Enema History: How Enemas Evolved Through History

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High Volume Enemas


Click to watch the administration of a high volume enema


Many enema users doubt that some can hold enemas of more than 4 quarts, and doubt the advantages of taking very full enema.

Over the last 20 years I have compiled enema procedures which have appeared in print:-

Published Procedures for Full Capacity Enemas.
Compiled by H. Hamilton.
An example of early recommendations for colon hydrotherapy is the so-called Essene Gospel of Peace whose text dates from the 3rd century after Christ. This is part of the Dead Sea Scrolls:-
“He who cleanses himself without but within remains unclean is like two tones that outward are painted fair but are within full of all of uncleanness and abominations so I tell you truly suffer the angel of water to baptize you also within that you may become free from all your past sins and that within likewise you may become as pure as the rivers foam scorching in the sunlight.”
“Seek therefore a large trailing gourd having a stalk the length of a man. Take out its inwards and fill it with water from the river, which the sun has warmed. Hang it upon the branch of a tree and kneel upon the ground before the angel of water and suffer the end of the stalk of the trailing gourd to enter your hinder parts that the water may flow through all your bowels. Afterwards, rest kneeling on the ground before the angel of water and pray to the living God that he will forgive you all your past sins and pray the angel of water that he will free your body from every uncleanness and disease. Than let the water run out from your body that it may carry away from within it all the unclean and evil smelling things of Satan, and you shall see with your eyes and smell with your nose all the abominations and uncleanness which defiled the temple of your body. Even all the sins, which abide in your body tormenting you with all manner of pains. Renew your baptizing with water on every day of your fast until the day when you see that the water, which flows out of you, is as pure as the river’s foam. And this holy baptizing by the angel of water is rebirth unto the new life.” From The Essene Gospel of Peace – 3 AD.
Note: These words are often wrongly attributed to Jesus. There no evidence that Jesus belonged to this Jewish sect or accepted their teachings. John the Baptist may have been a member.
The procedure described above has all the elements of a large high enema. The large trailing gourd (or calabash) having a stalk the length of a man, which grows in the Holy Land, could easily have delivered two gallons, more than enough water to fill the whole of the average adult colon. The kneeling position ensures that the water flows downward to fill the colon completely. The retention of the water ensures effective results. Taken every day of a fast until the expulsions are clear constitutes a thorough detoxification program.
This proves that the use of daily full cleansing enemas used as part of a health regeneration program has had a very long history. From The Compiler.
The Greek Travelers were struck by the Egyptians’ cleanliness. In Hellenistic times - and this may well have been a very old custom - the Egyptians tried to be clean not only externally but also internally, by evacuating the intestinal tract with emetics and enemas, for three consecutive days every month as reported by Herodotus, or at intervals of three or four days as reported by Diodorus. The Egyptians explained the custom rationally, saying that the people believed that diseases were engendered by the waste products of the food.
From A History of Medicine - Henry E.Sigerist - 1987

Enemas date back many thousands of years, to earliest recorded times. Cave paintings and artifacts show that they were used throughout the world and that they followed a common format, generally consisting of hollowed-out gourds [calabashes] or animal bladders attached to pieces of shaped bone or bamboo. There was little change in design or usage until the Middle Ages, when Europeans introduced several variations, the most common of which was a large brass syringe. From Forum Vol. 26 No.3 1993.

Colonic lavage was first recorded in Egypt in 1500 BC in the document Ebers Papyrus which outlined Medical treatments of the time. Hippocrates recorded using enemas for fevers in the 4th and 5th centuries BC and Galen recognized and used enemas in the 2nd century AD. The great French surgeon Pare, [who coined the phrase ‘I treated him, God cured him.’] in AD 1600, recognized the difference between colonic irrigation and the enema therapy which was popular at the time. From Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Diverticulosis S. Trickett 1990.

