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When Ferdinand Magellan's fleet of five set out to circumnavigate the globe in 1519, the manifest gave each ship "50 casks of water, fresh and pure." It wasn't enough. Of course his crew knew they would have to locate water along the way. Unfortunately, finding themselves in uncharted waters and out of water 18 months into the voyage, they became desperate. With no hope of a fresh water source, they took what was the only recourse. They drank their own urine. Wrote one crewman, "It was surprisingly not unsavory, having no worse a taste than a flagon most foul with rancid port, as many I have tasted before." And after all, it did save their lives.
Already the astronauts on the International Space Station are experimenting with the self-generated liquid and if NASA ever launches a manned mission for Mars, the ship won't carry enough water for the 18 month voyage. Like their preceding explorers, they will have to find water along the way. This presents a problem since rainfall outside the Van Allen Belt is pretty rare. NASA's answer? If it worked for Magellan it can work for Mars. Drink urine. Though filtered, purified and recycled, it will probably take a little getting used to psychologically. But there are millions of people throughout history who have actually swallowed the idea of urine as medicine. It is often called urotherapy.
Given a choice between "a flagon most foul with rancid port" and drinking their own urine, most will probably choose the rancid port. Surprisingly though, many would not. The belief that urine has powerful healing properties existed even centuries before the Bible extolled its virtues. Cultures throughout all time have used urine for healing. Many practices have included the use of urine from other species such as cows or horses. But most common is using one's own "Golden Fountain" as the source. And a scientific analysis of urine would find it healthier than a "flagon most foul."
Though we have been conditioned to think of urine as "dirty," quite the opposite is true. Urine fresh from the "spigot" is actually sterile, devoid of any pathogens at all, (except in the case of a urinary or kidney infection). Urine is 95 percent water. The other five percent of our urine is made of dissolved and suspended solids, none of which are toxic. The two main components are simple salt and a compound called urea. In addition to salt and urea, other elements include hormones, proteins, antibodies and other beneficial pharmacological agents. So far from being harmful, urine actually does have known healing agents. Furthermore, if urine has a bad taste or smell, it is generally from the diet or habits of the contributor. Poor diet, poor habits and you will get a rank and smelly urine. The point is that urine components reflect the provider.
Usually the suggestion follows the Bible, to drink only our own "waters"; though there are times when urine from a select group is recommended. Sometimes, as in cases of wishing to enhance fertility, one would drink urine high in hormonal content of the right kind. This understanding led to a modern-day application. Serono Laboratories in Italy used the urine of post-menopausal nuns to prepare the pharmaceutical extract Pergonal, prescribed to stimulate fertility. And many women receiving hormone replacement therapy right now are receiving doses derived from horse urine.
Though fresh urine is sterile, left standing it will provide an excellent medium for bacterial growth. Therefor it is always advisable to use fresh. Don't try to keep it in the 'fridge overnight or for when guests drop in. Ancient texts that describe the practice tell us to drink the middle of the flow. Presumably this would eliminate any trace bacteria from the urethra in the first part or leftover from bladder walls in the last spurts. After all, even with a fine red wine, you still don't drink the dregs.
For thousands of years, nearly every culture in recorded history has included urine therapy for all manner of disease or injury. Hindu yogic practices have noted the benefits of drinking our own urine. Ancient Chinese medical texts record specific ways to use urine and even describe how it can be purified into a powdered crystal to satisfy any squeamishness on the part of the patient. Indigenous Americans encountered in 1806 by Lewis and Clark's expedition to Oregon had the custom "of bathing themselves all over with urine every morning," according to Lewis. Saharan Bedouins use urine to cleanse burns and wounds. When British officers during World War Two observed the practice, they were shocked. But actually it was the same medical practice described in the Ebers Papyrus of 1500 B.C, one of the oldest surviving documents of Egyptian history. The Aztec civilization also used urine to heal wounds. Various other cultures recommend drinking urine to increase fertility and stimulate sexuality. It is historically used to break down blood clots. It is used as a sleep aid, to cure yeast infections, fever, oral infections, diabetes, cancer and of course, bladder problems! As a topical medicine, it is used to heal wounds and rashes; to cleanse and tone the skin. And the claims continue. The list of maladies that urotherapy is used to fight is long and varied. Recently, urotherapy is used in the fight against the complex of conditions that make up AIDS. Perhaps because the substances believed therapeutic in urine are many and varied, advocates say it has a broad-spectrum effect on the multiple symptoms presented in AIDS.
