Indian scientists say cow urine is a “bio-enhancer” that can dramatically reduce dosages and side effects for patients taking antibiotics and cancer drugs, a specialist journal, Chemistry and Industry, reports in its July issue.

The scientists have received an American patent, 6 410 059, for the discovery that a “distillate of cows’ urine” greatly boosts the ability of cell membranes to absorb drugs.

That boosts the drugs’ potency, which means their dose can be cut back to achieve the same effect, it says.

“This invention has direct implication in drastically reducing the dosage of antibiotics, drugs and anti-cancer agents, while increasing the efficiency of absorption of bio-active molecules, thereby reducing the cost of treatment and also the side effects due to toxicity,” Murli Manohar Joshi, Indias minister of science and technology, told the journal.

Chemistry and Industry is a bimonthly published by the 121-year-old Society of Chemical Industry (SCI), based in London.

Lab tests showed “the killing activities of anti-cancer and anti-tuberculosis drugs can be improved between two and 20 times, and that of antibacterials between two and 80 times,” the article says.

“Experiments with the anti-cancer drug Taxol showed that its killing activities against the breast cancer cell line MCF-7 were greatly enhanced.”

The distillate is obtained by heating cow urine to 40-50 C (114-122 F), extracting the resulting liquid with hexane and butanol to produce “a pale yellow precipitate that is thought to contain glycoside.”

Urine provided by “buffalo, camel and deer” are thought likely to have similar properties.

The US patent database says legal protection for the discovery was granted on December 1, 2000.

It identifies 15 people with the invention, based in Lucknow and Nagpur, headed by Suman Preet Singh Khanuja. The patent holder is the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in New Delhi.