Bao Yufan is 80 years old and is the picture of health, claiming that he has the bone density of a 30-year-old and can still exercise for hours at a time. Bao, who lives in the Chinese city of Wuhan, puts his impressive athleticism down to 23 years of regularly drinking his own piss. He just can't get enough of it, and since 2008 he has been the head of the China Urine Therapy Association, which boasts a membership of 1,000 like-minded urine-sippers who swear by the supposedly restoring powers of wee. Sadly, the Association is yet to be recognized by China's Ministry of Health.
Urine therapy is practiced all over the world, despite there being no medical support for the idea that drinking piss benefits health at all. Still, Bao won't go a day without enjoying a glass of the yellow stuff, claiming that it's caused his hair to grow back where he was once bald, has cured his chronic constipation and made his sores heal.
It seems like a harmless enough delusion, and Bao revels in his role as the top dog in the Chinese urine drinking community. I gave him a call to find out more.
Hi Mr Bao. How did you get into drinking your own urine? During a train journey in 1972 I met an old Hong Kong guy and his son, A'Zhuang. The old guy looked weak, and we stayed in touch. Twenty years later I met A'Zhuang again and he mentioned that his dad seemed younger and younger with a rosy face and black hair, even though he was in his 80s. Before that I assumed he must have died, because previously he looked so sick.
Can we assume that drinking urine was credited for his miraculous health? A'Zhuang said that his father had been drinking urine for the past eight years and that he and his wife drank it too. I was curious to know more so I drank 100ml of my own urine. Why 100ml? Some Japanese people said that if you want to cure a disease you need to drink 200-250ml of urine, and if you want just general health care you just need to drink 50ml. Urine therapy was getting popular in Japan.
How did that first sip go down? I thought it would smell just like it does when you go to the bathroom, but A'Zhuang said that fresh urine didn't stink and tasted a bit salty and bitter. So after holding a cup of urine and looking at it for a while I drank it in one go whilst holding my nose. A'Zhuang was right: it tasted better than some traditional Chinese medicines.
How did it affect you? Two hours after drinking it I felt pain in my stomach. I was about to shit. I rushed to a public toilet and all the gases and waste went out of my body. I knew it was due to the urine. I felt comfortable but here was my worry: if I poo-ed five or six times a day then I would suffer dehydration.
It's certainly a risk. I drank it again the next day and felt a pain in my stomach again. I was cleaning my motorbike and, since my hands were dirty, I resisted the poo. After that day I didn't have any other bad reactions so I continued to drink 100ml a day and found that all my constipation was gone.
But aside from making you almost soil yourself, it doesn't sound like drinking urine had many benefits. Well, my constipation was gone. And I had a canker sore that healed after weeks of drinking urine. I almost gave up after four months since it didn't have any other benefits. My family didn't know I was drinking urine, so if I continued they would be likely to find out, especially my wife, who was fastidious about cleanliness.
Why did you carry on? I found I could see things more clearly. I used to wear glasses to read, but after drinking urine for six months I found no difficulty in reading when I couldn't find my glasses.
How did your family find out about your piss drinking? I spent a long time in the bathroom drinking urine and washing the cup so my wife felt there was something weird going on. She asked me what the use of an extra cup in the bathroom was and I knew it was time to tell her the truth. She was understanding but refused to join me.
How did your habit unfold from there? Nine months later I made a new discovery: something gray on the top of my once-bald head. I realized that the effects of drinking urine came bit by bit. It took me three days to get fully rid of constipation, two weeks to sort my canker sore, half a year for eyesight improvement and nine months before growing hair. I've been drinking urine for 23 years, during which time I have not spent a penny on hospital fees. At the age of 79 I went for a bone density test that showed that my bones were in very good condition, just like a 30-year-old's.
So you don't agree with medical experts who say urine is just waste and could actually harm you if ingested? Not at all. Totally wrong. It's a matter of the conceptual mistake of equaling evacuation or 'end product' to waste. I can't believe they make such mistakes after receiving such high educations. I once collected materials on the components of urine from Japan, Germany, and the UK. The textbooks told us there were 12 elements at most in urine, but I found there were over 90 and my doctor friends said there were 111 or 112. I had a thorough study of the elements, finding that none were poisonous.
This sounds, er, groundbreaking. The only substance I was not sure about [in terms of poison potential] was urea. I sent mail to Germany, the UK, and Japan on what the acceptable amount of urea is for people to take in. Only the head of Japanese Medical Association responded. He said the acceptable amount was 50g.
How do you take your piss? Fresh. Most people leave out the first and the last parts of a peeing session and only take the middle part. It's the same when you go to the hospital for a urine test. The first part just helps you evacuate polluted elements. Especially for women, because their urethral and vaginal openings are very close to each other. And we don't want the last part of a peeing session because there's precipitant in that.
How many cups are you on a day now? That depends. In the first six months I drank 100ml every day, later I drank 600ml, then 800ml, then 1200ml. After realizing it was for general health rather than curing a disease I reduced the amount to 300ml. I also wipe urine on my face, eyes and hands. It's good for skin and can turn grey hair black.
What's your face-wiping routine? I just dip my finger into the urine and apply it on my eyes and face. You can also pour urine into a cup and soak your eyes in it.
Does it not give you a somewhat unique aroma? No. As I have explained, it's fresh.
Do you enjoy the taste? My urine tastes like light tea. Some people say their urine tastes like purified water. I suggest that new urine therapy practitioners eat preserved plums the night before they start so their urine tastes like plum. We can decide on the taste by adjusting our diets. Whether you want apple urine or tea urine, all are available.
Finally, how does one qualify for membership of the China Urine Therapy Association beyond showing that they love drinking piss? First, you must drink urine. Second, you must join voluntarily. Third, an annual member fee of 20 Yuan (£2.15) is charged. And fourth, you must use your real name to promote urine therapy. We have about 1,000 members. I made the last rule a necessity so that people can prove to skeptics that we are not lying about our claims.
All the best with the Association, Mr Bao.