Bad Science: Urine Therapy


Note: post from the old blog, slightly edited. The first of a new segment to come: bad science. Any suggestions for things you know, or suspect of being bad science are welcome in the comments section.

I get asked a lot of questions about strange alternative therapies quite often, and this is one that has been on my radar for a while now. People who drink their own urine for therapeutic reasons. Gross right? Well, yes, but that’s hardly the reason why I’m going to call it out now. My father drank a cup of horse blood every day for two weeks after a terrible car crash left him very dangerously anemic in order to get his iron levels back up, and that’s pretty disgusting too, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t work. I’m going after urine therapy for the two most important, fundamental reasons:

1. It doesn’t make any sense
2. There is no scientific evidence for it

Reason number 1 can never stand on its own. Just because something doesn’t make any immediate sense it doesn’t mean that there isn’t another unknown mechanism at play that could be having an effect. This is a common misconception held by many proponents of alternative medicine, that scientists say “I don’t get how it works, therefore it doesn’t”. This would be incredibly arrogant and completely contrary to the scientific method. Tapping away at something with our logic is only half the job, the rest is devising experiments that test to see if the conclusion our heads came up with work. If the tests find our logical conclusion lacking our hypothesis needs revisiting, and that is the whole point. Nevertheless, it is useful to see why exactly this doesn’t make any sense, given our current knowledge of human anatomy and physiology.

Unlike faeces, urine is not a dangerous substance from an infectious point of view. It is (usually) a sterile solution, which is why so many people have been able to drink it and/or wash themselves with it without risking adverse health effects. However, urine is still a waste product. The whole purpose of peeing is to eliminate nitrogen waste that our cells produce, which our species excretes as urea, as well as to keep a decent balance of salts and water in our bodies. It’s a laborious and essential process that all vertebrates undergo to ensure the elimination of toxic nitrogen waste from their bodies, and what are humans doing when they are partaking in urine therapy? Putting it right back in. Now that is just downright disrespectful to those poor cells. In cases of extreme dehydration it can buy you a couple more days before dying of thirst, but other than that there is no point.

As I said earlier, this is what logic leads us to believe. How could an excreted liquid filled with our cells’ toxic waste be good for us? Still, evidence can negate these steps in logic if it demonstrates otherwise. The man in the video I previously linked states that there is research and abstracts available attesting to these health benefits, while conveniently forgetting to mention any of them, and also stating in his video description that one thing a “urine therapy community” could accomplish is “a global scientific experiment on the efficacy of urine therapy run by scientists and doctors”. Well, a look through the scientific literature does not yield any evidence to support the practice of urine therapy.

The only article I have managed to find is this one on the anti cancer benefits of cow urine. Exceedingly curious I opened it immediately, to find that it was published in the International Journal of Cow Science, which you’ll be shocked to discover does not have an Impact Factor. Go figure. Also telling is the wonderful English the article is written in. Here is a brief excerpt from the abstract

It has been recognized as water of life or “Amrita” (beverages of immotality), the nector of the God. In India, drinking of cow urine has been practiced for thousands of years. It is an important ingredient of panchgavya, a term used to describe five major substances (urine, milk, ghee, curd and dung), obtained from cow. All the five products possess medicinal properties, and are used singly or in combination with some other herbs against many diseases, even those not curable by allopathic treatments. This kind of alternative treatment, termed as ‘panchgavya therapy’ or ‘cowpathy’, has been reported to be beneficial even for dreaded diseases like cancer, AIDS and diabetes.

Experimentally it has been proved that among all sorts of urines, the urine of the Indian cows is most effective. Seeing the potential use of indigenous cow urine in several ailments including even the cancer, the use of Gomutra (cow urine) of indigenous breeds of cattle should be promoted extensively. However, scientific validation of cow urine therapy is required for its worldwide acceptance and popularity. This review highlights the anti-cancer activity of cow urine and the strategies for promoting its vital medicinal potential and prospectives for the benefit of mankind with the view that cow urine therapy needs immediate attention, promotion, and wide popularity and proper support of the scientists, researchers and clinicians to strengthen this alternate low cost therapy having no side effects, as generally observed with chemotherapy and radiation therapy being followed for curing cancers, and thus inspire confidence in the public about its good virtues.

So it has been experimentally proved to work, but scientific validation is required for it to become accepted?! This needs proper support from the scientists! Ha OK, I think we can all agree this one is a swing and a miss when it comes to evidence for urine therapy.


If there are any real articles on this subject out there that I am unaware of please let me know. However, as of now, urine therapy fails on both levels, which is why I am giving it the label of bad science.


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Comments

  1. Menyambal says

    I say it’s a waste product, as you point out very scientifically. Putting it back in is stupid.

    Premarin is made from pregnant mare’s urine. It is processed to get the hormones, not just drunk straight. I gather the mares are treated poorly.

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