The Myth

Is it true that the locals use human urine to treat diseases?

Yes. The use of human urine and other organic waste to treat illnesses is a traditional Vietnamese folk remedy called “Nieu Lieu Phap” (“Urine Therapy”) dating back hundreds of years. Traditionally, only the urine (and fecal matter) of young children, especially boys, was ingested orally or applied as a topical lotion. As to what specific diseases the substances were used for, the answers vary depending on who you ask. Old Vietnamese medicine texts state that the urine of young boys was used by new mothers to replenish blood lost during labor or by women as a remedy for erratic menstruation cycles.

An academic textbook called Tat Den by Ngo Tat To, a well-known Vietnamese author who wrote many classics that are still being taught in Vietnamese schools, states urine was used to resuscitate unconscious people suffering from heat stroke or other diseases. Other prescriptions for the use was as a health tonic for various ailments such as burns, open wounds, bug bites, dry skin, joint ache, AIDS, cancer, etc… There was also a time roughly 20 years ago, when urine from young boys was bought and sold at high prices. However, this is slowly fading and is now only practiced in the deep countryside.

‘Urine therapy’ is actually a global phenomenon and is an acknowledged alternative therapy, although a highly controversial one. It has been practiced by ancient Romans, referenced in the Bible (Proverbs 5:15), and the ancient Sanskrit text Damar Tantra. Urine therapy is also endorsed and practiced as an effective and low cost alternative treatment by various public figures such as the former Prime Minister of India Morarji Desai, the American pop singer Madonna, British actress Sarah Miles, and former Major League Baseball player Moises Alou… to name a few.

It was a foreign influence that revived this dwindling Vietnamese medical tradition when, in the 1980s, an American text endorsing urine therapy as an effective cancer and AIDS cure was brought to Vietnam, translated, published, and distributed by the Da Nang publishing house. This book promptly instigated a wave of urine therapy practitioners and was the root cause behind the Vietnamese 80s “urine craze” (as it has been named by the Vietnamese media). Eventually the book was discredited by both the American Cancer Society and the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Health and Welfare. All copies were confiscated and destroyed due to concern over its negative impact on the mass population of rural Vietnam where it had the most effect.

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