wellness

There's no anti-dandruff shampoo where Miriam Lancewood lives. So she turned to urine.

For the past eight years, Miriam Lancewood has lived deep in the New Zealand wilderness, several days’ hike from the nearest town, from people, from convenience. She and her partner, Peter, exist ‘off the grid’; they have no electricity, no clocks, they live by torch and fire-light, hunt and forage for their food, which they supplement with well-stocked supplies.

They do make brief, seasonal trips back to civilisation to stock up on staples, medicine, and so on. But Miriam is never tempted to stay.

“There is so much noise,” the Dutch-born woman told Mamamia‘s No Filter podcast. “I don’t know how people can stand it. It’s like a form of torture.”

She and Peter, then a university lecturer, were lured into the wilderness by a desire for adventure, to appreciate the beauty of nature and for a sense of calm. And they adapted surprisingly fast.

Almost nine years on, there are only a handful of conveniences she really does miss. Toward the top of the list: showering. The smell of soap. The hot water on her skin. Through her hair.

A bottle of shampoo certainly would have been handy when Miriam experienced a particularly irritating bout of dandruff that first winter.

To hear more about Miriam’s fascinating life in the wilderness, listen below:

“It was quite bad,” she said. “I was scratching my head all the time and Peter said, ‘You know, I heard something about Inuits, some people up north, who treat their dandruff with morning urine. He said, ‘[It has to be] women’s urine, from the morning’. So I thought I’d give it a go. You know, what does it matter?

“So I wet my hair, and then poured the tin of morning urine over my head.”

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Miriam left the unconventional treatment sit on her scalp for a while, then washed it off. Verdict: “It worked very well.”

Urine was reportedly used as a natural remedy for centuries in Greece, Rome and Egypt, and there are people who still swear by it today. Washing your hair with wee is just one of the many suggestions pedalled by proponents of urine therapy; a concept – with no solid scientific backing – that claims the salts and ammonia in urine can treat a variety of conditions, from cataracts to acne, when applied topically or consumed. Yes, as in drunk. But healthcare professionals have widely and firmly dismissed the theory.

For whatever reason, the… erm, homemade shampoo worked for Miriam. And she believes that her back-to-nature lifestyle has definitely done her body good overall.

“My health improved a lot,” she said. “From eating meat [she was previously vegetarian] and especially very good, wild meat [goat, possum etc.], I feel now a lot stronger and my hair got thicker and my fingernails got thicker, and my skin is better. We also drink very good water in New Zealand – it’s full of minerals, which must be healthy.”

Who knows. Perhaps she’s on to something.

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