Though the average Korean you ask would have no idea what you are talking about, a recently released video documentary by Vice correspondent Yuka Uchida investigates the traditional cure-all beverage Ttongsul â better known as poop wine, made from rice wine and feces.
According to the Daily Mail, the video of the poop-wine making process represents the first-ever documentation of this ancient and bizarre brewing process that was thought to have died out in the 1960’s.
Back when it was used by some medical practitioners, Ttongsul was produced in two ways. One involved submerging a bamboo stick in a chamber-pot containing feces and alcohol before being left for several months to ferment. A quicker method involved mixing alcohol and feces directly for several days before giving it to the patient.
Poop and urine have been used by various cultures for medicinal purposes throughout history including regions ranging from China to India as well as the Middle East and Europe.
Documenting the Process
The Vice camera crew visited traditional Korean medicine specialist Dr. Lee Chang-soo to get the scoop on using poop to cure what ails you. Dr. Lee, who still brews the wine himself for patients, says he is very picky about what poop he uses in the medicinal making process.
I normally get feces from a child who is between 4 and 7 years old, said Dr. Lee I keep the feces refrigerated for 3 or 4 days.
Because of human rights, issues I cannot get children’s feces on my own, Lee added. I got this feces with the help of a young and open-minded mother.
‘Now the world has changed. We rarely fall out of trees or get clubbed. So now hardly anyone uses this medicine, let alone make it.’
Lee feels that this old style of medicine should be brought back to the general public and expressed sadness that it is no longer accepted as a legitimate medical solution. He also feels that eastern medicine doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
Korean doctors still research and develop eastern medicine because it’s as good as western medicine. Despite it’s odor, our ancestors never thought human feces was filthy and human feces wine has been known for many generations.
The curative powers are not only to be found in human poop, but also from various animals. What particular problem ailed you would determine which kind of poop wine you would reach for on the pharmacy shelf.
We used bat feces to treat alcoholism, chicken feces for stomach ailments and so on. Traditional Korean medicine used feces a lot.
For broken bones and cuts, human feces is always the best choice.
Back in the day, peasants were punished by being beaten with a wide club, said Lee. Also farmers would often hurt themselves by tripping or falling out of trees. Sometimes they would get infected. But there was no way to treat the wounds except to drink feces wine as a remedy.
Lee added, with regret: Now the world has changed. We rarely fall out of trees or get clubbed. So now hardly anyone uses this medicine, let alone make it.’
Lee also contends that feces wine can heal patients in half the time of other medicines.
So, are we to see a renaissance of feces wine? According to Koreans interviewed by the Vice camera crew on streets of Seoul, no.
When told that poo wine can be used to heal broken bones and detoxify the body, one man on the street responded:
I’ll try not to break my bones then.
See the full video here
Additional reading: Japanese Girl Band Tricked into Trying Feces Wine