Ancient primitive tribes in the Amazon, Central Africa and remote parts of Asia practiced enemas in the rivers, usually as part of magic-medical practices performed by priests or shamans and colon cleansing therapeutic treatments were an important part of Taoist training regimens and also observed from different approaches in Hinduism. In the 10th century, Sung Dynasty physician Chang Tsung-Cheng wrote extensively on the therapeutic benefits and colon cleansing procedures, but other methods were also mentioned in the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine back in the 3rd Century B.C.

Hippocrates, Galen and Paracelsus, who are recognized as the founding fathers of Western medicine, described, practiced and prescribed the use of enemas as colon therapy. Also ritual enemas were practiced in Mayan Ceremonials and many other Central American and South American Indian tribes. In fact some surviving tribes have continued their traditional colon cleansing practices to the present day. From Wikipedia – 2010. (Note: This material was compiled from Published sources, which are referenced in the article.)
The glory of the invention of the enema, so beneficial to suffering mankind, belongs to an Italian, Gatenaria. He was a Professor at Pavia, where he died in 1496, after having spent several years in perfecting his instrument. In the first years of Louis XIV it became the fashion of the day. Ladies took three or four a day to keep a fresh complexion, and dandies took as many for a white skin. The medical profession at first hailed the invention with delight, but soon found the application intruding and handed it over to pharmacists, barbers and hospital attendants.
From Intestinal Ills - Jamieson MD. 1920.
Between the 16th and 18th centuries the enema was regarded as the fountain of youth. It was most widespread in France, England and Germany. And it was not only the nobility that used this remedy. The syringe was also found in many middle class homes. There were blowup enemas and bellows enemas, to name only two of the most widespread kinds. Even the Eskimos made use of a long bag made from intestines that was equipped with an ivory cannula.
From The Enema - Armin von Degenhard - Orion 1993

The Popularity of Regular Enemas of One Gallon Used During the Early 1900’s in America.
Many people of America about 100 years ago combined with their other methods that of the ‘large enema’. The amount injected was usually about 1 pint, but some of the more radical ventured to use 1 quart of water, which was regarded as ‘heroic’ treatment frowned upon by regular physicians. But these early practitioners and writers do not seem to have discovered the frequency and danger of the impacted colon. Later investigators began to increase the amount injected. Two quarts was the amount generally agreed upon as the proper quantity, but some enthusiasts tried up to three quarts after practice.
Perhaps the first western man who really saw the value of the large enema was Dr. Wilford Hall of New York City, a clergyman and scientist. Dr. Hall was broken down in health, and in his desperate endeavors to regain strength and health he experimented along many lines. Almost by accident his attention was directed towards the colon. He began to use a Higginson’s syringe to treat himself.
Dr. Hall went so far as to habitually use four quarts for his regular treatments. In a short time he was again hearty, well, strong and vigorous. He then tried his treatment on some friends, with similar results. He used these large enemas regularly for over 40 years, to treat his constipation and indigestion and to stay healthy. Dr. Hall attracted considerable attention and accomplished great good by teaching that almost every person needs an enema at least three times a week. Through his efforts thousands of families were made acquainted with the system of ‘flushing the colon’, but there are still millions of people who need this knowledge today and who have never heard a hint of it. (Note: The regular use of full capacity enemas was prescribed by Doctors and used in the home all over Europe from the 1700’s, so Dr. Hall was by no means the first Western man to use large enemas. Dr. Kellogg studied European practices which he references in his Manuals, and popularized this treatment from 1900.)
From How Nature Cures - E. Densmore M.D.- London 1891, Plain Facts for Young and Old - John Harvey Kellogg M.D. - 1895 and The Practical Water Cure - Yogi Ramacharaka.
For over twenty years Dr. Stevens has practiced flushing upon himself as a precaution, and although now between seventy and eighty years old, since beginning its use he has never known a day of sickness. He recommends flushing [using large enemas of 4 quarts] every two or three days as a preventive of disease. He says it in no way interferes with the normal movements of the bowels. To test it he has frequently discontinued its use for a week, with the result of a regular movement, as soon as enough fecal matter had accumulated to demand it.
Dr. A Wilford Hall, PhD D, LL d and W.E. Forest, B.A., MD, two world-famous authorities on internal bathing, are among thousands of physicians who have given their hearty and active endorsement and support to colon flushing [using large enemas of 4 quarts]. Experience has proved, and will continue to prove that scientific colonic cleansing can only be healthful. We have made this subject our constant study for the past 35 years. Over one million grateful patients have testified to the value of the internal bath and diet. For the simple purpose of preserving health, once or twice a week will be found amply sufficient for colon flushing.
From The Royal Road - C.A. Tyrrell, M.D. – 1907.

