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
Photo: Wellcome Collection

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

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’.