Flavin's Corner

Urine, I'm Out!

Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.
Proverbs 5:15

     Some years back I had the misfortune to endure a most painful sinus
infection.  The problem was so serious that one doctor offered to break my
upper-palate, scrape the sinuses, and then wire my jaw shut for three months.
A writer associate of mine (an older woman who'd recently fled an Indian
ashram) suggested I perform a nasal-douche on myself with hot salt-water.
This procedure caused nearly as much pain as the infection, the problem
eventually abated, and I don't believe I ever spoke to the woman again.  As I
had a serious bout of influenza last week, another writer associate of mine
suggested I improve my immune system with urine therapy.  I really have to
stop asking fellow writers for advice...

     A functional utilization of urine and urinating, apart from simple bladder
relief, is probably endemic to our species.  Territorial pissing contests surely
survived into Paleolithic times (and some would argue they exist to this day
between certain political parties) and it would not be unreasonable to expect an
early usage of urine as a topical disinfectant, as the practice of cleaning the
body with urine (imported "Portuguese" pee, at that) was commonplace with
the classical Romans.  The drinking of one's own urine is an ancient practice,
perhaps stretching back to the Upper Paleolithic, and is often associated with a
religious or shamanistic tradition.

Amanita muscaria or fly-agaric mushrooms.

     One of the first modern accounts which mentioned urine-drinking, from the
early 1700s by Filip Johann von Strahlenberg, described the practice of the
Siberian Koryak and their tradition of someone (usually a rich or influential
tribal member) ingesting an Amanita muscaria mushroom, becoming
intoxicated, urinating into a container, and then other members of the tribe
partaking.  R. Gordon Wasson advanced the theory, in his Soma: Divine
Mushroom of Immortality (1968, Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich; New
York), that this shamanistic tradition, probably originating in the Upper
Paleolithic, diffused from Siberia to pre-Brahman India, and inspired the Vedic
Soma.  Many Vedic references to Soma allow for a mushroom interpretation
and explicitly refer to urine. Wasson's theory, while not entirely unchallenged,
is still acknowledged as the best bet around.  Sometime after 1000 BC the
Vedic Indians lost the "secret" of Soma, however ...continued to drink urine.

     Today the practice of drinking one's own urine, as well as applying it
topically, is referred to as amaroli and is derived from a tantric yoga exercise
which is supposed to encourage personal empowerment.  This urine therapy is
set out in the Shivambu Kalpu Vidhi ("Shivambu" means "water of Shiva") and
promises perfect peace and happiness, good health and great karma.  Gandhi is
said to have consumed a glass of his own urine everyday (gee, I missed that in
the movie...) and the tradition remains popular among current Hindu mystics.

     Despite the dour prognostication of Kipling concerning cultures, many
unsatisfied Westerners have continued to look to The East for ...well, a whole
bunch of stuff!  It's a veritable shopping-mall, what with various traditions so
far removed from our Brady Bunch approach, but I suspect much of this
century's fascination with Eastern culture is sheer rebellion against itself, and
quite shallow in true commitment.  The pain involved with rejecting one system
often allows the easy acceptance of another system which is equally as
screwed-up.  We find this in personal relationships and also in religious cults.
Alternative medicine has a foot in the door with this approach.  Some decry
current science and its failings and go elsewhere.  Well, urine therapy is just
about as "elsewhere" as one can imagine...

     Whether called auto-urine therapy, uropathy, or just urine therapy, this
tradition has extended from its Vedic background and can now be found
included with  Jesus' Diet For Your Sins , the mysterious gynosupremacy
zine-site  Cybele, and the too-hip-for-their-own-good  Urifun.  [Note: though
Urifun does NOT feature any standard ADULT WARNINGS, the site does
contain pics and Real Video of naked babes in the shower trying to drink their
own pee.  I guess it's an informational thing...]

     The argument for urine therapy would have us believe that our bodies
discharge important hormones, enzymes, and minerals which we would be
better off keeping.  While trace amounts of some essential minerals are passed
in urine, any normal diet (or maybe a simple multivitamin) should provide a
better source for replenishment.  Though there has been some interesting work
on restoring the immune systems in AIDS patients with urine therapy, a basic
question remains: is drinking urine harmful?  The honest answer is yes and no.

     If (and this is a very important IF) one is trapped in say, the desert, without
water, consuming small amounts of one's own urine would keep one alive and
probably not present any lasting health problems.  I'm reminded of Bladerunner
sci-fi author Philip K. Dick's last novel, The Transmigration of Timothy
Archer, loosely based on his friend Bishop James Pike and Pike's death in the
Judean desert after running out of gas.  Dick wrote of the urine option, but
then hindsight has all the answers. [Note: the fictional Archer was looking for
the Amanita muscaria mushroom in the desert and assuming some relevance to
Jesus.  Dick was familiar with the urine-mushroom connection, but in
chastising the memory of Archer/Pike, did not explicitly make a reference to
the tradition.]  A good general rule would be that if trapped anywhere and
faced with either dying from thirst or drinking urine, then by all means ...start
peeing in a cup.  A requisite addendum to that good rule would be:  make sure
you're facing DEATH before you start pee-drinking!

     The topical application of urine seems to be an easier hurdle to overcome,
as folks piss on each other all the time.  Many are familiar with the infamous
episode of NBC's Friends where Monica asks the boys to pee on her leg after
she was stung by a jelly-fish.  Urine has an excepted history as an emergency
treatment and the recent suggestions that pre-natal surgery produces little or
no scarring because of the large percentage of a mother's urine in amniotic fluid
has caused some to think of urine as nature's "skin-food."  Still, I believe
science and the local drugstore has better products to offer -- products that
won't make you smell like pee.  But, to each their own...

staying away from asparagus,

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