History: Forget CPR. Blowing smoke up the butts of drowned patients used to be the in thing

These emergency enemas were even hung at various points along the River Thames

From ancient civilisations to prerevolutionary France, the history of the enema is awash with fans of the colonic cure-all.

enema
Photo: Wellcome Collection

References to enemas, or clysters, are found in the medical papyri of ancient Egypt, where physicians specialising in proctology had the rather special title of neru phuyt — or ‘guardians of the anus’.

The cleansing therapy was believed to treat a wide variety of ailments beyond just

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