Ancient Healing Remedies for Every Home

by Catherine Haug, March 2, 2011; originally published on The EssentiaList (8a, 8b).

What did people do to heal themselves and their family members from disease, prior to the age of modern medicine and pharmaceuticals? Probably the first thing that comes to mind is the use of healing herbs. Chinese and Ayurvedic practices may also come to mind. But in addition to these, there are two nearly forgotten remedies that can be used to treat, or at least reduce the symptoms of, almost any illness.

We may not always have access to OTC and prescription drugs. Drought and other factors may make herbal preparations difficult to obtain. But if every home has access to these two simple remedies, we will be ahead of the game. All that is needed is the equipment and clean water. Read on for more detail.

See also: 1. Natural Healing and Personal Care Remedies Menu; 2. How to Administer an Eye Wash

They are: Rectal enema and Nasal enema (Neti pot or snuffling)

The Rectal Enema

Enema and Douche Bag

Enema and Douche Bag

(Image, right, from Amazon(9))

Most sources trace this remedy back to the 1600s Europe, but it is much older than that. It is mentioned in ancient Egyptian papyrus writings from 1500 BC. The technique was known in ancient Africa, Greece, Babylonia, India, China and the Americas.(1)

In our more recent past, enemas were often administered at the first sign of disease, especially fever, to remove the body of ‘evil agents,’ which today we call toxins.

Today, it is seldom used, I suppose because our culture is uncomfortable discussing the bowel. We would rather pop a pill (without regard to its toxic nature), than cleanse our bowel. However, as it becomes more apparent that much disease begins in the bowel, medical practitioners are becoming more open to the use of the enema. And, of course, many surgeries require a thorough bowel cleaning via the Fleet enema.

What is a rectal enema?

The most basic of enemas is simply a water flush of the lower bowel (the colon, or large intestine). Healing herbs, cleansing salts, probiotics, teas or coffee can be added. Most typically, 1 – 8 cups of fluid is allowed to slowly enter the bowel. Abdominal massage can be used to relax cramps and allow the water to progress farther up the colon. This fluid may then be retained for several minutes, or expelled immediately, depending on the reason for doing the enema.

All you need are an enema bag (many hot water bottles can be equipped to deliver an enema), a delivery tube, a rectal tip, and clean water (filtered is best).

There are two basic types of rectal enema:

  • Cleansing: used to gently flush the colon, and is retained for only a few minutes before evacuating. Lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, catnip and other herbal teas can be added to the warm water flush for specific effects. Also baking soda, salt, or epsom salt may be added.
  • Retention: retained for a longer period (15 minutes to hours). For example, the Gerson coffee enema for liver detox and cancer therapy, or a probiotic retention enema.

For more information on how to give an enema, see an excellent paper by Catherine Cavanaugh, RN: How To Give Yourself An Enema (5), or Cat’s version Home Enema Procedure (originally from The Essentialist (8), for which I am the editor and primary writer.

Symptoms that may be relieved by enema

The following symptoms or problems are often relieved by one or more enemas (1,2 a, 2b,3):

[NOTE: I am not a doctor and not qualified to advise you on your specific health situation.]

  • Allergies
  • Bad or unpleasant breath
  • Bloating
  • Candida infection
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Flatulence
  • Headache
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Indigestion
  • Irritability
  • Itching
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Parasite infestation
  • Sinus Congestion
  • Skin condition
  • Stomach Pains
  • Swelling
  • Weight Problems

Other uses for enema include (1,2a,2b,3):

  • Implant healing substances in the upper colon; e.g., probiotics, herbs, etc.;
  • Hydration, especially if all available water is contaminated and unfit for drinking (note, however, that infection may result; also note that the water should be purified before using in an enema);
  • Provide nutrition via the colon, when feeding by mouth is not possible and an IV and/or feeding tube are not available (note that the colon lacks digestive enzymes, so only simple sugars, amino acids, salts and alcohol will be absorbed);
  • Administer substances into the blood stream (by absorption through the intestinal wall), whenever it is desirable to avoid digestion (breakdown) of the substances. These include antiemetics and anti-angiogenic agents.
  • Topical administration of medications, such as for treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.

Links to specific enema Recipes by Category:

NOTE: This list of links can also be found on Natural Healing and Personal Care Remedies Menu.

  • Easy-to-take and soothing
    • Warm Water Enema (for diarrhea)
    • Castile Soap Enemas (for constipation)
    • Salt-Soda Enema (for spring cleaning; stimulates lymph)
    • Aloe Vera Enema (for reducing bowel inflammation)
  • Acidic or astringent (These can be hard to retain)
    • Apple Cider Vinegar Enema (for detox & pH balance)
    • Lemon Juice Enema (for cleansing, detox, & pH balancing)
  • Purging
    • Garlic-Epsom Salt Enema (purging, as for getting rid of parasites)
  • High Enemas
    • Sweet Dairy Whey Enema (detox, minerals, pH balancing)
    • Probiotic Enema (see also Probiotic Retention Enema, below)
  • Retention Enemas
    • Coffee Enema (for liver detox)
    • Chlorophyll or Wheatgrass Enema (for pH balancing, mineral)
    • Probiotic Retention Enema (Implant)

Enemas for specific issues

For more detail about each of the recommendations that follow, see:

Diarrhea: It may sound counter-intuitive to do an enema when you are having diarrhea, but consider this: diarrhea is the body’s attempt to use fluids to flush toxins and microbes from the bowel. Unfortunately, this can lead to dehydration from loss of too much water. Aiding the body by giving a warm-water enema speeds up the process, and at the same time, re-hydrates the body.

