This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
"Alright everyone, let's start off our day with a nice tall glass of piss."
It's another day in the Facebook group "Urine Therapy: THE REAL UNIVERSAL REMEDY" – a forum I joined exactly a month ago, when I noticed that drinking one's own pee was in the news, as it is again today. It is difficult, as with a lot of the posts, to tell whether this one is sincere. But the vast majority of them seem to be, as do the group's 6,885 thirsty members.
In the Facebook description, the group says that urine therapy (UT) "opens the doors of your soul, healing every part of your being". UT refers not just to the drinking of one's own piss, but also the bathing in it and its consumption through the nostrils. (There is one enthusiastic member who comments on almost every post; no matter what ailment or what sort of advice is being sought, he doesn't waver: drink urine through your nostrils, he says.)
There is no scientific evidence of urine therapy's benefits, but adherents' sacred text – a mid-20th century book by John W Armstrong, called The Water of Life – claims that UT can cure every disease, "except those caused by traumatism or structural disorders". Often, in my conversations with the group's members, they point me in the direction of this book, much as many Christians are quick to usher people towards the Bible. Unlike the Christians in this comparison, a few of the urine therapy devotees also recommend books that they themselves have written.
Every post in the Facebook group is capable of surprising me. Shortly after I join, someone asks the group what they most like about urine therapy. "It gave me more energy, more flexibility, more clarity of mind, more ability to fast for longer and a great understanding of how harmful food is to our baby," someone says. Another adds: "That's what I love about it, it's a feedback loop to measure how ur body feels. Eat beef and fries and ur urine will taste like ass."
Someone else says that they like "the increased vibration. Its very pineal gland cleansing. Its leading to Spiritual enlightenment for me. I had the ceiling open up one morning and love just poured out over me, words cannot describe what I felt. It was real. Yet unreal. Wow. We are sooooo loved."
On the 28th of January, someone asks the group if they can drink someone else's piss because drinking their nephew's "went down so much easier". Someone pops in to comment that the post is being reported and that people are uneasy with it. "Perhaps it was the way you worded it," they say. In early February, someone else says, "I've been fasting (drinking urine) and eating once a day for a couple of weeks now. Yesterday I experienced something very different. My vision started to flicker, it was like I could see another dimension."
To me, drinking your own piss seems truly bleak, and potentially harmful: doctors have warned that "you risk reintroducing dangerous waste products back into your system when you drink pee", and that, once its left your body, urine can become infected with bacteria that could be harmful if ingested. But maybe I'm a narrow-minded square and those qualified doctors are wrong.
To find out why UT's devotees do it, I asked around 30 of the group's members, many of whom ignored me. Luckily, some were happy to explain.
Dave Murphy – known online as "Allegedly Dave" – is 56 years old and from Basildon. When he lived in America he weighed nearly 20 stone and had back and shoulder problems; the asthmatic lungs of a 70-year-old; high blood pressure and cholesterol; nerve damage in his foot; and pain as the result of an operation on his Achilles tendon. As is the case with almost all of my interviewees, he tells me that doctors couldn't improve any of these problems. So, in 2011, he followed the advice of the late Sylvia Chandler, a UT evangelist, who he met at a festival. She had spoken about the benefits of urine therapy, and had brought along a guy whose asthma had cleared up after he downed his own piss. The very next day, Allegedly Dave began using urine therapy, and now feels far better.
"Doctors have no idea about urine therapy, and when shown the results they don't want to know," he says. "As far as I'm concerned, the only good doctor is an ex-doctor." He triumphantly sends me a link to a BBC Radio London interview in which he goes head-to-head with a doctor. The interview. however, is simply a medical professional informing a man who drinks his urine that he should probably stop doing that.
The mistrust of the medical industry is a thread that unites all of the people I speak to. A man called Martin Lara says, "No offence intended, but I think you've been living in limbo-land and not paying attention to what's going on in your surroundings and I hope you wake up before you and your loved ones end up in the hands of doctors." A woman going by "Leeaura-Zen Holistics" says that most doctors "know jack shit about human health". Leah Sampson, a 47-year-old Canadian woman, says, "Expecting medical science to reveal a trade secret is like asking Coca-Cola or KFC to provide its secret recipe and ingredient formula." Christiane Cloutier, who washes her dishes with urine and says UT can cure AIDS, says, "The big pharmaceutical companies would kill anyone who finds a cure for ALL cancers."
The paranoia in the community is alarming. If urine therapy is as effective as people claim, I ask Allegedly Dave why doctors wouldn't simply prescribe it. He tells me that I have a naïve view of the world and that the medical industry is trying to reduce the population by 90 percent. I ask him what he would do if he got cancer tomorrow. He says that this would never happen. If it did, he would follow the alternative health teachings of Dr John Beard, Dr Otto Warburg, Dr Ernst T Krebs and Dr Bruce Lipton. When I look up "Dr Ernst T Krebs", I discover that he was a conman who a) wasn't a doctor, and b) promoted all sorts of bogus treatments for cancer.
One of the Facebook group's administrators, who asks to remain anonymous, says that the group isn't for promoting urine therapy, simply for discussing it. She worries that people will ridicule the group's members. "They conflate urine therapy with anti-vaccination, as urine therapy is easy to ridicule, so they conflate the two and then use it to discredit anti-vaccination," she explains. "While it is true that many people into urine therapy are against vaccination, it is not necessarily the same thing."
I ask her why medical experts wouldn't prescribe urine if it cured almost every disease on Earth. "Medicine is evidence-based. If they haven't got evidence it is effective, they cannot prescribe it," she answers. "I used to be able to be open with my doctor and tell him about urine therapy, and he would take an interest. Now, he just gruffly says, 'Don't drink your urine,' or, 'Don't stick your urine up your nose,' etc."
Lee Poulson, a 34-year-old carer from London, comes across as very sweet in our video call. He was temporarily paralysed in 2012, and found that urine therapy made him feel better. He says UT even helped him grow back part of his finger, sawn off accidentally. "It's a great weight off your mind to know that you're never gonna be sick again when you're doing your urine," he says.
What does he think about the countless numbers of people cured through conventional medicine? "I think it can have its uses. But I think we mistake getting better with suppressing symptoms. That's what I believe," he says. "We're the only species on the planet that eats cooked food. Cooked food is a major cause of mucus and stuff like that. I think everybody's being suppressed – that's what's happening. If you look after a pet – an iguana, a lizard – you're gonna read a book, you're gonna see exactly what it needs. But humans can eat everything – all these alcopops. You can eat it all. Hubba Bubba – you know what I mean, you've seen it. But you can't give that to your lizard!"
Lee's partner in urine therapy, Fabian Farquharson, is 37 years old and from the Midlands. He and Lee now have a talk show called "Alkalise 2 Realise", as well as an aged urine Facebook group. Fabian says he'd like to help homeless people with aged urine therapy. He says that starting urine therapy around two years ago as part of his "spiritual practice" increased his energy. When I ask what treatment he would seek if he were to get cancer, he says he would drink aged urine.
"I used to think the same as you," Lee tells me. "I did. I really did – until I got ill. Everybody that goes on it, it just changes their life. Or it hypnotises you and tells you a load of lies. It's one of the two."
A month after joining the group, I think he's right. It's definitely one of the two.