So-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is widely used in Saudi Arabia. One of the common practices is the use of camel urine alone or mixed with camel milk for the treatment of cancer, which is often supported by religious beliefs.

This study observed cancer patients who insisted on using camel urine, and to offer some clinically relevant recommendations. The authors observed 20 cancer patients (15 male, 5 female) from September 2020 to January 2022 who insisted on using camel urine for treatment. They documented the demographics of each patient, the method of administering the urine, reasons for refusing conventional treatment, period of follow-up, and the outcome and side effects.

All the patients had radiological investigations before and after their treatment with camel urine. All of them used a combination of camel urine and camel milk, and their treatment ranged from a few days to 6 months. They consumed an average of 60 ml urine/milk per day. No clinical benefit was observed after the treatment; 2 patients developed brucellosis. Eleven patients changed their mind and accepted conventional antineoplastic treatment and 7 were too weak to receive further treatment; they died from the disease.

The authors concluded that camel urine had no clinical benefits for any of the cancer patients, it may even have caused zoonotic infection. The promotion of camel urine as a traditional medicine should be stopped because there is no scientific evidence to support it.

If you suspected that this was a hoax, you were wrong!

Here is a recent paper on the ‘therapeutic potentials of camel urine’:

Camel urine has traditionally been used to treat multiple human diseases and possesses the most beneficial effects amongst the urine of other animals. However, scientific review evaluating the anticancer, antiplatelet, gastroprotective and hepatoprotective effects of camel urine is still scarce. Thus, this scoping review aimed to provide scientific evidence on the therapeutic potentials of camel urine. Three databases were searched to identify relevant articles (Web of Science, PubMed and Scopus) up to September 2020. Original articles published in English that investigated the effects of camel urine in various diseases were included. The literature search identified six potential articles that met all the inclusion criteria. Three articles showed that camel urine possesses cytotoxic activities against different types of cancer cells. Two studies revealed camel urine’s protective effects against liver toxicity and gastric ulcers, whilst another study showed the role of camel urine as an antiplatelet agent. All studies demonstrated significant positive effects with different effective dosages. Thus, camel urine shows promising therapeutic potential in treating human diseases, especially cancer. However, the standardised dosage and potential side effects should be determined before camel urine could be offered as an alternative treatment.

I have often asked myself the question whether some SCAMs are too absurd to merit scientific study. Over the years, I changed my mind on it; while initially I tended to answer it in the negative, I now think that YES: some ideas – even those that are ancient and, as Charles Windsor would argue, have thus stood the ‘test of time’ – are not worth the effort. Camel urine as a therapy might well be one of them.

5 Responses to Camel urine as a treatment for cancer patients?

  • Dear Edzart,
    I don`t agree.
    If something is an old treatment method, and might be an effective therapy, one should ask for potential risks.

    And for infectious diseases the risk has changed in the past. Smallpox is globally eradicated, the oral polio vaccine was improved, so that the vaccine related poliomyelitis risk was sharply reduced with OPV and eliminated with IPV.

    But we have some newly emerging disease. HIV and Corona Viruses.

    One of the Corona Viruses popped up in 2012 it was MERS (Middle east respiratory disease) it was transmitted by camels also to humans.

    So when one uses camel urine as therapeutic option, it should not have an infectious risk- a validated virus inactivation procedure is a must to avoid zoonotic infections such as MERS or rabies etc pp.

    • I partly agree and merely meant that the study of efficacy is a waste of effort for certain implausible therapies.
      as to safety: why not just abandon and discourage the use of ridiculous therapies?

      • @Edzard

        why not just abandon and discourage the use of ridiculous therapies?

        Of course I fully agree here, but I also think that one more question is in order before dismissing these ‘therapies’: are there other, similar therapies(*) that have proven efficacy? If not, then it is extremely unlikely that this one would do anything. All this apart from the fact of course that urine is basically toxic chemical waste that the body needs to get rid of, which already lowers the probability that it is beneficial in any way, other than as a fertilizer.

        *: Yes, I am aware that the hCG pregnancy hormone is extracted from urine from pregnant women in order to help other women get pregnant. Human women, mind you, not camels.

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