Herd in-stink-t: A brief look at cow dung and cow urine therapy

“Hindu nationalists in India have launched a marketing exercise to promote cow’s urine as a health cure. They say the urine, being sold for 30p a bottle, can be used for ailments ranging from liver disease to obesity and even cancer. The urine is being sold under the label ‘Gift of the Cow’, and is being enthusiastically promoted by the government of Gujarat. The urine is collected every day from almost 600 shelters for rescued and wounded cattle, and is available in about 50 centres in Gujarat. It also comes in tablets or a cream mixed with other traditional medicinal herbs and demand is currently outstripping supply…The healing properties of cow dung and cow’s urine are mentioned in ancient Hindu texts and authorities claim research conducted by doctors at the cow-protection commission indicates the urine can cure anything from skin diseases, kidney and liver ailments to obesity and heart ailments. Although most Indian doctors view the medicines as eccentric, several advocates of the treatment have come forward in Gujarat to support the claims…They include Vidhyaben Mehta, a 65-year-old woman with a cancerous tumour on her chest who has been taking cow’s urine for the past three years. She says she is no longer in pain and has survived in spite of medical predictions that she would die two years ago” (News report, India Divine website, February 17, 2002).

As regular readers of my blog will know, I’m not averse to writing about matters concerning bodily waste products (i.e., urine and faeces) in that I have covered urophilia (sexual arousal to urine), coprophilia (sexual arousal to faeces), zoocoprophilia (sexual arousal to animal faeces), copraphagia (eating human and/or animal faeces), and the making of jenkem (fermenting human urine and faeces as a way of getting high and intoxicated). Today’s blog takes a brief look at the use of cow urine and cow dung for allegedly medicinal purposes.

As far as I am aware, the only country in the world that uses cow dung and cow urine to treat disease and illness is India. Much of the reasoning behind the use of cow waste products to treat illness is rooted in Hindu beliefs about the cow. Many of you reading this will be aware of the ‘sacred cow’ in Hindu religion. However, as a number of articles I have read on Hindu culture point out, Hindus don’t actually worship cows (in the sense that they worship a deity), but ‘respect, honour and adore’ them because cows give more than they take, and for Hindus, cows symbolize all other animals. In Hindu religion, the cow also symbolizes dignity, strength, endurance, maternity and selfless service. As one article I read noted:

“To the Hindu, the cow symbolizes all other creatures. The cow is a symbol of the Earth, the nourisher, the ever-giving, undemanding provider. The cow represents life and the sustenance of life. The cow is so generous, taking nothing but water, grass and grain. It gives and gives and gives of its milk, as does the liberated soul give of his spiritual knowledge. The cow is so vital to life, the virtual sustainer of life, for many humans. The cow is a symbol of grace and abundance. Veneration of the cow instils in Hindus the virtues of gentleness, receptivity and connectedness with nature…The generous cow gives milk and cream, yogurt and cheese, butter and ice cream, ghee and buttermilk. It gives entirely of itself through sirloin, ribs, rump, porterhouse and beef stew. Its bones are the base for soup broths and glues. It gives the world leather belts, leather seats, leather coats and shoes, beef jerky, cowboy hats – you name it”.

All over India, the cow is honoured, garlanded and given special feedings at festivals (including the Gopashtama annual festival). But where does the use of cow urine and cow dung come in? Basically, the five products (pancagavya) of the cow – milk, curds, ghee butter, urine and dung — are all used in Hindu worship (puja), in addition to extreme penance rites. As another article I read explains:

“The milk of the family cow nourishes children as they grow up, and cow dung (gobar) is a major source of energy for households throughout India. Cow dung is sometimes among the materials used for a tilak – a ritual mark on the forehead. Most Indians do not share the western revulsion at cow excrement, but instead consider it an earthy and useful natural product…[Over time] Hindus stopped eating beef. This was mostly like for practical reasons as well as spiritual. It was expensive to slaughter an animal for religious rituals or for a guest, and the cow provided an abundance of important products, including milk, browned butter for lamps, and fuel from dried dung”.

As a result of Hinduism’s reverence of the cow, cow urine and cow dung has become big business in India’s Nagpur region. Scientific research into the health benefits of cattle waste products is being carried out by Go-vigyan, a research and development organization. Some of the products that Go-vigyan makes (and I’m not making this up) include cow urine shampoo and cow dung toothpaste.

