Believe it or not, there is a growing trend among yogis of daily pee drinking, the consumption of one’s own morning urine. Those subscribing to this trend of enjoying a fresh pee beverage, or amaroli, mention its “natural healing” and its ability to cure many diseases as primary motivating factors.
The oldest text from the Indian subcontinent encouraging the use of amaroli in healing dates back hundreds of years. Known as the [I]Damara Tantra[/I], it gives a detailed description of how to use urine therapy, sometimes mixing it with specific herbs or minerals to cure disease.
Of the three texts traditionally seen as teaching manuals of Yoga, the [I]Hatha Yoga Pradipika[/I] is the only one that mentions it.
HYP 3:96 – [I]“Discard the beginning of the stream of water because it has too much bile. Discard the end of the stream because it is worthless. Wholly enjoy the cool, middle stream. This is amaroli…”
According to some modern teachers of the Yoga tradition, amaroli is a practice that should be continued today for optimal health. Drinking urine has become increasingly popular as the new wave of Yoga enthusiasm continues to grow and as many enthusiasts reach back in time to learn the traditional ways.
Reports of Health Benefits from Amaroli[/B]
Proponents claim amaroli as practiced in the modern day is a panacea that cures almost everything. Martha M. Christy wrote [I]“Your Own Perfect Medicine,”[/I] a book often cited for its thorough job of revealing the “truth” about the health benefits of urine therapy. Of the book of her predecessor, John Armstrong, she says, “One thing lacking in Armstrong’s book is scientific evidence…” Christy dedicates an entire chapter to all the research she could find on the merits of drinking urine.
Here are the flaws with the science Christy lays out:
[B]Case studies of urine therapy within old medical journals are cited as proof.[/B] Case studies are just anecdotes published by doctors. Today, anecdotes can be found all over the web attesting to the health benefits of pee drinking. Anecdotes can’t be trusted. Why? Because they don’t consider the placebo effect. Doing or receiving anything that is difficult or disdainful, like a saline shot in the buttocks with a big needle, is likely to elicit a placebo response. In medical research, regardless of the treatment studied, there is an average 30% healing result in the placebo limb of a trial. So what’s wrong with inducing a placebo response from urine therapy? Better is better, right? Not really, not when there are toxic substances in the sugar pill or shot – like there are with amaroli.
[B]Most claims for health benefits from amaroli come from studies of the components of urine, like urea for instance.[/B] Removing and studying the effects of one constituent of urine, like urea, and then generalizing those effects to the entire fresh solution used in urine therapy is disingenuous. There’s a lot more stuff in urine than urea. Those other things can be toxic. While urea, the primary component of urine, is used in skin creams and pharmaceuticals like Ureaphil, it is the isolated chemical that is used therapeutically.
[B]Studies of urine applied to cells in a petri dish aren’t the same thing as studies of people drinking pee as they do in amaroli.[/B] Christy cites studies on the tuberculosis and cancer cell killing effects of urine on groups of cells in a dish, but that ignores what happen to the rest of the body when people drink urine. We are whole organisms, and the whole organism must be taken into consideration. In a petri dish, you can’t see the effects of metabolism. You can’t see the effects on all the many kinds of normal tissue within the human body. It’s removing a tiny piece of the jigsaw puzzle and then declaring that you can see the entire finished picture.
[B]Some of the studies of amaroli use a small quantity of urine injected beneath the skin or a few drops placed under the tongue.[/B] While advocating drinking a couple of ounces of urine every morning, the most recent scientific literature Christy cites on urine therapy for the treatment of allergies employs only a minute quantity of urine given in specific ways. The claim for efficacy with allergies is that drinking antibodies found in urine will boost the immune system by re-circulating those little soldiers. Antibodies administered in the hospital have to be injected into veins. If taken by mouth (rather than given sublingually or by injection as in the cited research) the digestive juices of the gastrointestinal tract destroy antibodies before they are absorbed and able to make it to their targets.
[B]Is Drinking Urine Safe?[/B]
NASA recently spent $250 million for a processor that makes urine on the space station safe to drink. That’s a lot of money, and it doesn’t include all the decades of expensive research that have gone into figuring out how to do it. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Why would they spend that kind of dough if drinking urine was safe and healthy?
One of the best ways to answer the question of toxicity is to take a look at what happens when your kidneys stop functioning. Doctors help patients by placing them on dialysis machines for four hours three times a week to mimic the kidney’s filtering function. Patients with kidney failure live a lot longer with dialysis, but they still die of toxicity from their kidney failure. One reason is that all the body’s toxins aren’t filtered efficiently by the artificial dialysis machine the way they are by our own amazing natural filter. Medicine hasn’t yet figured it all out.
Kidney failure isn’t urine therapy. Assuming the kidneys function properly, they can efficiently remove again anything you put back in with a pee beverage. Those onerous little toxic substances will go round and round in a loop. It’s more work for your body to have to get rid of them over and over.
Some of the normally excreted toxins recycled through the body with urine therapy are so elusive and complicated that they don’t even have names yet, but there are other more well-known toxins that are in urine also. Pretty much everyone knows about bisphenol A, the widely disseminated compound in plastics, even baby bottles, that’s been linked to reproductive and neuro-developmental problems. According to a 2009 report from the Center For Disease Control (CDC), almost all Americans have some of this chemical in their urine. The kidneys have done their job of filtering it out. The average level in the CDC report was 2.6 micrograms per liter in adults, but levels as high as 18.1 micrograms per liter were found. In order to excrete bisphenol A, the body has to link it to glucuronide which makes it less toxic and more easily urinated, but there are intestinal enzymes that cleave the protective bond. Thus, after drinking urine, bisphenol A will get reabsorbed in its active and toxic form.
Arsenic, indisputably a toxin, is found in the urine of almost everyone in concentrations up to 93.1 micrograms per liter in adults. It occurs naturally, but we’ve increased the amount of our exposure drastically by burning coal and by using arsenic as a wood preservative.
Pesticides are found in urine, too. The organochlorine pesticides are converted by the liver into new substances in an attempt to make them less toxic, but a less toxic form isn’t always produced. 2,4,6-TCP is a metabolite that’s found in the urine of most people, and it’s been linked to leukemia, lymphoma, and liver cancer.
There are many more toxic substances in urine, too many to name here. It makes sense. After all, the job of the kidneys is to filter out and remove harmful substances our bodies have been unfortunate enough to acquire through ingestion, absorption and inhalation.
When it comes to amaroli, our world is not the same as the one of yogis long ago. Drinking urine in the early morning hours may have helped their meditation through recycled melatonin and supplemented an inadequate diet with recycled vitamins, but environmental pollutants and synthetic chemicals add a dimension of toxicity in the modern world they did not have to consider. Amaroli, or drinking urine to promote health, is not a wise practice for the yogis of today.
About The Author:
Kathleen Lea Summers, MD, PhD is a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and a board certified Internal Medicine physician. Visit theYogadr.com to learn more about amaroli and the integration of Yoga and medicine for a holistic approach to healing.