The Prevalence of the Impacted Colon.
Dr.Turner conducted an extended series of investigations with the startling result that he felt justified in claiming that fully 70% of all adults are afflicted with impacted colons in various degrees. A Chicago physician in the “Medical Examiner” says “The formation of cells or cavities in the colon become the seat of fecal accumulations only too often unnoticed by the physician”.
Accumulations can occur in any part of the colon. These cavities in the colon contain small fecal accumulations extending over weeks, months or even years. Reports from hospitals where autopsies are conducted show that in about 500 cases in which examinations of the colon have been made, about 50 were found to have colons in a natural condition. The majority (90%) were found to be greatly clogged with hardened excrement.
From The Practical Water Cure - Yogi Ramacharaka.
How to Detect at Home If You Have an Impacted Colon.

Many people suffering greatly from a clogged condition of the system still have a daily movement of the bowels; and having a daily movement, such persons usually have no idea that they are suffering from retention of fecal matter, and from fermenting foods. In many such cases the intestines, and especially the colon, have adhering to their inner surface considerable quantities of old hardened feces, while yet there is a movement through the center of the bowel. The truth of this assertion may easily be proven by taking a large enema. Let the patient lie on the back, preferably with the hips raised higher than the head, and inject two, or three, or if possible four quarts of warm water into the bowels. Let every effort be used to retain this water as long as possible; when it is released it will usually carry with it such an amount of fecal matter with an especially offensive odor as will convince even the most skeptical.
From How Nature Cures - E.Densmore M.D.- London 1891.

Injections of water are used for determining the capacity of the colon. The normal capacity of the large bowel is about six quarts, therefore if six quarts can be introduced by a fountain syringe, there is no obstruction in the colon; and if less than four quarts can be introduced there is probably some obstruction. From Diagnostic Therapeutics – Albert Abrahams 1910 Page 550.

Why Have So Many Medical Doctors Denied the Frequency of Impacted Colons?
I must report that in the process of inspecting the lining of this organ with a colonoscope, a procedure that I have had occasion to perform many times, one does not ordinarily see large residues in the colon. How might this be? How can it be that there are reliable accounts of these casts that are not seen by the endoscopist? I have come to the conclusion that the answer is that, in preparation for endoscopy, the patient invariably is asked to take a strong purgative to clean out the contents of the bowel so the endoscopist can indeed inspect the lining. Almost certainly these purgations remove all the residues and therefore none is observed when the endoscopic inspection is performed. From Thomas A. Dorman, MD Paracelsus Clinic

What is the true origin of mucoid plaque? Here is a plausible explanation by a Qualified Colon Therapist:-
During a colonic or enema process, you will see some unusual excrement coming from your body. There is no cause for concern. These ropes are called mucoid plaque. They are a mixture of psyllium fiber and bentonite clay used during the deep tissue cleanse. They are loaded with the many toxins that are being cleared from every part of the body. I do not think that these ropes actually line the walls of the colon, but rather, are formed as the toxins, bacterial waste, bile, fiber and clay combine while moving through the colon.
From Ten Days to Optimal Health, 2nd Edition 2006 by Kristina Amelong, CNC, CT Page 105.
References to Full Enemas of up to Six Quarts Published Between the Years 1900 to 1965.
The intestine of an adult will safely hold 6 liters.
From Diseases of the Intestine – John. C. Hemmeter – 1902 – Page 322.

