The Surprisingly Useful Medicines Hiding in Pee

Maybe you don’t think much about the 1-2
liters of urine you flush down the toilet every day. But when you send it swirling down the drain, you could be getting rid of liquid gold. Because there’s molecular goodness hidden
in that pale yellow puddle, which has been used to treat everything from
basic infections to menopause. That’s right: there are medicines in your
pee. When it makes its way out of you, about 95% of the volume of your urine is water. Of the remaining 5 percent, about half is
urea, a molecule your body uses to get rid of nitrogen. There are also some extra ions like chloride
and sodium that you don’t need. But the remaining one or two percent is where
things get really interesting. That’s where scientists have found trace
amounts of useful stuff ready for the taking. For example, there was a time that doctors
saved their patients’ urine so they could extract penicillin from it. During World War II, the newly-discovered
drug was in short supply. By June of 1942, the amount of penicillin
in the United States was only enough to treat ten patients. But doctors realized early on that when someone
took penicillin, anywhere from 40-99% of it was excreted into
their urine unchanged. That, and the severe shortage of penicillin, led doctors to collect and crystallize their
patients’ urine to extract the drug. A lot of other medications pass through the
body the same way, because it’s part of your kidneys’ job
to flush out foreign substances. So doctors could do this for lots of things,
in theory. They don’t, though, because manufacturing
them is generally cheaper and less gross. Even penicillin recycling was short-lived by the end of the war, production of the drug
had ramped up, and doctors stopped hoarding their patients’
pee. But pretty soon, they started extracting something
else from it: hormones. In the late 1940s, an Italian scientist successfully
extracted two hormones called FSH and LH, that work together to induce ovulation, where
an ovary releases an egg. A decade later, a medical student named Bruno
Lunenfeld wanted to turn these hormones into a treatment
for infertility, but he had a problem. It was going to take thousands of liters of
pee to isolate enough of the hormones for trials. And where do you even get that much pee?! After a few false starts, Lunenfeld was put
in touch with the Catholic Church, which offered up the services of their nuns. Soon, the pharmaceutical factory had a steady
supply of fresh urine. Each treatment required about ten days’
worth of urine from ten nuns, but it worked: in 1962, the first baby conceived with the
help of Lunenfeld’s drug was born. About two dozen followed over the next two
years, and demand for the drug skyrocketed. The treatment continued to come from pee for
decades, until chemists figured out how to make the
hormones synthetically in the mid-1990s. But you can still be prescribed other pee-derived
hormones today. Estrogen, which is used to treat the symptoms
of menopause, was also originally isolated from urine the urine of people who were pregnant. But it was difficult, and expensive, to get
it that way, so pharmacologists turned to pregnant horses
instead, which pee out way more urine each day. The drug, called Premarin, is still widely
used. And yes, it’s still made from pregnant horse
pee. There’s also another medically useful thing
you can find in pee: stem cells. Stem cells are special because they can become
many different types of cells, which makes them incredibly useful for medical
research. And in 2014, scientists managed to extract
them from pee. Only 0.2% of the cells in urine are stem cells, so researchers can only pull 5-10 unique stem
cells from every 100 milliliters of pee. But they are there. Like the other cells in urine, they probably
slough off from the tubing in your kidneys while your urine makes its
way to your bladder, but we don’t know for sure. And while that might seem like very few cells,
once they’re isolated, they divide quickly, making billions of cells
in a couple of weeks. Urine-derived stem cells are great because
they’re easy to get without doing anything invasive at all as opposed to other types of stem cells, which are usually extracted from things like
bone marrow or blood. Doctors are hoping to use the stem cells from
urine to rebuild damaged portions of the urinary tract, since
that’s where they’re from. By making changes to their genetic code, researchers can also reprogram these stem cells to act
like other types of cells, which they can use to study things like neurological
and cardiac diseases. Which is not bad for cells you normally just
flush away. But just because there can be lots of useful
stuff in pee doesn’t mean you should start collecting
and drinking your own urine. Urinotherapy is not actual medicine. Though its proponents suggest drinking urine
can cure cancer, or smearing it on your skin can cure acne, let’s be clear: none of that is backed by
science. Your pee does contain compounds, hormones, and cells that can be used medically, but that doesn’t mean drinking it will cure
you! Plus, it also contains a lot of other stuff
you don’t need to be drinking. So it’s probably best if you don’t try
to mine your liquid gold at home. Leave it to the experts! Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! If all this made you want to learn more about
urine, and why wouldn’t it… you might want to check out our video about
why your pee might be green. Or purple. Or black! Because there’s a whole strange rainbow
of colors that can come out of you. It’s beautiful!


