Urine is the liquid by-product of the body that is secreted by the kidneys through a process called urination. These by-products, many rich in nitrogen, are toxic to people if left in the body. Most people look at urine as something that you don’t want to keep, but you might be surprised that throughout history, man has used urine for several different items. WARNING: This article may be unsettling for some. Urine has some very odd uses throughout the history of mankind!
A popular use of urine in Asia is called Urine Therapy. To put it bluntly, people drink their own urine! They consider it a cure-all for colds, flus, and gout. By drinking the first urine of the day, you can count on boosting your immunity to disease. The process is also used to cure hangovers. I am pretty sure if I drank my own urine, I would throw up any alcohol found in my system!
World War One
During World War One, chemical warfare was new to the battlefront. Chlorine gas, mustard gas, and phosgene created a great fear amongst the soldiers of the trenches. To combat this new type of waging war, new equipment was provided to the troops: the gas mask. The mask forms a sealed cover over the nose and mouth, but may also cover the eyes and other vulnerable soft tissues of the face. While the mask protected you, there had to be some sort of filter to absorb the poisonous gasses. It was found that an effective way to do this was to urinate on the filter to keep the poison gas out! When the gas would be shot out towards the troops, the gas masks would come out, men would urinate on the filters and put them in the masks to breath.
During the Renaissance, men of science practiced alchemy, even though it was considered to be blasphemous by the Church of Rome. Some of these men, like Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, and others thought that there was a way to turn urine into gold. While they were unsuccessful in making this transformation, the science gained through this study of urine led to the discovery of white phosphorus, which was discovered by the German alchemist Hennig Brand in 1669 when he was distilling fermented urine. In 1773 the French chemist Hilaire Rouelle discovered the organic compound urea by boiling urine dry. Urea is used today in agriculture, automobiles, adhesives and explosives.
The Aztecs of ancient Mexico found their own use for urine. As an antiseptic for cleaning out wounds. Where this may sound completely disgusting – and it is, because it was not necessarily your own urine – it did have some sort of redeeming factor. Urine will prevent infection because it is a sterile fluid. On the battlefield, the Aztecs would pour urine on an open wound if they couldn’t get the wound stitched up right away. The theory was that it would keep dirt and other contaminants out of the wound.
The Romans were connoisseurs of urine. They used it for everything. Urine was used for tanning hides, cleaning, and doing other leather work. Another big use of urine was for cleaning teeth! Urine was used as a tooth whitener. Since urine can vary based upon what a person eats, urine from different countries was often more prized than other places. According to ancient scholars, the best urine for whitening teeth came out of Spain. That’s pretty disgusting that they actually thought one urine was more prized over another! The Emperor Nero even instituted a tax on urine. Since people sold their urine to farriers (people who tanned leather), they would be taxed for their waste. This tax was continued by Nero’s successor, Vespasian, to whom is attributed the Latin saying Pecunia non olet (money doesn’t smell).