The Copious Enema - The purpose of this mode of applying the enema is to introduce the largest quantity of water possible to fill the entire colon without over distending it. Four to six quarts (liters) are often used. Frequently quantities of old putrefying fecal masses, semi-hardened by long retention, make their appearance after a copious enema has been thoroughly administered every day for a week or more, showing that a single flushing of the colon, no matter how thorough, is not sufficient to achieve effective cleansing. In this class of patients the copious enema should be administered daily for two or three weeks if necessary, while the patient complains of gaseous distension of the bowels and fetid flatulence.
From Home Handbook of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine - J.H.Kellogg M.D. 1903
A popular teaching which was promoted in the past by many Doctors and nurses stated that:-
‘No enema is effective unless from a gallon to a gallon and a half (4 to 6 quarts) is injected into the patient’s bowel.’ Many nurses and patients have reported that they could easily inject from 4 to 6 quarts into the colon, without the need for long colon tubes or retention nozzles.
From The Louisville Monthly Journal of Medicine and Surgery – 1916.

An internal bath is a method of treatment for acquiring and maintaining a healthy condition of the human body by washing out the colon or large intestine. This is not what is known as taking an injection; for the small amount of water usually used in the injection (one to two quarts), is ineffective, as it stirs up toxic material, without washing it out completely, leaving the person feeling worse than before. From four to six quarts injected into the colon is what constitutes an internal bath. It should be taken every day for at least six months, and then may be taken twice a week.
I earnestly recommend the internal bath as a means of regaining and maintaining health, after having used it for more than ten years for myself and others, and having observed the same good results from its regular use. The preservation of health is a duty everyone owes to oneself and friends; and a failure to use the knowledge when it has been obtained is nothing less than slow suicide. From The Golden Age Magazine – 1920.

A six quart enema is required to completely fill the large intestine, and leakage of fluid through the ileo-cecal valve into the small intestine is rare.
From Diseases of the Digestive Organs – Charles D. Aaron – 1921 Page 222.

The colon will hold a gallon (4 quarts) or more when not filled with feces or the residue that will become feces. Full enemas, which should be used on numerous occasions because of their exceptional value, are, however, somewhat weakening in their influence. When you give a very full enema [of about 6 quarts], almost all that the colon can hold, one that leaves the patient weak and languid, then a rest is required before any further treatment. Very full enemas should not be given to very weak patients. Where the patient is weak I would use a moderately full enema of 2 to 4 quarts of water. This should not be taken, however, as advice against the use of a full enema [of 5 to 6 quarts] in those cases where it is truly beneficial. As a means of temporarily remedying constipation, this method cannot be improved upon. Where an acute disease is being treated and there are symptoms at all serious in nature, it is advisable to use all the water the patient can retain for a few minutes; for under such circumstances the bowels are more thoroughly cleansed and the process of eliminating poisons is continued much more actively.
From Encyclopaedia of Health and Physical Culture - B. Macfadden – 1926 & 1940

The High Enema - In the high enema the water is forced much further up the bowels and some ten pints [10 Imperial pints = 6 liters] of water are used, but it is wise to get this treatment under professional care, otherwise it is possible to do harm. Many people feel this type of apparatus holds the key to their health and are very disappointed when they are unable to get such treatment. Although unwilling to condemn this attitude entirely, I feel that better results could be had by a closer attention to diet. From About the Water Cure - Russel Sneddon 1965.
Two References to the Benefits of Stretching the Colon.
I earnestly advise the “internal bath” - what is usually called “flushing the colon” - but definitely not what is known as taking an injection. Mere injections of a half to one quart of water, as usually practiced, are insufficient and ineffective. The colon is five feet in length and fully three inches in diameter when distended. To properly wash the colon, at least four or five quarts of water are necessary. The proper appliance for cleansing the colon has a capacity of five quarts to which the tube is attached. It is an important factor in my system of physical rejuvenation. I strongly urge its practice, at least once a week, though twice a week is better.
From [Premature] Old Age It’s Cause and Prevention - Sanford Bennett - 1912. Revised 1963
When fluid is passed into the colon, and particularly when it is passed in skillfully, without introducing any air, there is a gradual distention of the organ. An increase in the pressure of the lumen of the bowel has an instantaneous effect on the pressure of the rest of the abdominal contents. Is stretching the colon a good idea? My answer is a clear Yes! The stretching evens out tensions and restores function. One way to improve the overall function and integrated action of the colon is by stretching the organ, and it is quite plain that the only available way for stretching is through the installation of water gradually under slight-to-moderate pressure through the anal canal. Almost certainly this is a way to retrain the bowel.
From Fact, Fiction, Fraud in Modern Medicine - Thomas A. Dorman, MD – 2000.

