The Straight Dope | The Straight Dope | Chicago Reader

The Straight Dope 


Mindful of our discussion earlier this year about the importance of washing one's hands after going to the bathroom (January 12, February 2) and recalling my comment that urine itself, being fairly sterile, is not the problem, a reader sent me a clipping from the March/April 1996 Yoga Journal.

Here's the headline: "Drink to Your Health: Wealthy French women bathed in it, Chinese doctors used it to soothe sore throats, and now you--all squeamishness aside--can drink it to cure what ails you."

Guess what "it" is.

You guessed right.

I'm serious.

I quote author Blake More:

"Odds are you're among the 27 million Americans who recycle....Would you be willing to take the act of recycling a step further and internally honor your bodily home, if it meant you'd have more energy, a stronger immune system, and an ageless complexion? Of course you would."

Welcome to urine therapy.

All it takes, says Blake, is eight ounces a day.

Blake first heard about UT from a naturopath in Japan. Of course she had to try it--wouldn't you? Four years later, she reports, "I'm a different person. I'm more in tune with my body's needs and functions, and no longer anemic or hypoglycemic. I rarely get colds, haven't had the flu in years, and the yeast infection that had long been plaguing me is gone.... I now feel healthy and strong." Only problem is gargling with those little deodorant blocks.

She goes on to give a long list of diseases, including many related to AIDS, that urine therapy will supposedly alleviate. The list includes everything from gangrene to hair loss to malaria. Sure.

While I don't suppose there's any danger urine therapy will become the next macarena, I did take the precaution of checking out the concept with University of Chicago kidney specialist Dr. John Asplin. He thought urine consumption in moderate quantities was probably harmless.

The stuff is fairly sterile, and if you do happen to have a urinary-tract infection or something, well, you've already got whatever germs you're consuming. (Former Indian prime minister Moraji Desai, a daily urine drinker, lived to be 99.)

On the other hand, Asplin said, UT isn't likely to do you much good either. Listen to your body. Your body is saying, "I just got rid of this stuff, granola-brain. Are you nuts?"

But if you want to try it, be my guest. Just don't eat any asparagus first.


Longtime readers will recall the heated debate in this space some years ago over the identity of a tree, originally spotted in Los Angeles, that at certain times of the year smelled like, uh, sperm. (To be precise, like semen. But you know what we mean.)

It wasn't our idea to get into this repulsive topic. It did, however, capture the imagination of the Teeming Millions. Not that the Teeming Millions were much help getting to the bottom of it. Despite repeated pleas, no one ever sent us an identifiable sample, and we never settled the matter.

The controversy flared anew on our America Online message board last summer. But this time our call for samples got results. In fact, we got two samples--one from Robert Williams, the other from Brian Maffitt.

Just one little problem. They weren't the same tree. What's more, neither of them was one of the trees suggested in our previous go-round on this subject.

According to a plant expert at Morton Arboretum, one specimen was an ailanthus, aka tree of heaven, and the other was a species of chestnut. The chestnut was pretty dry by the time I got it, but the ailanthus--no question, definitely spermlike.

Previously the consensus was that the sperm tree was the carob tree, with one radical holding out for the California privet. Now we've got three or four possible sperm trees out there.

So there you have it. The truth ain't pretty. But I feel you need to know.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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