Urine Therapy

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

An episode of the TV series "My Strange Addiction" highlighted a "medical" practice that caused many viewers to turn away in revulsion. The feature described the use of human urine, or more accurately, drinking one's own urine and using it to massage, irrigate, or coat body parts, as an attempt to fight off cancer.

Urine therapy, urotherapy, and urinotherapy are terms that have been used to refer to the use of one's own urine as a medicinal aid. There are no medical or scientific data to support this dubious practice, but it has roots in history and in some religious and spiritual traditions. In certain cultures, urine has been used as a skin protectant, an anti-infectious agent, and a tooth whitener, among myriad other uses, but none of these claims have ever been substantiated by medical research. Even the popular folk remedy of urinating on jellyfish stings has no medical basis and may actually worsen the injury.

There have been rare reports of people drinking their urine as a way to prevent dehydration in catastrophic situations when there was no water supply, such as being lost at sea.

A dubious treatment for illness

In the TV series, a cancer patient opted for urine therapy to treat her melanoma. She not only drank her own urine, she used it to irrigate her eyes and sinuses (via a Neti-pot), brush her teeth, and applied it to her skin. The idea of this treatment as a cancer therapy probably comes from the fact that certain tumor proteins are present in the urine of cancer patients. By introducing urine into the digestive tract and other sites in the body, the erroneous belief is that the body will begin making antibodies against the tumor proteins (antigens) to try to destroy the cancer.

While it is true that urine can contain tumor antigens, there is no evidence to show that drinking, massaging with, bathing in, or any other application of urine will stimulate antibody production or in any way fight off a cancer. The quantities of substances, including tumor antigens, present in urine are typically minuscule compared with those already present in the blood and elsewhere in the body. The bottom line is that drinking your own urine isn't likely to be harmful, but it has no known medical benefit.

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Medically reviewed by Jay B. Zatzkin, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Medical Oncology

REFERENCE:

TLC.com. My Strange Addiction. Aged Urine Baths

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Reviewed on 5/12/2016

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