History of Colon Hydrotherapy (Colonics)

ACM page Top divider

1500 B.C.

ancient Egyptian medical document

Egyptians were first recorded civilization to use technique of colon lavage (water cleanse), found in the Ebers Papyrus (ancient Egyptian medical document).

600 B.C.

Babylonian and Assyruan tablets include cuneiform inscriptions on the use of enemas.

400 B.C.

Hippocrates recorded using enemas for fever therapy.

124 B.C.

Asclepiades used the enema for intestinal worms and fevers.

30 AD

Celsus, author of one of the first medical books, de Medicina, is credited as being one of the first to write about the use of the enema.

100 AD

The Greek physican Galen one of the most skilled physicians of his time, was also a proponent of the use of enemas.

200 AD

Historical references for colon hydrotherapy can even be found in such important religious text such as the Essene Gospels of Peace where Jesus explains the importance of colonics.

500 AD

Aetius, a Greek physician of the sixth century, who recommended enemas of pure water.

500+ AD

Along the Ivory Coast, inhabitants administered enemas using a calabash (gourd) filled with water and in certain African tribes, a hollowed cow horn was utilized for enema.


The first recorded apparatus was the enema syringe; however, there is debate as to who should be credited with first describing the enema syringe. Lieberman gives credit to Avicenna (980-1036 A.D.) as the first to describe the enema syringe, while Friedenwald indicates that honor should be given to Albucasis of Cordova (1013-1106) who also developed the ear syringe.


The preferred and most readily available apparatus remained a tube made of bone, reed or metal connected to a sleeve or animal bladder called the “clyster purse”. The bag was emptied by squeezing it between the two hands. Dr. Russell reports that in Spain, the method was called “playing the bagpipes”.


During the middle ages, information on the enema continued to grow and the use of the enema became the popular vogue of the wealthy and even reached to the highest levels of the royalty.


In 1480, Louis XI suffered an attack of apoplexy which was relieved by an enema, tendered under the direction of his physician, Angelo Catho. “The king became such an ardent advocate of clysters, that he even had his pet dogs clysterized when he thought they required it.”


The 17th Century became known as the “age of the enema”, or the “age of clysters”. It was an acceptable practice in Parisian society to enjoy as many as three or four enemas a day, the belief being that an internal washing or “lavement” was essential to well-being. It is recorded that King Louis XIII had more than 200 enemas in one year.


By this time, the clyster syringes came in several styles. The clyster syringes were made of copper or porcelain, and the wealthy had syringes made of mother of pearl and silver. It was considered good form to own several syringes and some aristocrats, it is said, even owned large collections of such instruments.


The clyster reached the ultimate height in the early years of the reign of Louis XIV (1638-1715) who, it is reported, had over 2,000 enemas during his career. The “Enema King” sometimes even held court functions and received visitors during the procedure.


Edward Jukes developed two types of enema apparatus units that might have been the precursors for colon hydrotherapy equipment today.


By the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, with the advent of rubber, the enema or clyster slowly gave way to colon hydrotherapy equipment which improved the cleansing of the colon. But this was also the time that the use of Colon Hydrotherapy and of enemas began to lose favor among the medical community as laxatives and other drugs became commercially more available.


19th century Colon Hydrotherapy was rejuvenated in the United States by Dr. Kellogg, a strong proponent of the enema in the treatment of many diseases.


The Plombieres by De Langenhagen apparatus was first introduced and allowed the client to receive the procedure in a reclined position.


Vincent Priessnitz is credited with developing the use of the enema and the clyster into a systematic form of therapy.


In 1932, W. Kerr Russell, M.D., B.S., wrote a book entitled Colonic Irrigation. This was the first documented use of the term “colonic irrigation”, which Dr. Russell used interchangeably with “colonic lavage”.


Following Dr. Russell’s lead, more books are published on the subject: Chronic Intestinal Toxemia and its Treatment by Dr. James W. Wiltsie in 1938 and Scientific Intestinal Irigation and Adjuvant Therapy by Dr. E.G. Waddington in 1940. Dr. Waddington described the Honsaker Lavagatory as having “a graduated volume control for regulating the rate of flow into the patient’s rectum, and a directional control for diverting the fluid from the reservoir into the colon and from the colon intothe toilet bowl”.


Colon hydrotherapy was flourishing in the United States. The prestigious Beverly Boulevard in california was then known as “colonic row”.


Most colon hydrotherapy equipment was removed from hospitals and nursing homes in favor of the colostomy, fleet enema and prescriptive laxatives.


Whorton (2000) provides a detailed history of the concepts of constipation, inner hygiene and colon cleansing. He describes in eloquent detail the rationale behind regarding the colon as a “toxic sewer” responsible for disease in the 1800s.


There have been many different apparatus types used throughout the years. Today in the United States there are 8 different types of Colon Hydrotherapy devices registered with the FDA. Some are open systems and some are closed systems, terms which describe whether or not the effluent from the device is piped directly to sanitary waste disposal. All manufacturers of FDA registered equipment must use disposable speculums or rectal nozzles to ensure patient safety.

ACM page Top divider