Enema Procedures in Which Long Retention Times are Recommended.

“Beware of using tap water or a soap solution, especially when large quantities of water are used. Soap solutions result in unnecessary irritations of the colon and plain water risks upsetting the sugar and salt balance in the blood, which can result in great tiredness and even total collapse. Solutions used for enemas should always contain a teaspoonful of table salt to each liter of water used.” From Claire Boewer - Colonic Clinic - Munich.

The High Enema: A high enema is often necessary for constipation, when the colon has become impacted. It should be taken on the left side or back, so that the water may pass the sigmoid flexure and enter the colon. The use of a good soap dissolved in the water will help. Moderately warm or cool water is best. You should allow from gallon to a gallon and a half (4 to 6 quarts) to flow from the syringe into the bowels. While the bowels are heavily loaded in this manner the body should not be constricted by bands or corsets. To be effective, one should lie still and retain it for fifteen to thirty minutes. Do not take more than three times a week, as they weaken the bowel. From Viavi Hygiene - Hartland Law MD and Herbert E. Law, FCS – 1908.
The following is probably the most thorough enema procedure that has ever appeared in print in English. It is recommended by a highly qualified therapist in his Naturopathic Textbook:-
Anyone wishing to take a full colon cleansing, should always be properly prepared by spending at least one day on an all-fruit diet before starting. At least eight hours should have elapsed after the last fruit meal and it is always best done after a night’s rest.
The results with an enema can in the private house can be just as good as the colonic irrigation apparatus. It is best to obtain an 8 pint size (5 US quart), as this is the normal maximum used in this way.
Inject the water on the left side or in a kneeling or crouching position. The left side is perhaps the best position. The first irrigation should not exceed 1 pint of water at body temperature and this amount can be increased by 1 pint on each succeeding day until the patient’s maximum [from 6 to 8 Imperial pints or 4 to 5 US quarts] has been reached.
When the desired amount has been absorbed, the patient should continue to lie on the left side for 10 minutes and then turn to lie on the back for a further 10 minutes with careful kneading of the abdomen. After this the patient turns over to the right side for another 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes in the face down position. If, during this time [in the face down position] the retention of the water becomes intolerable, then it should be expelled and a longer time aimed at with the next irrigation.
If it is found impossible to hold the water for this length of time on the first day, there is no cause for alarm and greater lengths of time can be aimed at quite successfully in following treatments until a maximum of forty minutes has been reached. Quite often the encrustations of many years will be harmlessly expelled by a course of these irrigations and in many cases the patient will feel rejuvenated. From Naturopathic Practice - Hewlett Parsons - 1985.

