It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do; we all have to pee. And while urine is such a normal process in our bodies, many people don’t even care for it. And why should they?
Well, there’s more to urine than you can see or smell. Urine’s not just waste from your body; it’s actually a useful tool that can help you clean your clothes, make gunpowder, and even reveal the sex of a baby. Don’t believe me? Here are nine amazing facts about urine.
9. When Recycled, Urine Is Used as Drinking Water by Astronauts
I know it might be shocking to learn that water is scarce in places like the International Space Station. So, when it comes down to it, astronauts need to get creative from time to time.
Since nearly 95% of human urine is water, it becomes useful as drinking water when it’s recycled. They can pass their urine through a water recovery system, which processes it to provide more than three gallons of drinking water every day. The process of recycling human urine is rapidly gaining traction here on Earth, where machines are being developed to produce useful portable water.
8. Chinese People Use Urine to Cook Special Meals
You might want to think twice before eating eggs in China. In Dongyang, China, people collect urine from boys aged below ten and use it for cooking eggs. This is called Virgin Boy Eggs.
Sellers boil these eggs in the urine with the shells cracked, and the eggs are left to cook in the urine for an entire day. What happens if the eggs start to overheat? They just start adding more fresh urine, spices, and certain herbs, resulting in eggs with pale golden whites and green yolks. The locals of Dongyang say these eggs help improve blood circulation and protecting them against harmful heat strokes.
7. Phosphorus Was Accidentally Discovered in Urine
Henning Brandt, a physician from Hamburg, mixed charcoal, sand, and stale urine to form a compound that produces gold from metal. However, the product formed a glowing light when placed in the dark, and he named it cold fire, which was then called phosphorus, which means “light-bringer” in Latin.
Later, this same product was named phosphorus. Later, Robert Boyle, an English chemist, modified this process and used an advanced method to produce solid phosphorus using urine. These studies have been repeated for years into the 17th century, with other chemists including animal excrements to yield the glowing phosphorus.
6. Penicillin Doses Were First Made from Urine
In 1942, the production of penicillin was not yet legal in the US, and the process of making this essential antibiotic was still very slow.
This problem was solved by Anne Miller, who was suffering from septicemia, a severe infection in the bloodstream. Miller’s urine was used to extract penicillin since between 40 and 99% of this antibiotic is excreted in its natural form in urine.
As a result, Miller recovered from her disease, and doctors started to harvest urine from patients. This was an ongoing procedure until penicillin started to be produced industrially for medicinal use.
5. People Used Urine to Make Gunpower
About 75% of gunpowder consists of potassium nitrate, known as saltpeter. 10% is made up of sulfur, while the remaining 15% comprises charcoal.
Saltpeter was initially imported from countries such as India or prepared locally using stale urine. The constant wars in Europe made the demand for urine very high in the 17th century.
Most urine was extracted from church floors and stables. In one instance after the American Civil War in 1865, women were asked to preserve their chamber lies to replenish rebel ammunition.
4. Ancient Egypt Used Urine to Reveal Pregnancy
Scientists tested a pregnancy test with origins in ancient Egypt, and it was 70% accurate. In the test, a pregnant woman had to water spelt and wheat with her urine. If the wheat and spelt both grew, it meant the woman was pregnant.
Additionally, if only the spelt grew, it meant the child was a girl, whereas if the child were a boy, then only the wheat would grow.
In 1963, scientists tried this test and watered the grains using urine from non-pregnant women, and nothing grew. When watered with urine from pregnant women, about 70% of the grains germinated.
3. Urine Is an Antiseptic
Urine has been used as an antiseptic for nearly two millennia to deal with minor injuries such as snake bites, scorpion stings, burns, sores, and infected dog bites, among many others.
Furthermore, stale urine can be mixed with ashes from burnt oyster shells to treat eruptions on the skins of infants. In other instances, people washed their faces in urine to make them “fair,” though this produced different results in different people.
This is based on the fact that urine is antibacterial due to urea, which is a metabolite. A high concentration of urea increases the antibacterial nature of urine.
2. Urine Was Used to Produce Infertility Drugs
The two hormones found in urine, LH, and FSH, were extracted from post-menopausal women in Italy during the 1940s to cure infertility.
However, this faced the challenge of acquiring the large quantities of urine needed to produce sufficient LH and FSH hormones. This problem was solved when the Vatican, through Pope Pius XII, talked post-menopausal nuns into agreeing to collect their urine every day. Just when you thought this couldn’t get any weirder.
Hence, the large quantities of hormones extracted helped make Menopur and Pergonal, two fertility drugs that are prescribed to date.
1. Urine Was Used to Clean Clothes
The bad smell of urine is caused by the decomposition of ammonia and carbon dioxide. Ammonia is a known cleaning detergent used in many modern households, explaining why stale urine was used in clothing cleaning by Romans.
In the Roman Empire, vessels were strategically placed outside inns and street corners for collecting urine, while other people obtained their supplies from public urinals. The urine was then left for three days to rot in the Roman laundries before being used in washing clothes, rinsed using clean water, and dried.