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Maybe you’ve heard the tales of dehydrated people in the desert drinking their urine to survive. Or maybe you’ve seen people talking about the potential health benefits of urine.

It’s called urine therapy, or urotherapy. Some people claim that drinking your own urine, applying it to your skin, or otherwise reusing it can benefit your health.

But is it true? No, not really. There are no proven medical benefits to drinking urine. And it actually could cause more harm than good.

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What Is Urine Therapy?

The idea of people using urine dates back thousands of years. Cultures including Rome, India, Egypt, Greece, and others have records of people using urine for health reasons.

In recent years, people who support urine therapy say it can treat many health conditions, including:

  • Acne
  • Cancer
  • Cuts or wounds
  • Flu
  • Heart problems
  • Infections
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Rashes/skin conditions

According to a report in the Journal of Nephrology, “we can conclude that urine therapy represents a treatment followed by a great number of people.”

Is Urine Therapy Good for You?

There is no proven scientific data that drinking or using urine in other ways can provide health benefits.

According to a report in the Journal of Urology, “Much of what we have heard about the use of urine therapy has no medical basis, and is folk remedy that can actually worsen the injury.”

Although urine may contain very small amounts of vitamins and minerals, those amounts are not enough for a tangible health benefit.

Can Drinking Urine Be Harmful?

Drinking a small amount of urine probably won’t cause harm. But there is a risk, especially if you drink larger amounts.

To create urine, your kidneys filter extra water and waste from your blood. This waste, called urea, travels from your kidneys to your bladder through two thin tubes called ureters. Urine remains in your bladder until you are ready to urinate.

Many believe urine is sterile. However, multiple studies have shown bacteria present even in the urine of healthy people. Urine is mostly water, but it also contains urea and other waste products, salts, ammonia, and more.

Because urine contains waste products, drinking it can force your kidneys to work even harder or expose you to unnecessary toxins. This could cause illness, electrolyte disturbances, or kidney damage.

The salt content of urine also means drinking it could cause dehydration. The U.S. Army Field Manual warns against drinking urine as a water substitute.

Finally, urine also can contain numerous bacteria, according to a study in the Pan African Medical Journal. The study found several different bacteria types in human urine, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The bacteria included:

  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Staphylococcus
  • Salmonella
  • Shigella
  • Bacillus
  • Citrobacter
  • Klebsiella
  • Proteus
  • Pseudomonas

Drinking urine could introduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria into your body, potentially causing an infection.

Urine Therapy and COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some have claimed that urine therapy can cure COVID-19. This is not true.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have authorized several treatments for COVID-19. Urine therapy is not an authorized or recommended treatment for COVID-19.

The best way to prevent COVID-19 or to avoid severe symptoms is by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. To schedule a vaccine appointment at UPMC, visit vaccine.upmc.com.

If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 and have mild symptoms, call your personal care provider (PCP) or use UPMC AnywhereCare. They can help you get tested and get treatment if necessary.

Sources

Evann E. Hilt, Kathleen McKinley, Meghan M. Pearce, et al, Journal of Clinical Microbiology, Urine Is Not Sterile: Use of Enhanced Urine Culture Techniques To Detect Resident Bacterial Flora in the Adult Female Bladder. Link

Michael I Kogan, Yulia L Naboka, Khalid S Ibishev, et al, International Journal of Urology, Human Urine Is Not Sterile — Shift of Paradigm. Link

Jay Motola, The Journal of Urology, The History of Urine as Healing Agent. Link

KidsHealth, Your Urinary System. Link

National Library of Medicine, Urine and Urination. Link

Adenike Adedayo O. Ogunshe, Abosede Oyeyemi Fawole, Victoria Abosede Ajayi, Pan African Medical Journal, Microbial Evaluation and Public Health Implications of Urine as Alternative Therapy in Clinical Pediatric Cases: Health Implication of Urine Therapy. Link

U.S. Army Field Manual, Water Procurement. Link

Vincenzo Savica, Lorenzo Calò, Domenico Santoro, et al, Journal of Nephrology, Urine Therapy Through the Centuries. Link

About UPMC

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