Constipation: Perhaps the most common use of the enema is for constipation, and a Castile soap enema is a good way to clean you out and give relief. A warm-water enema is also useful.

Spring cleaning: Just as you give your home a good spring cleaning, it’s also a good idea to give your colon a good spring cleaning.  I like to do a routine salt-soda enema twice a year, for this purpose.  It has the added benefit of stimulating the lymph system to clean itself.

Parasites:An enema containing garlic is a good choice if you have parasites (pathogenic bacteria, candida, pinworms, etc.) in your large intestine.  It’s best to mix some salt into the enema fluids, to help the mucosa shed toxins, and to reduce transfer of water into and out of the cells.  The garlic-Epsom salt enema is a good example.

Detox: When serious illness or parasites are present, the system may be overwhelmed by toxins, causing distress.  The liver works overtime to detoxify these substances, and can become tired and weak.  A good colon cleanse can help the liver rid itself of the toxic substances.  One of the best cleanses for this purpose is the coffee enema, which acts to stimulate bile secretion into the small intestine; bile is essential for detox.  A coffee enema is also an excellent general colon cleanse for the lower colon. (NOTE: never use more than 1 quart of coffee for this enema).

Follow-up:After giving yourself a cleansing or coffee enema, it’s always good practice to follow with a probiotic retention enema, to restore probiotics removed by the enema.  Restoring probiotics improves your immune system and helps detox.  To be most effective, take probiotics both orally and in an enema. Plain, unsweetened yogurt or kefir are excellent. Also capsules of live probiotics (dump capsule content into the enema water), but don’t use enteric-coated probiotics as they will be ineffective.

[NOTE: I am not a doctor and am not qualified to advise you on your specific health situation.]

Other Considerations

Like most everything else these days, enemas can be abused, such as by those who desire to lose weight. If you have teenagers or young adult children, be watchful for enema abuse and/or enema addiction. (4)

Rectal enemas can be particularly addicting because they stimulate the release of serotonin (a feel-good neurotransmitter) in the gut. Enemas should never be taken more than 7 consecutive days. I personally limit myself to 3 to 5 days of enema with 2 – 4 days of rest before starting another cycle. However, if I do a 7-day juice fast, I may need to do an enema all 7-days.

For lots more on enemas, see CureZone (4). See also How To Give Yourself An Enema, by Catherine Cavanaugh, RN (5)

Nasal Enema: the Neti Pot

Neti pot

Neti pot

Photo, left, from Amazon (9))

In the U.S., sinus problems is the #1 reason people see a doctor, due in part to increasing pollution and chemicals in our environment, and also to poor dietary choices.

The use of the Neti pot comes to us from ancient India and the practice of Ayurvedic medicine. Neti is a very effective method to provide relief from allergies, sinus infections, common colds and even asthma. Neti helps in relieving headaches and facilitates in maintaining youthfulness.

Ever since this topic appeared on Oprah with Dr. Oz, even mainstream medical practitioners recommend its use. You can purchase a Neti pot at Swan Valley Herbs in Bigfork.

Caution: always use purified water in the Neti pot (distilled or filtered water is best). Never use tap water. To purify water: Boil water for 1 minute (or 3 minutes if more than 6500 feet above sea level), then allow to cool. [March 2020 Note: while adding bleach to water is an alternative to boiling water, the newest version of bleach is highly concentrated, so less is needed to add to water before using.  After adding the bleach, let the water sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the bleach to evaporate and decompose, before using in the Neti pot.]

[NOTE: I am not a doctor and am not qualified to advise you on your specific health situation.]

How to use a Neti pot

It involves a warm salt-water solution that is poured through one nostil and exits through the other nostril. Using salt in the water eases the discomfort and burning sensation from plain water (such as you experience when swimming or diving). See Holistic Healing: How to Use a Neti Pot (6). See also videos: The Official Neti Pot Demo Video (2 min (7a)) or  Neti Pot for Nasal Irrigation (5 min (7b)).

However, you don’t need an actual Neti pot to do this. You can snuffle (snort) warm salt water from the cup of your hand. Or use your portable water bottle as shown in this 1 minute video: You don’t need a netty pot...(7c)

As with any home remedy, it can be overused. “A conference abstract presented in November 2009 indicated that frequent nasal irrigation led to higher rates of sinus infections, which was likely due to alterations in nasal immunological chemistry brought on by flushing out the protective elements of the mucos membrane of the nose. No such results were observed for short term use.” (2c)


  1. Health and Yoga: History of Enema (
  2. Wikipedia:
    1. Enema (;
    2. Nutrient Enema (; and
    3. Nasal Irrigation (
  3. Body Ecology: Home Enemas, How and Why (
  4. Cure Zone: Enema & Colon Hydrotherapy (; Bowel Cleanse (
  5. How To Give Yourself An Enema, by Catherine Cavanaugh (
  6. Holistic Healing: How to Use a Neti Pot (
  7. Videos:
    1. The Official Neti Pot Demo Video (;
    2. Neti Pot for Nasal Irrigation (; and
    3. You don’t need a netty pot… (
  8. The EssentiaList:
    1. Home Enemas ( or on
    2. Administering an Eye Wash (
  9. Amazon images of enema bag ( and Neti pot (

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