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Indian health drink's special ingredient: cow urine

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(Read caption) In this June 28, 2009 file photo, an Indian women walks with her cow across a parched paddy field in Rajapathar, some 83 km from Diphu, India.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

If you pick up a labeled “health drink” in India you might find some unusual ingredients. The Indian reverence for cows, which gives religious significance to the bovine, has produced a good-for-you beverage made from cow urine.

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The cow is considered by Hindus as symbolic of life-giving deities. The fundamentalist Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) launched Gauloka Peya, or “drink from the land of cow,” earlier this year.

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Purushottam Toshniwal, a member of the cow protection unit of the RSS and the man who concocted the drink, says the group has already sold around 700 bottles to distributors.

RSS already sells soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, and skin-care creams made from cow urine and dung.

“Many were hesitant to try it in the beginning,” Mr. Toshniwal says. “However, once they tasted it, they liked it. You cannot taste the cow urine as it is mixed with other ingredients.” He also believes the drink will cure diseases.

The cow urine is distilled before it is mixed with traditional Indian herbs and medicinal plants such as Brahmi and basil and water in a 1-to-7 ratio. Gauloka Peya comes in four flavors – orange, khus(a fragrant Asian grass), rose, and lemon. A bottle costs about $3.

“It is like any regular sweet drink, without the harmful side effects,” Toshniwal says.