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Colon and bowel cleansing dates back to 1400 B.C. the ‘Ebers Papyrus’, an ancient Egyptian medical document and the oldest known surgical and medical text, described the many benefits of colon cleansing. Physicians at that time believed that old intestinal waste, faecal matter absorbed into the circulation could poison the body causing illness, mucus, and pus. The practice of cleansing the colon was administered in a river by using a hollow reed to induce water flow into the rectum. Also, in the Edwin Smith Papyrus which was named after the dealer who brought the ancient papers in 1862, there is mentioned of bowel cleansing and the methods used. 

Medical Egyptian Ebers papyrus

The Greeks also believed that incomplete digestion of food resulted in the build-up of residue and caused disease. Hippocrates Pare and Galen also advanced the use of enema therapy.


The 1700 century became known as the age of colon cleansing and was commonly done among European populations to assist with maintenance and promotion of overall health. The Parisian society practiced doing as many as 3-4 enemas a day, believing that internal washing was essential to well -being.

Enema in the 1700-1800s

At an early time in America colon cleansing was a commonly used procedure to help maintain health and stave off disease. For example, before the departure of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, a physician instructed them in the appropriateness of using enemas in cases of fever and illness. 
African traditions still use colon cleansing methods and the knowledge is passed down to generations. Our grandparents and great-grandparents grew up with the use of herbal remedies and enemas as a widely accepted procedure for reversing the onset of illness and keeping healthy.

African herbs
African traditional herbal medicine


Many well-respected physicians in the 1800s and 1900s advocated colonic cleansing to maintain good health. In 1884, this concept regained prominence when Charles Bouchard coined the term intestinal autointoxication, claiming that “Man is continually on the threshold of disease. Every moment of his life he runs the risk of being overpowered by poisons generated within his system”. Inherent in his theory was that the intestinal tract was responsible for these poisons.

nobel dr
Dr. John Kellogg

In the early 1900’s Dr.John H. Kellogg M.D. used forms of colon therapy on several thousand of his patients. In a 1917 edition of the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Dr. Kellog reported that in over forty thousand gastrointestinal disease cases, he had used surgery in only twenty cases. The rest were helped as a result of cleansing the bowels, diet and exercise. 

Dr. Wiltsie offers, “Our knowledge of the normal and abnormal physiology of the colon and its pathology and management has not kept pace with that of many organ systems of the body. As long as we continue to assume the colon will take care of itself, it’s just that long that we will remain in complete ignorance of perhaps the most important source of ill health in the whole body”. 

Eli Metchnikoff, a Russian born scientist, who won a Nobel Prize and is considered the Father of Probiotic Research, expanded further on autointoxication, describing the colon as “The reservoir of waste of the digestive processes, that can stagnate long enough to putrefy. The products of putrefaction are harmful. When faecal matter is allowed to remain in the intestine…certain products are absorbed by the organism and produce poisoning”. “Death begins in the colon” was his statement.

nobel dr 2
Russian scientist Eli Metchnikoff, who won the noble prize.


Acceptance of constipation, autointoxication and disease resulted in the popularity of colon therapy which reached its apex in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. At that time, colon irrigation machines, enema kits, and abdominal massagers were commonly seen, and used as a regular standard practice, in hospitals and doctor’s offices. 

Colonic cleansing was standard practice in hospitals early to mid 1900s

With more focus on decease management for profitability over the last 70 years or so, the public’s use of, and access to, this valuable health treatment greatly decreased. The public’s present lack of knowledge regarding this, and other personal health care treatments, together with the widely held belief by orthodox medicine, that such treatments are no longer useful or necessary. But can proper bowel management and internal colon health be achieved through the use of drugs or surgery? 

“In times past, knowledge of the bowel was more widespread, and people were taught how to care for the bowel. Somehow, bowel wisdom got lost and it became something that no one wanted to talk about anymore.” Bernard Jensen, D.C


The procedure has a comeback in recent years. Colon cleansing has become popular again, especially when celebrities such as Beyonce talk about it on the Oprah Winfrey show. but it’s far from a new practice. 

healthy life

In the last 10 years or so there has been a resurgence of interest towards colon health, alternative medicine and personal health care responsibility to achieve superior health and wellness,