“Cow urine is used in the preparation of several types of medicines. It is used even for the treatment of incurable disease like cancer,” Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey announced recently. “The urine of the indigenous variety of cow is often used. The Ministry of AYUSH is seriously working on it.” To this end, he added, “the government is working on the protection and conservation of cows.”
Choubey pointed to former Prime Minister Morarji Desai, whom he claimed consumed cow urine for medical reasons. Desai is not believed to have consumed cow urine, though he did famously proclaim the benefits of drinking his own urine – perhaps most notably during an interview on the American news programme 60 Minutes. Desai reportedly drank urine twice a day, calling it the “water of life.”
Choubey is not the only high-profile politician to have expounded upon health benefits of the substance in recent months. During the Lok Sabha election campaign, Bhopal candidate Sadhvi Pragya claimed “I was a patient of cancer and I cured myself by consuming gau mutr [cow urine] and panchgavya mixed ayurvedic herbs.”
Claims that cow urine product can cure a plethora of conditions have their roots in Ayurvedic tradition, with its consumption reportedly dating back 5,000 years. However, modern science disputes these claims. While it is unlikely to be unsafe to drink a small amount of any urine, studies have linked urine consumption with negative health effects including contaminating the blood with toxins and bacteria and affecting kidney function.
This has not stopped proposals to bottle cow urine and sell it as a health drink. At a time when alternative and traditional medicine products are increasing in popularity, it is important to be vigilant when warrantless claims are made about their health benefits – and to ensure that consumers are given the full story, to make an informed decision.