Respectful Insolence

It’s my last day in sunny Phoenix, and all I’ve done thus far is to go to conferences, work on a grant, and do a little blogging, usually late at night because I often have trouble falling asleep in hotel rooms, particularly given that the air conditioning always seems to be such that it’s either too cold or too warm. I must be like Goldilocks, at least with respect to hotel heating/cooling systems, because it’s always ridiculously hard for me to get it “just right.”

In any case, I bet you were probably wondering if I’d pull off this week’s Your Friday Dose of Woo. Actually, I wondered myself for a while, but, thanks to caffeine and an interminably boring session that I couldn’t stand anymore, I actually had a bit of time to blog. The perfect opportunity to make sure that I keep my nearly unbroken streak of Fridays full of woo from going down in flames. But, given the time constraints, it became apparent to me that I probably couldn’t do my usual magnum opus of thousands of words. Yet nearly all of the potential woo targets in my Folder of Woo begged for more than just a quick drive-by.

Even so, I thought I’d try to go counter to my usual practice, given the limited time I have to blog, and I think I found the perfect target. The reason it’s a perfect target is because it’s a topic that I’ve covered before. Why, then, you ask, would I cover it again, given so many other richly deserving targets–I mean topics–that are out there still, even after over seven months of this Friday feature? Glad you asked. Do you remember last week, when I expressed amazement that there were still alchemists in the world and that there was even an International Alchemy Conference scheduled in Las Vegas later this year? Remember how naive some of you thought I was, expressing equal amazment that I, connoisseur of all things woo, had been unaware of the existence of modern-day alchemists? Well, here’s another conference that I had been unaware of until recently:

The Third World Conference on Urine Therapy

Ah, yes, it’s the pause that refreshes–again! This time around, we have a report on the last conference (the third), which was held in 2003 in Brazil. The next such conference is promised in 2007 in South Korea. Unfortunately, the exact date and locations are not disclosed. Maybe it’s going to be held in the veritable “undisclosed location,” taking a cue from our Vice President. In any case, a lot of the same wild and wacky claims are there, just as I knew they would be. Perhaps we can get an idea of what will be discussed in the 2007 version by looking back at the 2003 version (a.k.a. the Third World Conference on Urine Therapy):

Every batch of urine is unique to each person, certainly nothing changed there: but due to the world wide research and especially from countries where expensive medications are for most people unaffordable or not available at all, reports about successful and “free of charge” healing were very popular.

The latest news – old knowledge. Urine is the perfect medicine!

Used for thousands of years, urine therapy is being rediscovered and proves repeatedly to be the perfect medicine it has always been. Even modern diseases like AIDS and plagues can be successfully treated with the water from one’s own cistern. The good (old) news is spreading by word of mouth (more as a secret) but also by big events like the World Conference of Urine Therapy.

The world’s big names in Urine Therapy, like Coen van der Kroon (author of the book “The Golden Fountain), Dr. Schaller (France), Dr Atom Inoue (Columbia), Dr. Sonia Rodridgues (Mexico), Dr. Kang Kook Hee (South Korea and organiser for the next World Conference), Dr John Wynhausen (USA), Dr. Lutz Riedel (Germany), Dr Carmen de la Concepcion (Cuba), Dr Ryosuke (Japan), to mention only a few, gathered to give evidence about their clinical work with patients and to help suffering people understand that urine is not a toxic waste but a wide spectrum healing agent, not matched by any other medication.

“The Golden Fountain”? Geez, that sounds a bit too much like…never mind. Although this blog isn’t G-rated, there’s no need to head into R-territory or worse unnecessarily. I do really like the name of the organizer of this year’s conference: Kang Kook Hee. Personally, Change it to Kang “Kook” Hee, and you’d get a better feel for what this guy is about, especially if you look at his book, Algoboni: The Water of Life, about which the publisher says, “Please note that some sections of this book, while amply conveying the ideas and intent of the author, give the impression of having been machine translated into English.”

Heh.

Given that I’ve covered this topic before, there’s no need to repeat in detail why urine therapy is so scientifically bogus. And, really, there’s no need to rehash all the same claims that urine therapy can cure AIDS, tuberculosis, chronic diseases, etc. and instead look at the two things that caught my eye from this conference that I hadn’t heard before. First, like many good cranks, one urine therapist (Dr. Ryoichi Nakao) abuses information theory:

First of all, in order to examine this mechanism, we have to consider that the efficacy of urine therapy does not show it to be a medicine. Urine is an information source about the disease in the body or, in other words, it is a copy of the changes occurring in the body.

Due to the following reasons, I believe that when this information in the urine passes through the throat it is analysed by sensors in the throat, and that the human immune system can then be activated to cure the disease. That is to say, signals are given by the brain which may activate the necessary functions for curing the ailment.