In the ayurvedic tradition of yoga, drinking one's urine is called amaroli. Because extensive Vedic texts exist from at least 2000 B.C., this practice provides us with much of the most thorough guidance available. Yogic techniques tell us exactly how to go about drinking or applying amaroli. One of the most famous users of urine therapy was Prime Minister of India from 1977 to 1979, Morarji Desai. On the occasion of his ninety-ninth birthday in 1995, Desai attributed his longevity to drinking his morning urine on a daily basis.
Admittedly, there is very little Western science evidence to support the historical claims. After all, how would a researcher fare in submitting a grant proposal for such funding? "We are asking for five million dollars to investigate the health properties of pee cocktails." Or even more difficult, how would one find a test group to drink their own urine? And what would you give the control group? Apple juice?
Despite the paucity of modern scientific substantiation, there is some common-sense evidence that explains why some of these beliefs exist. Let's start with using urine to sterilize and cleanse wounds.
Remember a major component of urine is urea. Urea is commonly recognized as an effective antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral agent. Its mechanism is simple. The presence of urea in the urine is the result of the body's chemical balancing of sodium chloride and water ratio. When used on a wound, urea causes an osmotic imbalance that kills bacteria and fungus. It is so effective it is used in many topical ointments and creams sold pharmaceutically, both prescription and over-the-counter. Urea is found in a broad range of medicines used to treat inflammation. It is a main ingredient in the medicine Herpigon, used to treat herpes infections.
Urine also can smooth and moisturize the skin. Your face cream or wrinkle remover most likely has urea or a derivative in it. Check out the ingredients. Each time you use it you are effectively smearing urine on your face. According to John Armstrong's 1971 book, The Water of Life, expensive and elegant European facial soaps often contain human, cow or pig urine.
Historical anecdotes have said that drinking urine can prevent strokes and help break down blood clots and scabs. This lore was applied when investigators in the nineteenth century found that some component of urine could digest proteins, specifically fibrin, the key in clotting. In 1952, G.W. Sobel isolated the enzyme in urine that the folk lore claimed. He named it urokinase and it is now used in preparations to break up clots in heart disease and stroke. Apparently folk lore was right. Did modern medicine make it better or just more expensive? Certainly it's easier to sell.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A HORMONE?
Several references recommend drinking urine for sleeplessness. And it's a well-known fact now that melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate sleep. So guess what? Melatonin is present in significant amounts in the urine, especially morning urine. And not only melatonin is present. There is a compound known as muramyl dipeptide. Simply put, it mirrors the action of seratonin, another well-known calming hormone. These may explain why Vedic texts recommend that yogis practice amaroli to enhance the ability to meditate more deeply.
Often there are broad, sweeping claims made by proponents of almost every therapeutic modality. To entertain the possibility that urine therapy can cure everything from canker sores to cancer seems to be one of those claims. There is no therapy, massage therapy to chemotherapy, aromatherapy to heart surgery, that can hope to meet claims of 100 percent success. And honestly, I don't think most proponents of urine therapy intend such claims. But despite the first impression that the Western mind often has of seeing the modern practice of amaroli as antiquated at least and revolting at most, its value need not be dismissed out-of-hand.
There is plenty of information on the internet about urotherapy. Not all of it is placed there by people trying to sell a product. After all, the best source is one's own "cistern" according to the Bible. Whether it's the ingestion of urine or its topical application, there seems to be scientific reason, if not scientific testing, that says it makes sense. The best advice is the advice you can give yourself. Know it exists. Find out more about it. Make your own decisions.
If Magellan had gotten some melatonin into a native chieftain in the South Pacific, he might have made it back to Spain. As it was, Ferdie interfered in a tribal dispute and was slain by a warrior who was ... pissed.
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Michael Braunstein is Executive Director of Heartland Healing and certified by the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners in clinical hypnotherapy. He graduated from the Los Angeles Hypnotism Training Institute and was an instructor at the UCLA Extension University for 11 years.
Heartland Healing is devoted to the examination of various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information and not as medical advice. It is not meant as an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or by Heartland Healing Center, Inc.