An enema is "a fluid injected into the rectum for the purpose of clearing out the bowel, or of administering drugs or food." The word itself comes from the Greek en-hienai, meaning to "send or inject into." The enema has been called "one of the oldest medical procedures still in use today." Tribal women in Africa, and elsewhere, routinely use it on their children. The earliest medical text in existence, the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus, (1,500 B.C.) mentions it. Millennia before, the Pharaoh had a "guardian of the anus," a special doctor one of whose purposes was to administer the royal enema.
Enemas were known in ancient Sumeria, Babylonia, India, Greece and China. American Indians independently invented it, using a syringe made of an animal bladder and a hollow leg bone. Pre-Columbian South Americans fashioned latex into the first rubber enema bags and tubes. In fact, there is hardly a region of the world where people did not discover or adapt the enema. It is more ubiquitous than the wheel. Enemas are found in world literature from Aristophanes to Shakespeare, Gulliver Travels to Peyton Place.
In pre-revolutionary France a daily enema after dinner was de rigueur. It was not only considered indispensable for health but practiced for good complexion as well. Louis XIV is said to have taken over 2,000 in his lifetime.Could this have been the source of the Sun King's sunny disposition? For centuries, enemas were a routine home remedy. Then, within living memory, the routine use of enemas died out. The main times that doctors employ them nowadays is before or after surgery and childbirth. Difficult and potentially dangerous barium enemas before colonic X rays are of course still a favorite of allopathic doctors.
Coffee enemas were an established part of medical practice when Dr. Max Gerson introduced them into cancer therapy in the 1930s. Basing himself on German laboratory work, Gerson believed that caffeine could stimulate the liver and gall bladder to discharge bile. He felt this process could contribute to the health of the cancer patient.
Although the coffee enema has been heaped with scorn, there has been some independent scientific work that gives credence to this concept. In 1981, for instance, Dr. Lee Wattenberg and his colleagues were able to show that substances found in coffee—kahweol and cafestol palmitate—promote the activity of a key enzyme system, glutathione S-transferase, above the norm. This system detoxifies a vast array of electrophiles from the bloodstream and, according to Gar Hildenbrand of the Gerson Institute, "must be regarded as an important mechanism for carcinogen detoxification."
This enzyme group is responsible for neutralizing free radicals, harmful chemicals now commonly implicated in the initiation of cancer. In mice, for example, these systems are enhanced 600 percent in the liver and 700 percent in the bowel when coffee beans are added to the mice's diet.