Wiping Your Face with Urine, and Other Natural Delights


Image credit: Ella Novak, used under Creative Commons license.

I've been known to have a slight toilet obsession. From the selective flush to the idea that male pee is better than female for composting, I maintain that how we deal with our human waste is an important factor in our search for sustainability. Richard Sugg would seem to agree, and he's compiled a pretty impressive article on how pee has been used over the centuries. Some examples are downright terrifying. From beauty treatments to infant skin care (yes, folks used to wipe their babies faces with wet diapers), the use of urine has ranged from the relatively benign to the rather terrifying. Here's more from Sugg on how and why urine was used in surgery:

"Other cases could be far more urgent. In about 1550 the Italian doctor Leonardo Fioravanti saw a man's nose sliced off in an argument, and promptly urinated on the fallen organ before stitching it back on. Henry VIII's surgeon Thomas Vicary recommended that all battle wounds should be washed in urine; and others advised the same for potentially gangrenous ulcers, or poisonous bites and stings. Being sterile when it leaves the body, urine was then a far safer cleaning agent than the kind of water typically available."

I do have friends whose parents would use urine as a cure for chapped lips, so none of this is particularly far fetched. As Sugg goes on to note, urea remains an important ingredient in medicinal skin creams.

Whether or not I'm going to start using urine as a beauty treatment remains to be seen (I suspect not), but it is one more reminder that we flush away precious resources at our peril. After all, urine provides a great fertilizer and pee may even one day power our cars.

More on the Uses of Urine
Pee Power! Recycling Urine into Fertilizer
The Selective Flush: If It's Yellow Let It Mellow
Compost Conundrum: Is Male Pee Better Than Female Pee?

Tags: Agriculture | Cosmetics | Farming | Toilets

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