Debunking the myth
Benefits of cow urine for human consumption have been propagated since long, but the propaganda has increased manifold in the most recent times. Any item to be consumed by us must be proven for its usefulness and harmlessness; more so for products labelled to be of medicinal use.
Science is the essence of evidence. It is based on studies in the laboratory, field and in the real, everyday life. This has formed the basis for the progress of mankind, from the time of life in the caves to the present day. Likewise, healthcare systems have also developed with the changing times. Ancient philosophers and physicians extensively researched the natural world to find remedies based on the notion that when a disease has occurred because of causes prevalent in nature, remedies would also emanate from it. This led to the development of different systems of treating patients in various parts of the world viz. Ayurveda and Siddha in India, Yunani in Greece, Acupuncture and Acupressure in China etc. All these systems developed in the medieval period.
The modern scientific system of medicine has enhanced the knowledge gained therein to develop the health care system further on the basis of new scientific innovations. Anatomy and Physiology made us understand the basic structure and functioning of different life systems. Our body has an elaborate system to utilise whatever is needed and to excrete those materials which are either not required or are detrimental. It is common knowledge that a part of the food which we consume is digested and the rest is excreted through the gastrointestinal tract. After the food has been metabolised in the body, other waste products are excreted through urine. It is, therefore important to compare the chemical composition of the urine of cows and human beings to thereby, prove on the basis of evidence, the usefulness and superiority of cow urine for human health.
Urine is a liquid produced by the kidneys to remove waste products from the bloodstream. The basic elements in the composition of cow or human urine are water, urea, sodium, chloride, sulphate, potassium, phosphate, creatinine, ammonia, uric acid, calcium, magnesium. These chemicals are, however, available from other sources as well. Since the composition of human and cow urine is similar, it is difficult to believe that despite similar composition only the cow urine is useful for the human body.
In this connection, to get to know more scientific information on the utility of cow urine and cow dung for the human body, information under RTI was obtained from the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Government of India. They replied, "The information is not maintained by this CPIO of the cattle division." Simultaneously, the same information was sought from the Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU), Ludhiana. The information received from 22 departments in GADVASU denied the availability of any such information with them. It is worth mentioning here that GADVASU Ludhiana has been ranked first among 14 state veterinary universities in the country, as per the ranking of agricultural universities and research institutes conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, for 2016-17.
Thus, there is no scientific information available about the usefulness of cow urine for human health even at the highest level of academics within the field of veterinary sciences. On the contrary, some studies have reported the toxic effects of a cow urine concoction. Moreover, cow urine consumed in crude form could be infectious and may lead to serious health problems.
According to veteran historian D N Jha, the cow and its products (milk, curd, clarified butter, dung, and urine) or their mixture called Panchagavya assumed a purificatory role during the medieval period. But here too, several Dharmasastras forbade its use by women and the lower castes because if a Sudra drinks cow urine he is immediately transported to hell.
Therefore, one has to be cautious and sceptical about the role of cow urine for improving human health. The evidence does not hold true on that. It is more of a belief system rather than science. But the propaganda about the benefits in the usage of cow urine, in the recent days, seems to be connected to an agenda of furthering only mythical Hindu principles. It is high time that the Ministry of Pharmaceuticals as well as the Ministry of Health intervened to stop this propaganda. The issue here is related to promoting our health.
(Dr. Arun Mitra is a leading ENT specialist, Senior Vice-President of Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, and member of Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Health care in India. The views expressed are strictly personal.)