When Should Large Volume Enemas be Avoided?
After two smaller enemas of one to two quarts to clear the lower bowel, the third and last injection should be as large as the bowels can hold without extreme discomfort. Most people can hold 4 quarts, and some can comfortably retain 6 quarts or more. Others cannot take more than two or three quarts without experiencing a certain amount of tension and pain.
From Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition by Hereward Carrington - 1908.
In some patients the colon will prove to be so spastic and irritable that it will contract forcefully and painfully and expel the fluid and perhaps even the enema tip as well. If this should continue to occur after several gentle attempts on different days to introduce the enema solution, or if any blood is noted in the material evacuated from the colon at any time, competent medical advice should be obtained. From Back To Eden - Jethro Kloss - 1988.
Colonic and rectal balloon distension studies have shown that patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) become aware of distension and perceive pain at lower pressures and volumes than healthy volunteers and subsequent findings indicate that IBS is also associated with increased sensitivity to normal intestinal contractions. Serotonin (5-HT) has emerged as a key chemical messenger in the pathogenesis of IBS [MD Gershon, “ Review article: roles played by 5-hydroxytryptamine in the physiology of the bowel”, Aliment Pharmacol Ther (1999), 13: pp. 15-30.] Here at the Integrated Medicine Practice we use the metabolic precursor 5-HTP to restore serotonin levels because this helps with pain reduction, mood enhancing including anxiety reduction. Furthermore 5-HTP helps you to go into a deeper sleep.
From www.bioterrain.co.uk/IBS.html

Avoiding Excessively Large Enemas.

It should be self-evident that the amount of water to be injected should be limited to the natural capacity of the colon. [This ranges from 4 to 6 quarts in the normal adult.] Many people have used such large quantities of water for such long periods of time that their capacity is enormous. [As much as 8 quarts or even more.] This, however, is not their normal capacity, and one beginning the use of the enema for special effects and conditions should not be led into forcibly injecting very large quantities simply because of what someone else in an abnormal condition can do. Very large enemas might easily result in permanent dilatation of the colon.
From Encyclopaedia of Health and Physical Culture - B. Macfadden – 1926 & 1940
The full capacity of the normal colon and rectum, and the largest enema that can possibly be used is 8 quarts, but this quantity is dangerous because it may rupture the intestines or cause ptosis (dropping of the colon) or paresis (partial paralysis). From Diarrheal, Inflammatory, Obstructive, and Parasitic Diseases of the Colon - Samuel Goodman – 1915.

One of my cases was chronically constipated at the age of 38. The only pathological condition found was an enormous dilatation of the colon from using two gallons of water as an enema every morning for several years. From Practice of Medicine – Frederick Tick - 1922.


* How Nature Cures - Emmet Densmore, M.D. - Swan Sonneschein London 1891.

* Viavi Hygiene - Hartland Law MD and Herbert E. Law, F.C.S. George Putnam & Sons. London 1908.

Encyclopaedia of Health and Physical Culture - Bernarr Macfadden. Macfadden Book Company, New York. 1926 & 1940.

* The Royal Road - Charles A. Tyrell, M.D.- Tyrell's Hygienic Institute Inc., New York. 380th Ed 1930 & 395th Ed 1947.

The Practical Water Cure - •Yogi Ramacharaka. L.N. Fowler & Co Ltd, London

•Yogi Ramacharaka is the pen name of a British Yoga Practitioner.

A History of Medicine Vol II - Henry E. Sigerist - Oxford University Press - 1961

About the Water Cure - An explanation of hydrotherapy - Russel Sneddon Health for All Publishing Co. 1965.

Naturopathic Practice - J. Hewlett-Parsons DSc. Thorsons Publishers Ltd London 1968.

Ten Days to Optimal Health - Kristina Amelong, CNC, CT ., 2nd Edition 2006.

Note: After the late 1950’s the use of regular large volume enemas was increasingly rejected and condemned by Medical practitioners. The concept of autointoxication from the bowels has been ridiculed and rejected by orthodox Medicine from as early as 1919 when it was first presented in the Lancet medical journal by Sir Arbuthnot Lane, surgeon to the Royal family. There are some doctors both in Europe and America who have recognized the benefits of colon cleansing, and, in spite of opposition from their peers, refer their patients to Certified Colon Therapists for a course of Colonic Irrigations. [See Reference below.] The Compiler.

Value of Colon Hydrotherapy verified by medical professionals prescribing it.
By Morton Walker, DPM Copyright 2000 by Dr. Morton Walker [www.tldp.com]


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