India is home to one of the world's oldest medical systems - Ayurveda. This system of medicine not only utilizes herbal drugs but also incorporates various metals and minerals and natural substances, including those derived from animals. A combination of all these variety of resources are used as ingredients in several medicines. They also form exclusive part of many treatment protocols as well. Each of them have a specific set of uses or a specific target site for its action, as expounded by the ancient sages.
Though Ayurveda is immensely rich with the enormous knowledge of nature- based medicine, it is a fact that the true potential of this ancient wisdom is still not exhaustively explored. In the current scenario where the world is falling prey to various pandemics and emergence of newer mutated strains of viruses and drug resistant pathogenic bacteria, the time tested knowledge from this traditional medicine should be the need of the hour to modulate immunity and to preserve the health and quality of life of the affected people as well as of the vulnerable population.
Ayurveda and Animal Products
Many have a misconception that Ayurveda is entirely a herbal system of medicine. It is to be kept in mind that Ayurveda is a Medical System and maintaining health and curing diseases are the only objectives. So if required, even animal products are used in Ayurveda. In fact, among the different classifications of raw material sources in Ayurveda, animal products hold a significant position. They are categorized and described in great detail.
In general, animal products are referred to as jāṅgama dravya in Ayurveda textbooks. Apart from milk, eggs and meat, even urine of certain animals are described and their therapeutic benefits are elaborated. One among that is the much controversial gomūtraṃ or Cow Urine.
Cow, a sacred animal
It is almost instinctual for man to impart divinity to anything that unconditionally benefits humanity. It is also common knowledge that cow is considered sacred in India. In Indian Mythology, there is a celestial animal called Kāmadhenu or the 'Cow that bestows anything the owner desires'. In a way, a cow is just that for the largely agrarian society of India. Almost all products or parts from cow have their own benefits and are not harmful to us in normal use. In Ṛgveda, gomūtraṃ is compared to 'amṛt' - the divine elixir of eternal life itself!
Cow Urine in Ayurveda Literature
In fundamental textbooks of Ayurveda like Caraka Saṃhitā, Suśruta Saṃhitā and Aṣṭāṅgasaṃgrahaḥ, cow urine is mentioned as an effective medicinal substance with a multitude of therapeutic uses. This is further established in subsequent literary works like Bhāvaprakāśaḥ, which states so:
sarveṣvapi ca mūtreṣu gomūtraṃ guṇatoʃdhikam |
Among all kinds of urine (mentioned in the textbook) cow urine is the most rich in beneficial properties.
This text also gives an elaborate description about properties, importance and therapeutic uses of gomūtraṃ as Follows:
Heating in potency (uṣna vīrya)
Alkaline in nature (kṣāra guṇa)
Alleviates kapha and vāta
Cough, breathing difficulties, diarrhea, mouth and eye diseases, diseases due to infectious organisms, digestive troubles, constipation, urinary problems, jaundice, itching, skin diseases etc.
Collection and Processing
There are very stringent methods followed in collection, processing and storage of cow urine. The health of the cow, the hygiene of the cowshed, the person collecting the urine and the container used for collection and storage are ensured at all stages.
Mainly gomūtraṃ is collected and used for medicinal purposes in two different ways:
1. Collected afresh in the morning when the cow voids first stream of urine after night. 2. Collected and preserved as gomūtra arka which is a product made by distillation of fresh and clean cow urine.
Cow Urine in Modern Research
Based on evaluation using current technologies, cows urine is listed to have 95% water, 2.5% urea, minerals, 24 types of salts, hormones, and 2.5% enzymes. It also contains iron, calcium, phosphorus, carbonic acid, potash, nitrogen, ammonia, manganese, iron, sulphur, phosphates, potassium, urea, uric acid, amino acids, enzymes, cytokine and lactose.
Various researches done on cow urine suggests on its antimicrobial efficacy in comparison to standard drugs like Ofloxacin, Cefpodoxime, Gentamicin etc. against a vast number of pathogenic bacteria. In addition to these, cow urine is also proven to have antimicrobial activity against some multi drug resistant strains like E coli and Klebsiella pneumonia.
It's already proven that early morning first voided cows urine is more sterile and have more macro and micro nutrients along with other enzymes/ urea content could be more effective..Comparatively, the samples collected freshly were found to have more antimicrobial activity than distilled cow urine.
Further studies also proved that it has anthelmintic, anti-fungal (comparable to amphotericin B) and anti neoplastic action and also acts as a bio enhancer of certain antibiotic drugs. Owing to the antioxidant properties of cow urine, environmental stress induced DNA damage can also be possibly prevented. Taking into account these properties and the immunity enhancing nature of cow urine, it's therapeutic utilization in the management of infectious diseases by preventing the development of resistance, sustaining the immunity and enhancing the effect of standard antibiotics should be seriously considered in the current scenario.
Different fractions of cow urine possess antimicrobial activity and germicidal effects due to the presence of certain volatile and non-volatile components. Presence of urea, creatinine, carbolic acid, phenols, calcium, and manganese has strongly explained the antimicrobial and germicidal properties of cow’s urine. Presence of amino acids and urinary peptides may enhance the bactericidal effect by increasing the bacterial cell surface hydrophobicity. Cows urine enhances the phagocytic activity of macrophages. Higher amounts of phenols in fresh cows urine than cow urine distillate makes it more effective against microbes.
The importance of resorting to traditional medicine is justified because it is the best option available to treat and prevent these diseases without breaking down the body's natural defense mechanisms and causing secondary diseases.
- As an Antibiotic - Study done by the Department of Medicine & Pharmacology, Government medical college.
(Ref: 1. Randhawa GK, Sharma R. Chemotherapeutic potential of cow urine: A review. J Intercult Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Apr-Jun;4(2):180-6. doi: 10.5455/jice.2015022210032. Epub 2015 Mar 7. PMID: 26401404; PMCID: PMC4566776.
2. Ahuja, Anami & KUMAR, PUSHPANDER & VERMA, ANKIT & TANWAR, RANJEET. (2012). Antimicrobial Activities of Cow Urine Against Various Bacterial Strains. International Journal of Recent Advances in Pharmaceutical Research. ISSN: 2230-9306. 84-87.)
- As an excellent germicide - Study done at Department of Biochemistry, Pharmacology & Toxicology.
(Ref: Mohanty, Ipsita & Senapati, M.R. & Jena, D. & Palai, S.. (2014). Diversified uses of cow urine. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 6. 20-22.)