NEW DELHI, India (CNN) - Can cow urine cure cancer? India's government is creating a steering committee to answer that question, among others.
Housed at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, the committee will review research proposals about cows and recommend them for funding to the Ministry of Science and Technology. The aim is to create a national coordinated effort on cow-related research.
One of its first proposals is to investigate the effects of cow urine on diseases ranging from cancer to dengue, said Dr Kavya Dashora, a committee coordinator.
"It's established the world over that the urine of cows has antiviral properties," said Dashora, who is also an associate professor with the Center for Rural Development and Technology at IIT Delhi. "We just need to scientifically validate it."
"It's a part of our culture, [but] just because it's a part of our culture doesn't mean we can consume it blindly," she added.Sacred cows
In Hindu-majority India, many believe the cow is sacred and often call the animal the "cow mother." Cow milk and ghee, a type of clarified butter, are widely used in Hindu religious ceremonies.
The cow is not only valued for its dairy products, but also for its urine. Those who use cow urine believe it has the power to promote wellness and even cure illness.
It's become a bustling business, however, it is unclear how much the industry is worth.
Virendra Kumar Jain, founder of Jain's Cow Urine Therapy Health Clinic in the central Indian city of Indore, said that the interest in cow urine has grown strongly over the last several years.
At his clinic, he offers therapy derived from cow urine for patients suffering from a myriad of illnesses.
"It works very effectively for all diseases," he said. He says his health clinic has also grown and now has 19 doctors on staff.
Cow urine has also found its way into the personal care and home products market. One of India's biggest traditional medicine brands, Patanjali Ayurved, sells a range of products based on cow urine, including a drink and floor cleaner.
Marketers often link urine-based products to the Hindu identity and the ancient Ayurvedic practice of traditional medicine. Last month, Patanjali drew criticism for an ad in which it equated purchasing its urine-based cleaner as a step toward stopping cow slaughter -- a practice banned in many Indian states.Government funding
Since the election of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, cows have received dedicated support and focus in the form of government funding.
One of the earliest programs Modi's government launched was the Rashtriya Gokul Mission, which allocated $5 billion to improve breeds of India's indigenous cows and to increase the animals' milk productivity.
The idea for a national committee dedicated to cow research was floated in December 2016 when scientists and businessmen gathered from all over India for a workshop.
Dashora said the committee's other projects include one where scientists will create a chip that can identify which type of milk is being collected and is healthier for consumption, and a plan to develop national standards for the industry.
The committee is expected to be formed before the end of February.