(1). Experiments were conducted and it was found that when the urine was induced into the stomach using a catheter, bypassing the throat for a period of one month, no efficacy was observed.

I’d really love to see the peer-reviewed paper (or any paper, for that matter) describing the experimental methodolgy. Think about it from the perspective of a potential research subject: Not only is this guy feeding you urine, but apparently in half of his patients, he’s sticking a feeding tube down their nose to give it to them.

Where’s the IRB when you need it?

(2). The fact that cancer occurs in the bladder, urinary tract and kidneys proves that the presence of urine inside the body does not have any direct effect on carcinogenic cells. But when the same urine is taken orally and passes through the throat, a decrease in carcinogenic cell growth or the disappearance of cancer has been observed in cancer patients.

(3). Even if urine is not ingested but only gargled, the effects were found to be the same as when it was ingested.

(4). If gargling with water was done just after ingestion of urine no efficacy was observed.

(5). Interferon, one of many bio-active substances found in urine presents a situation analogous to that of auto-urine therapy in that only minute quantities taken orally are necessary to provide the brain with the information it needs to heal the body. In clinical trials, only 100 IU or 1/100,000 of the million international units of interferon given orally had the same effects as 10 million units administered by injections. (Hayashibara Biochemical Labs., Inc Okayama, Japan and Dr Cummins of Amarillo Cell Culture, Amarillo Texas).

Holy homeopathy, Batman! At least that’s what this sounds like: Homeopathy and urine therapy. Yep, two great tastes that taste great together! Except, in this case, the interferon’s being diluted in urine. Oh, and it is there at a detectable level. OK, maybe this isn’t homeopathy, but the whole bit about “information” being transferred into the urine sure sounds homeopathic to me. On the other hand, homeopathic urine therapy is about the only way you’d ever get me to drink my own pee, and even then I’d be a bit grossed out.

Because of the above findings, it can be assumed that sensor cells which can perceive extremely minute changes in the body, could control them if stimulated by the right information from urine. Such cells are found in the oral cavity and throat said Dr Ryoichi Nakao.

Dr Nakao’s theory for the stimulation of cytokine production explains further that urine is the source of information for a given disease. When it is placed in the throat, the sensor cells detect this information, passing it to the brain. In its turn, the brain triggers the cytokine production gland which provides regulation for the immune system. From the brain, interleukin X, together with other enzymes, cause cytokines to be produced and thus effect a recovery from illness. Propolis, a substance extracted from honeycombs has been known since ancient times to have anti-bacterial and anti-tumorial effects. Urine mixed with propolis, enhances its efficacy against cancer, hepatitis and other diseases according to research in Japan. (Dr Ryoichi Nakao).

I shudder to think of the evolutionary mechanisms that would drive the development of such as physiologic system. But wait, there are two more bits of amazing woo that I hadn’t heard of before. For one thing, there’s ionized urine therapy. Yep, if urine is good, then ionized urine must be better:

Ionisation of urine can be of benefit as this process separates the acid forming minerals and the alkaline forming minerals. The recycling of the alkaline forming beneficial ingredients of urine for internal use, and the acid forming minerals for external use not only makes a lot of sense, but also gives better results.

And here’s the device:

i-8130603a3f0b77e557a205a4df329fe6-ioniser.jpg

You know, we really should introduce this guy to John Ellis, the guy who claims he can add more electrons to water and change the chemical bond of the H2O molecule. They could make beautiful woo together. Well, maybe not. Running current through urine could get pretty messy, I would imagine.

Finally, did you know that there’s one form of urine that has an amazing amount of power to “balance” emotions? Well, you should. Yes, it’s time to look at plant urine:

New to most delegates at the World Conference was the lecture by Juta Stepanovs about using “Plant Urine” to balance emotional problems.

Plant Urine is the water that the plant, by its root system, filters and lifts from great depths. No external water sources or artificially processed water is used. This ensures the water contains no unfavourable memories of artificial processing. This method to produce the new generation of flower essences is called the Stepanovs method, after Juta Stepanovs, who created this new generation of Flower Remedies.

Because the plant remains wholly intact as the remedy is made, it carries the energy of wholeness, creates healing for the whole person-in mind, body and spirit.

Traditionally flower essences were made with parts from cut flowers or other parts of plant soaked in water and solarised.

However, the newly discovered Stepanovs Method extracts the essence from the live plant itself. The plant is then left unharmed to continue its growth in nature, fully intact. This has a beneficial impact on the plant, the environment, and improves the strength and healing quality of flower essence.

I love it. Woo so woo-ey that even the attendees of the Urine Therapy conference hadn’t been aware of it before! Now that‘s saying something!

