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According to an Islam Q&A site, the prophet Mohammad prescribed camel's milk and urine to cure illness.

It goes on to claim there are benefits from drinking camel's urine including:

Camel’s urine is efficacious in the treatment of skin diseases such as ringworm, tinea and abscesses, sores that may appear on the body and hair, and dry and wet ulcers.

Camel’s urine brings the secondary benefits of making the hair lustrous and thick, and removing dandruff from the scalp.

Scientific experiments have proven that camel’s urine has a lethal effect on the germs that cause many diseases.

Camel’s urine is also efficacious in the treatment of swelling of the liver and other diseases such as abscesses, sores that appear on the body and toothache, and for washing eyes.

The list goes on.

Is there any scientific evidence on the efficacy of camel urine against any medical condition?

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I'll let you try, and report back :) –  Benjol Sep 21 '12 at 13:44
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If it kills you then you no long have to worry about maintaining your health. So in that fashion it could be a benefit. There is no real claim to be skeptical of here... –  Chad Sep 24 '12 at 14:25
    
It gives the camels a much-needed laugh. –  Larry OBrien Jan 29 '13 at 18:33
    
I think you are taking the piss. ;-) –  matt_black Dec 30 '13 at 22:41
    
The claim doesn't mention drinking urine at all. –  Flimzy Apr 10 at 18:31

3 Answers 3

Well, to some extent, but probably not when drinking the stuff.

Urine contains urea, which is used pharmaceutically as a rehydrating (water-binding) and keratolytic agent, e. g. in the treatment of skin disorders that cause scaly, dry skin, or to assist in removing skin detritus.

So the presumed usefulness in diseases such as ringworm, tinea, sores, dandruff etc. appears at least understandable, although it would be a purely symptomatic treatment.

Some research also appears to indicate that urea possesses some antimicrobial activity and that it enhances the skin barrier function against external factors like bacteria/fungi.

But this is only for external, topical application, not for drinking.

Now, why camel urine, not human urine? Well, this is all guesswork, but camels are able to concentrate their urine much higher than humans (which makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint if you're a desert animal), so you'd get a higher dose from camel urine than from your homemade stuff. But if you don't have a camel around and don't mind the social disadvantages of this treatment, human urine should also work to some extent.

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Has camel's urine been studied scientifically? Yes, it has, although I only found preliminary studies and nothing that would suggest it was useful in clinical or practical circumstances.

Anti-bacterial/anti-fungal

This paper seems inspired by the Arab tradition of using camel urine for alternative treatment. It found that high concentrations of camels urine inhibited the growth of some fungi and bacteria (in vitro - this isn't a result that can be immediately applied to drinking urine).

(The author is affiliated with the "Faculty of Science for Girls" in Saudi Arabia University - a stark reminder of the cultural differences compared to the West.)

I only found a couple of cites of this paper, one of which was relevant, in that it delved deeper:

Again, this work was religiously inspired. It found the effect was time-bounded, and suggests the mechanism may be the alkalinity of the camel's urine. In the discussion, it references other studies of the anti-fungal nature of camel's urine.

It concludes that camel's urine was "satisfactory for using as a medicinal treatment in the field of medical therapy." I would counter that these in vitro studies show no such thing: efficacy in vivo, safety and a comparison to other treatments haven't been looked at.

Anti-platelet

There is a paper from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. If I was nervous about citing the religiously inspired science in low-quality journals above, you can understand why I haven't bothered to properly assess this one. Suffice to say, they claim to have "the first scientific evidence of the mechanism of the presumed therapeutic properties of camel urine" with respect to anti-platelets, but only from lactating or pregnant camels.

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Yes.

While camel urine (CU) is widely used in the Arabian Peninsula to treat various diseases, including cancer, its exact mechanism of action is still not defined. The objective of the present study is to investigate whether camel urine has anti-cancer effect on human cells in vitro.

[...]

Camel urine showed cytotoxicity against various, but not all, human cancer cell lines, with only marginal effect on non-tumorigenic epithelial and normal fibroblast cells epithelial and fibroblast cells. Interestingly, 216 mg/ml of lyophilized CU inhibited cell proliferation and triggered more than 80% of apoptosis in different cancer cells, including breast carcinomas and medulloblastomas. Apoptosis was induced in these cells through the intrinsic pathway via Bcl-2 decrease. Furthermore, CU down-regulated the cancer-promoting proteins survivin, β-catenin and cyclin D1 and increased the level of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21. In addition, we have shown that CU has no cytotoxic effect against peripheral blood mononuclear cells and has strong immuno-inducer activity through inducing IFN-γ and inhibiting the Th2 cytokines IL-4, IL-6 and IL-10.

CONCLUSIONS: CU has specific and efficient anti-cancer and potent immune-modulator properties in vitro.

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Welcome to Skeptics!. In vitro means "in a petri dish". Taking such results and telling people it is safe or recommended to consume is both dangerous and unethical. –  Oddthinking Apr 2 at 2:21
    
Inevitably, there's an appropriate XKCD for this. –  Ladadadada Apr 22 at 19:29

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