Cow dung and urine are used in the treatment of several disorders including renal disorders, leucoderma, arthritis, and hyperlipidemia. It’s also been claimed that panchagavya products show excellent agricultural applications. For instance, cow urine and neem leaves have been combined to make pesticides and insect repellent. The best selling medicine in the Nagpur region is Gomutra Ark, which is nothing more than distilled cow urine (Go=Cow, Mutra=Urine, Ark=medicine). Those who take it believe it can prevent and/or cure anything from the common cold to cancer, tuberculosis, and AIDS.

If you go onto YouTube, there are quite a few short video clips showing urine being massaged from cows and dung being collected in cattle sheds. Skilled cow handlers massage and encourage the cows to urinate. There are also clips of Indian women making cow dung soap. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t watched it with my own eyes. You can also check out photos of Indian women undergoing cow dung therapy at the Science Photo Library.

It’s difficult to assess the extent to which there is a placebo effect operating here but there’s no doubting some people’s beliefs that cow dung and urine are miracle cures for a wide range of illnesses and diseases. There’s even a dedicated webpage of testimonials from people who claim they have been cured of their diseases (e.g., AIDS, cancer, heart problems, etc.) by cow urine. I did come across a 2009 academic paper by Dr. R.S. Chauhan and colleagues in The Indian Cow: The Scientific and Economic Journal. They reported that cow urine had been granted U.S. Patents (No. 6896907 and 6,410,059) for its medicinal properties “particularly for its use along with antibiotics for the control of bacterial infection and fight against cancers. Through extensive research studies a cow urine distillate fraction, popularly known as ‘ark’, has been identified as a bioenhancer of the activities of commonly used antibiotics, anti-fungal and anti-cancer drugs”.

The authors reviewed the literature on the use of cow urine for medicinal purposes and reported that cow urine therapy provides promising results for the treatment of cancer. They noted that the anti-cancer potential of cow urine therapy was “reflected by several case reports, success stories and practical feedback of patients for the treatment of cancer”. They claimed that cow urine “enhances the immunocompetence and improves general health of an individual; prevent the free radicals formation and act as anti-aging factor; reduces apoptosis in lymphocytes and helps them to survive; and efficiently repairs the damaged DNA, thus is effective for the cancer therapy”. They also claimed experiments (presumably done in India) proved that cow urine above all other urine was the most medically effective as “scientific validation of cow urine therapy is required for its worldwide acceptance and popularity”. I remain open to the idea that cow urine may be of medical benefit, but remain to be convinced on what I have read to date.


Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Chauhan, R.S., Dhama, K. & Lokesh, S. (2009). Anti-cancer property of cow urine. The Indian Cow: The Scientific and Economic Journal, 5(19), 22-58.

Joseph, M. (2004). Cattle, the research catalyst. Wired, November 16. Located at: http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2004/11/65717

Go-Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra (undated). Medical products development. Located at: http://www.govigyan.com/medicalproducts.htm

India Yogi (undated). Why is the cow ‘sacred’? Located at: http://www.indiayogi.com/content/symbolism/answer.aspx?id=3

Nair, R.J. (2010). Cow dung, urine as medicine? Discovery News, March 2. http://news.discovery.com/human/health/cow-dung-medicine-spiritual-india.htm

National Hindu Students Forum (2004). Why do Hindus worship the cow? Located at: http://www.nhsf.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=526 (reprinted from an article in Hinduism Today)

Religion Facts (2012). The cow in Hinduism. December 21. Located at: http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/things/cow.htm

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. In 2013, he was given the Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 800 research papers, five books, over 150 book chapters, and over 1500 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 3500 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on October 22, 2013, in Case Studies, Religion, Strange therapies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Yes I strongly agree to your views and acknowledge the fact that these notions about cow dung and urine represent Hindu spiritualism! For Hindus cow is sacred. The poor animal is considered one of their Gods so one can imagine their state of minds when it comes to Gow Mata as its commonly known! So expecting or believing anything about cow dung and cow urine’s role in medical science is a sheer waste of time. And getting into an argument about such false claims will really not have any positive outcome whatsoever.

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