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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Thais drink urine as alternative medicine

By Jill McGivering
BBC, Bangkok

At a busy and expensive alternative health centre in Bangkok, one patient told of a remarkable cure.

In January she had an operation for colon cancer - but refused the recommended chemotherapy.

Statue in Bangkok's Grand Palace
Supporters say the practice has been followed for hundreds of years

Now she says she has eliminated her cancer through diet, prayer - and daily urine therapy.

"I started drinking my own urine after hearing from a monk that if you have any kind of disease, urine drinking will help," she said.

Her doctor, Dr Banchob, started recommending urine therapy a few months ago, instructing patients to collect their own urine in the morning and drink it untreated, starting with small amounts and progressing to a glassful a day.

He now says he has seen some remarkable cures - from cancer to back pain.

It is a controversial claim and when Dr Banchob recently started organising public seminars on the topic, it caused strong media interest.

"In the ancient times or early days in the rural area, I think Thai people practising this. But very personal. They don't open up their secret to anybody. But after we discuss in the public, there's a reaction from the public, pro and con," Dr Banchob said.

'Not recommended'

But in a modern private hospital in the capital Bangkok - where conventional Western medicine and commercialism are practised - kidney specialist Dr Siribha will not be advising her patients to drink their own urine.

"If somebody asked my opinion, I will warn them not to do that," she said.

Urine is the body's way of getting rid of things it doesn't want, she says, and can contain harmful toxins.

"If something is too much and not useful in our body, then the body will excrete in the urine or in the faeces or in a stool. The body didn't want it any more. So I don't think it's a good idea to re-eat or to re-drink the thing our body don't need it any more," she said.

If I had some sort of incurable disease, I suppose I might try it
Bangkok woman
Supporters of urine drinking say it has been practised in Thailand for hundreds of years.

But officials at the government's Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine say there is no record of the practice.

Deputy Director Dr Pennapa Subcharoen says she has tried to organise research in the past, but can never find enough volunteers willing to take part.

In the meantime, the department does not recommend it.

"Urine treatment is Chinese traditional medicine, and popular in Japan and some traditional believe in India. I'm not sure it's beneficial for the Thai people or not by such method, because there's no paper or no clinical trials about this," she said.

Thailand's general public may still need some convincing. When we went out to talk to shoppers one Saturday, many said that they had heard about urine therapy, but not many were enthusiastic about trying it themselves.

"I've read about it, but I'm not convinced. If I was ill, I'd rather go to the doctor," one man said.

"I've heard about it on television but I only half believe in it. If I had some sort of incurable disease, I suppose I might try it," a woman said.

Many in Thailand's urban middle class are rediscovering traditional and alternative medicine - but urine therapy, it seems, is still to catch on.

Country profile: Thailand
16 Apr 03  |  Country profiles


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