It’s utterly ridiculous, of course. Perhaps biologists more familiar with botany could help me out here, but I’m guessing that all Stepanovs is referring to is the water that rises from the roots to the plant via the xylem vessels. All that’s in there is water and some dissolved solutes from the soil. Moreover, it’s not even analogous to urine. Urine is excreted from the bodies of mammals and other vertebrates to get rid of waste solutes and to maintain fluid homeostasis. The xylem is conducting water to the plant to be used by the plant, not out of the plant.

On one last note, I have to point out that I haven’t covered all the kooky ways that urine therapy aficionados like to use their urine, and I happened to run across this site. Whoa, baby! It’s all there: urine enemas, urine vaginal douches, urine ear and eye drops, urine gargles, and my “favorite,” urine massages:

You can use either fresh or old urine. Old urine (4 to 8 days) is generally more effective, but it has a pungent odour. Massaging the whole body is an important complementary treatment when fasting. It nourishes the body through the skin and helps against increased heartbeat.

There’s another thing, I daresay, that massages with old urine would help against: Getting any action from the opposite sex. Funny that they don’t mention that on these websites.

Comments

  1. #1 anonimouse
    February 9, 2007

    I’d have to be an absolute truckload of agony before I’d consider drinking my own pee.

  2. #2 T. Bruce McNeely
    February 9, 2007

    I could recommend this therapy in my role as infection control physician. After gargling urine without rinsing and having an “old urine” massage, you would certainly be protected from infectious disease…

  3. #3 madder
    February 9, 2007

    I would hypothesize that frequent massages with old urine would serve to reduce HIV infections (well, through one transmission route, anyway). As Orac points out, aversion can be pretty powerful.

    Somebody should introduce these guys to the concept of parsimony.

  4. #4 Christophe Thill
    February 9, 2007

    Flower Remedies? Flower essences? Why, but it’s a reference to another wonderful kind of woo, the Bach one! No, not the German guy with a powdered wig hitting very cleverly on an organ keyboard. That Bach was a British doctor. Loved flowers and homeopathy too. Everything is connected, it seems!

  5. #5 Steve Watson
    February 9, 2007

    I’d really love to see the peer-reviewed paper…
    At first glance, I misread that as “pee-reviewed”.
    (I acknowledge you may have used that joke in earlier posts on this subject)

  6. #6 Greco
    February 9, 2007

    The most recent world conference about Urine therapy and holistic healing was held in April/May 2003 in Belo Horizonte Brazil

    The shame.

  7. #7 Thony C.
    February 9, 2007

    Is this a piss take?

  8. #8 natural cynic
    February 9, 2007

    I was so disappointed that Stepanovs wasn’t studying the plant urine collected in the late winter from Acer saccharum. Now that’s yummy!

  9. #9 Fragano Ledgister
    February 9, 2007

    I suspect that you’ve pissed off the practitioners of this form of “medicine”.

  10. #10 Don
    February 10, 2007

    I read the first couple of paragraphs of this post when my pager went off. I’m not on call this week but it continues to make a periodic racket if I don’t look at it so I got up to silence it. Just as I was sitting down again to finish the post, I thought, “Man I should’ve taken a whiz while I was up. Oh well I’ll just finish this post before I get up again.” I didn’t make it.

  11. #11 pkiwi
    February 11, 2007

    Due to time difference, always late to post, but this so much reminded me of Blackadder (the potato episode). And Baldrick’s question is a good one….

    Baldrick: Should we drink each other’s or stick to our own?
    Blackadder: Is Captain Rum joining us for this bring-a-sample party, or is he going to sit
    this one out?
    Percy: Oh no, he’s been swigging his for ages. He says he likes it. Actually, come to think
    of it, he started before the water ran out.

  12. #12 dessessopsid
    February 11, 2007

    Oh, they used to use stale urine to remove lanolin from wool in medieval times (13th Century). Those lucky fullers who got to walk in it all day were clearly eight hundred years ahead of their time. I don’t think I’ve heard anything more disgusting or ridiculous in a long time, urine massages indeed. Thanks.

  13. #13 Brendan
    February 12, 2007

    Late posting!
    That’s not just you. That, I suspect, is all Phoenix hotels. It’s either miserably hot, or abominably cold.
    Also, alchemy + urine = FIRE!
    No, not really, but almost. Phosphorous was first discovered by alchemists messing with fetid urine (which has a golden color), and they managed to get phosphorous, somehow. I realize it’s in there, but how they extracted it is still a mystery to me.

  14. #14 Ruth
    February 13, 2007

    Urine was used for centuries to help fix many vegatable dyes. In the winter, when the snow was blowing around the outhouse, most people had a chamber pot about anyway. People were less picky about smells then. I used to work with thiols in grad school-after awhile they start to smell OK.