Taken both as a drink and applied externally, urine has been called the world’s oldest medicine. A 5,000-year-old religious Sanskrit text, the Damar Tantra, extolled its benefits. British actress Sarah Miles, in a 2007 newspaper interview, said she had been drinking her own urine for 30 years as immunization against allergies, among other supposed benefits. French ladies bathed in it, and the French wrapped around their necks stockings soaked in it to cure strep throat. Chinese bathed baby faces with it to protect their skin. Mexican farmers in the Sierra Madre prepared poultices of powdered charred corn and urine to help mend broken bones. John Strachan, an Anglican priest and future Bishop of Toronto, describes a rare instance of a Canadian prescription for urine, writing in the Kingston Gazette, March 3, 1812.
The province [Upper Canada] is overrun with self-made physicians, who have no pretensions to knowledge of any kind…
I was lately visiting a young woman ill of a fever, the doctor came in, felt her pulse with much gravity, pronounced her near the crisis—She must take this dose, said the gentleman, pouring out as much calomel [a mildly toxic compound of mercury and chloride, once used as a purgative] on a piece of paper as would have killed two ploughmen. Pray what is this, said I, Doctor?
“Is it not calomel?”
“You mean to divide this into several doses?”
“Not at all.”
“But the patient is weak.”
“No matter, I like to scour well.”
“Do you not weigh carefully so powerful a medicine before you give it?”
“No, sir, I know exactly.”
As the woman was evidently getting better, I threw the calomel out of the window after his departure, and sent her some bark and urine.
Unfamiliar Canadian history stories 005