  1. Thank you Roman Catholics for more babies ( why am I now remembering a certain scene out of Monty Pythons The Meaning of Life right now?) does this mean "every pee is sacred, every pee is good" as well?💦💦💦💧☮️🐾

  2. also, alcohol and other narcotic substances including caffeine and certain medicines and foods can make the urine unusable for certain purposes. The reason nuns were probably chosen is because they were free from these substances. If you want to donate your pee to science then you're gonna have to pretty healthy and clean living. Also, depending on how it's collected you can contaminate it so it's best to be collected in a lab where it's guaranteed to be sterile.

  3. Science videos should use "urine" and "urinate." This isn't junior high; stop saying "pee" in science videos!

    PS: Many science videos also need to learn the difference between "further" and "farther!"

  4. It's just like the Tide pods! They are telling us not to have them to keep it for themselves! They don't want everyone to live as long as them by drinking your own pee!

  5. You failed to mention the thousands of foals that are discarded every year once they are born from the pregnant mares used to collect the urine. You also didn't talk about the horrible abuse these horse moms endure for their entire lives, only being able to stand in one spot, becoming pregnant over and over, then having their foals immediately taken from them.

  6. Are we gonna talk about how big of a problem those compounds pose to water treatment and the watershed? Those externalities should really be factored into the valuation of drug reclamation, which could actually make it financially viable. #ReduceReuseRecycle

  7. In ancient India, medical practitioners used to treat few diseases with morning pee and cow pee successfully. And no, do not drink your pee.

  8. Well this was an eye opener ~ 1) I wonder if the Catholic Nuns knew about the experiment (I mean producding babies is not exactly the vow they took when they became a Nun); 2) Estrogen medication is still made with horse urine? Really?? In this day and age you would think science could manufacture that! I am going to reread the ingredients in my estrogen medication and have a little talk with my doctor! 3) If I am flushing GOLD down the toilet ~ where do I sign up for the exchange? I will happily save, drive, and deliver my precious metals for cash everyday of the year if it’s going to make me a good living, and of course, in the name of science! 😉

  9. Id love to see a vid on visual snow or static ive experienced it for as long as i can remember but i wanna know why it happens and stuff.

  10. Illuminating. Gross. Intriguing. Erotic? This video evoked a blooming rainbow of feelings. Though I could only express it by giggling like a school girl.

  11. This might be a crazy question, but if antibiotics are excreted in urine, does that contribute to creating more antibiotic-resistant bacteria out there in the wild?

  12. And here I thought that "Alternative Medicine" couldn't get any more Stupid… I'm going to have a sit… I feel light headed…

  13. Another interesting effect of pee: The Tribesmen of Southern Africa, for thousands of years have encountered spitting cobras while hunting or foraging. If one of them got to close to the snakes, they would suffer from getting venom in their eyes. When this happens, the fellow members of the tribe lay the victim down on the ground, whip it out, and urinate directly in his eyes. The urine has a way of neutralizing the cobras venom, and the victim walks away unscathed.

  14. Considering the pollution that unmetabolized medications in our urine causes, I would say we should be collecting it whether or not we plan to reuse it.

  15. Human pee is also identical in ratios to regular liquid fertiliser. So that's 500litres of high quality liquid fertiliser per year per person that we're flushing into the oceans & then trying to replace with the limited supply of mined phosphorous. Us humans are dumb sometimes! We need to start using it to grow our food

  16. Adopted a "retired" Premarin mare once. She was psychologically damaged by all that cruelty-free work. She got a little better over the years…but not much.

