• Can drinking your own sterilised urine really help to treat adult acne? (Getty Images)
Drinking your own urine has become an infamous survival strategy for those stranded on an island with Bear Grylls. In some quarters of Indian culture, urine is also drunk for its health benefits. Kali Hughes tests out the therapy herself, in a bid to do away with adult acne.
By
Kali Hughes

13 Oct 2016 - 3:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Oct 2016 - 7:08 PM

(Warning: SBS Life does not recommend drinking your urine. As always, talk to a medical professional before exploring any health therapy.)

At this point in the 21st century, the Western world is clearly opening its mind and arms to the ancient health and lifestyle practices of the East.

We are choosing to eat our fish raw and ferment our tea and vegetables in line with Japanese and Korean traditions. In our hundreds of thousands, we are sitting down to meditate, learning to become mindful and practicing yoga. And these days, it's hardly kooky to turn to a therapy like acupuncture to treat physical injury, stress, depression and grief. But there's one international healing practice, touted for its health benefits, that is proving a little slower to catch on in the West: urine therapy.

In 1978, India's then Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, explained to 60 Minutes in the USA that urine therapy had proved an effective cure for a variety of ailments for the millions of Indians who could not afford other forms of medical therapies. Ancient China used urine as a health therapy, while the Egyptians and Aztecs have been imbibing urine for around 5,000 years.

Like it or leave it, urine therapy is not for every one. As reported by the ABC last month, opinion is also divided among the medical communities and survival experts as to whether urine is sterile enough to drink or if it can offer healing properties when consumed.

"Ultimately he tells me the quickest and most effective treatment for acne is to simply drink my own urine."

Berlin-based dermatologist Dr. Berthold Rzany explains, that besides the sterility debate, some people are turned off partly because of the scent: "Germans are quite sensitive when it comes to smell."

He believes the potential social stigma of smelling bad would deter most people from practicing urine therapy. The very idea to Dr. Rzany of drinking your own urine also seems not only abhorrent but so absurd as to be a joke.

However, when I trialled the therapy myself while in India for a little over a fortnight—drinking up to 2.5 litres of my urine per day as well as bathing in a boiled down reduction of the substance—I canvassed friends and neighbours who all said they couldn't smell any remnant of urine on me.

Having long suffered from acne in adulthood, I consulted the French doctor of Ayurveda, Demian Haye, who has been based in India for over a decade. Initially, he prescribed a handful of herbal remedies that grow wild in the Himalayas including yarrow, nettle, buckwheat and hemp, but ultimately he tells me the quickest and most effective treatment for acne is to simply drink my own urine.

The first excretion of the day contains the most nutrients and beneficial hormones and I should begin with that. Haye also explains how to store and cook my urine to produce an oil that should be applied externally.

"But isn’t your wee made up of the toxins your body needs to expel?" I ask in disbelief. Apparently not, that’s what poo is for. Urine is the liquid by-product of blood filtration in the body. An exhaustive description of the composition of human urine was prepared for NASA in 1971 and determined that our urine is made up of more than 95 per cent water, with the remaining constituents comprising urea, chloride, sodium, potassium, creatinine and other dissolved ions, inorganic and organic compounds.

The first excretion of the day contains the most nutrients and beneficial hormones and I should begin with that. Haye also explains how to store and cook my urine to produce an oil that should be applied externally.

While there have been many instances of people stranded beneath the rubble of an earthquake, or on the side of a mountain in dangerous weather conditions, who have turned to drinking their urine for survival, sceptics have warned that, due to the sodium contained in urine, drinking it, far from saving a life could in fact be detrimental in accelerating dehydration.

Helen Andrews, of the British Dietetic Association, told UK broadsheet The Independent: "If you are stranded, your body will try to conserve as much water as it can. Drinking your urine would be like drinking seawater."

I was not stranded, I was merely a bit spotty, and for my dermatological treatment not only did Demian Haye advise me to drink plenty of water but my own research has unveiled the rich hydrating benefits of urine's second ingredient - urea.

Urea is a colourless, odourless compound that, when dissolved in water (urine) is neither acidic nor alkaline. Urea is virtually non-toxic and widely used in the agricultural sector as an intensely nutritious fertiliser.

Urea-containing creams are used as topical dermatological products to promote rehydration of the skin: a cursory glance at any pharmacy shelf will turn up urea products for the treatment of psoriasis, xerosis, onychomycosis, ichthyosis, eczema, keratosis, keratoderma, corns, and calluses - all incorporating urea for its skin hydrating properties. So, while sodium is certainly present in urine, its dehydrating effects might well be superseded by the greater presence of the hydrating ingredient, urea.

I can now say urine therapy, trialled on two separate occasions, has been demonstrably effective in clearing up my acne and leaving me with a visibly more youthful, glowing complexion. And so, if ever stranded in the desert without access to water, this reporter would not hesitate to drink her own pee – at least if I have misjudged the life-saving effects of urine, I know I'll die pretty.

 

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