Urine therapy (urotherapy) is bogus and does not help anything. Advocates of urine therapy advocate the use of drinking urine or apply urine to different parts of the body or bath in it to treat any number of disorders. There is no evidence to support its use, apart from unreliable anecdotes and testimonials. If urine therapy appears to help, then it does so as its a placebo or because of the natural history of the condition, regression to the mean of the symptoms or the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. There is no known physiological basis in which urine therapy can affect any disease process. All of the explanations offered by the proponents of urine therapy are based on pseudoscience and do not stack up to scrutiny or analysis.
Almost all accounts of urine therapy at some point use the appeal to tradition or antiquity logical fallacy. According to some accounts, urine was used by the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Indian and Romans as a treatment for many disorders from war wounds to whitening of the teeth. Just because something was used historically does not mean it worked and should be used today (appeal to tradition logical fallacy).
In western culture, urine therapy was initially popularized by the British naturopath John W Armstrong who starting using it in 1918. In 1944 he published the first book on the topic, The Water of Life: A treatise on urine therapy. He was first to advocate a different meaning of Proverb’s 5:15 “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well” suggesting that this was urine therapy. No biblical scholars interpret it that way, especially in the context of the rest of the text around that particular quote.
In the 1950s, the Greek doctor, Evangelos Danopolous, claimed to have identified anti-cancer properties with the urea in the urine and he used the it treat patients with certain types of skin and liver cancer. He did publish several small positive case series, but later studies by other researchers could not replicate his results.
Urinating on wounds, cuts, infections, bee stings, chilblains and sunburn has a long tradition of being used as a folk remedy. It is commonly advocated by proponents to irrigate the eye to treat eye infections which can make it worse as urine is not sterile. A popular myth is that it helps jelly fish stings, when in realty it probably makes it worse. It has also even been advocated that drinking urine is a treatment for COVID-19, which was quickly debunked by a Reuters Fact Check.
The advocacy of urine therapy to treat cancer is based on the finding of tumor proteins in the urine of cancer patients. The erroneous belief is that if you have cancer and drink your urine, the body will make antibodies against the tumor proteins (antigens) and fight the cancer. While evidence does show that the urine can contain tumor antigens, there is no evidence that drinking it will stimulate antibody production or affect the cancer in any other way. These tumor antigens are already present in the blood and elsewhere in the body in much greater quantities than in the urine.
The urine is claimed to be a rich source of nutrients and elements that they body needs, so drinking the urine is claimed to be a good source of these. However, those elements are in the urine because the body has excreted them as they are surplus to what the body needs.
Despite the long history of the use of urine therapy and the apparent popularity of it, not one study that stacks up to analysis or replication has been able to show that it actually works or helps anyone or anything.
- The Urine Therapy Association in China has been banned and declared illegal by the Chinese government.
- The American Cancer Society has declared urotherapy: “available scientific evidence does not support claims that urine or urea given in any form is helpful for cancer patients.“
- Drinking your own urine, bathing in it or applying it to areas of the body isn’t likely to be harmful, except for making eye infections and jelly fish stings worse. It just has no known medical or health benefits that are supported by scientific evidence.
Relevance to Podiatry:
A number of conditions that affect the foot can be found in books on urine therapy and are being used to try and treat them. Urine therapy for chilblains and for tinea infections are common ones that are frequently advocated.
Other Alternative Practices:
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