, neither calls it an abomination, either.