  17. please, i just need to know. i have google searched for to long. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE WITH THE NUMBER ON HIS SHIRT?!?!?! i have looked it up numerous times and i just…. i need to know

  18. So all of those peeing baby statues have been right all along … The "Fountain of Youth" is in youthful urine. lol

  19. If all of the money that was spent fighting for and against fetal stem cell research was spent funding research into using people's own stem cells to treat them we would have treatments for a lot more diseases and conditions than we do now.

  20. fact fun, Chinese had been using pee as medicines for thousand of years, even my grandma used my own pee, she boiled all the water out of my pee, crushed them into powder and mixed some Chinese medicines into it, it can treat infected wound/fever/pain…
    furthermore, they believe only children pee are useful.

  21. All humans drink urine every day for 9 months, unless they are born prematurely.
    Urine is good for the soil. Dilute it to 10%. The urea is useful. Its wasted when it is sent to the sewers.
    Drug companies should pay for cleaning up our water supply of things that can't be removed by water and sewage treatment plants.
    If we captured urine as a resource, we could save a lot of expense and trouble downstream, so to speak.
    You forgot to mention that most urine is relatively sterile, unless the source has a urinary tract infection, and in a pinch it can be used to clean wounds safely in an environment that has unsafe water. But only if you use it right away. It goes off pretty quickly because of the nutrients in it. And yes, you can drink urine if you are in need of water, since most of it is water. So if you are in the desert and run out of water, drink your urine. Animals do it all the time. Particularly, fish, and all mammalian fetuses, including humans.
    The urine that is bad is any that is mixed with feces. That's the worst way to handle both urine and feces. It makes both of them much more dangerous and hard to utilize safely. Yet this is what we do with it. I think this practice is inefficient and outdated.
    Particularly, using fresh drinking water to transport this mixture is a very inefficient use of resources.

  22. On start I admit there is no evidence based medicine on using urine based cosmetics to treat acne or any other skin disorder. There are also no scientific evidence that using parachute while jumping from 1000 meters is better then not using one. No real trial was done and current opinion is based on authorities and scientific societies opinions. So…
    Urea present in big amounts in urine is used in very nice cosmetics. It regulates skin moisture and effects keratinisation. Urine also changes skins ph and that effect skins biom. There are no direct evidence that using urine to treat acne or "semlly legs" is effective, causa nobody has done proper trial. That is causa such trial is not cheap and probably urine based cosmetics work only in some cases. On the other hand proposed therapies with antibiotics and antifungals are usually effective only for a period of time (symptoms return despite using drugs in different, drugrisistent form) . Antibiotics or retinoids are also highly invasive comparing to urine based cosmetics. Especially taken parenterally, but also in lotions, suspension many times with steroids. List of side effects is long, differs from drug to drug, but always the probability of them is getting higher with time of treatment. In case urine based cosmetics the treatment is not that aggressive, but in my opinion it is much safer. Of course I have no trial based evidence to cover that steatment, cause like i said there are no trials. So I'm not convinced that unadvising urine based selftreatment for acne or "smelly legs" is rational. While there are no trials, we do not have evidence that it works, but we have no evidence or even suspections that it is dangerous and theoretical and literature study of subject are promising.

  23. That means that they were overdosing them with approximately 40-90% more that they should have received. How things never change.

  24. Let's ask Cody from Cody's Lab to make a video on how to extract gold from urine, if he didn't do it already…

  25. Nothing new… Hindus have been suggesting pee as a medicine for eons… Bovine urine as well as Human… look it up…

  26. I'm 52 and been doing Ut for 3 years and now I'm good health. Btw it is so cruel what they do with the horses just kept in a stall all the time with a tube going into the bladder when the horse gives birth it starts over again until the horse is no more use or it dies, very sad when all the women needs to do is drink her own pee.

  27. for estrogen just get it from tomatoes it is so much better and probably easier

    thx for this ha bisky vid I am getting my new laptop tomorrow so I can go back to my regularly watching youtubeland

  28. I've seen some other people mention it, but Premarin collection is terrible. The mare only produces it (in large enough quantities) in the first few months of pregnancy. After that the foal is aborted, usually by inserting a sharp object. Mare aborts and is impregnated again. This continues for a while until the mare dies of this abuse. Usually these animals are living skeletons. Some countries are going to ban the use and import of the drug and some have already done it.

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