Alternate Title

  • High colonic

Related Terms

  • Bowel cleansing, colonic hydrotherapy, colonic irrigation, enema, high colonic.


  • Irrigation of the colon for therapeutic purposes may have been used as early as ancient Egypt, China, India, and Greece. This practice gained popularity in 19th Century European spas, and has been used in modern times to promote general well being and to treat multiple health conditions.
  • Modern day colonic irrigation, or colonic hydrotherapy, is a variant of enema treatment. The technique involves flushing the bowel with water using different quantities, temperatures and pressures. A tube is inserted into the rectum and water is introduced either alone, or with the addition of enzymes, coffee, probiotics, or herbs. During a “high colonic,” water goes in though one tube and is removed along with debris from the colon through another tube called an obturator. Treatment sessions may last up to one hour.

Evidence Table


    These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

    Ostomy care

    Colonic irrigation may be used in patients with ostomies (post-surgical connections of the intestines to the side of the body). This procedure should be performed by or under strict supervision of a qualified ostomy healthcare provider.

    Surgical uses

    Surgeons or other healthcare practitioners may use colon irrigation before or during some bowel surgeries for purposes such as cleansing or towards improved healing.

    Colonic spasm (during colonoscopy)

    Evidence from some studies has shown that irrigation with warm water during colonoscopy may help reduce the incidence of colonic spasm. Further research is needed.

    Drug withdrawal

    There is currently not enough scientific evidence for or against the use of colon therapy for aiding in detoxification of drugs in the body.

    Fecal (stool) incontinence

    Preliminary study shows possible benefits of regular irrigation of the lower part of the colon in the treatment of fecal incontinence. Further study is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.

*Key to grades:



    The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.



    Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.


  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().



    Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to . Selected references are listed below.

  • Anonymous. Amebiasis associated with colonic irrigation–Colorado. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 3-13-1981;30(9):101-102.
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  • Briel JW, Schouten WR, Vlot EA, et al. Clinical value of colonic irrigation in patients with continence disturbances. Dis Colon Rectum 1997;40(7):802-805.
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  • Ernst E. Colonic irrigation and the theory of autointoxication: a triumph of ignorance over science. J Clin.Gastroenterol 1997;24(4):196-198.
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  • Istre GR, Kreiss K, Hopkins RS, et al. An outbreak of amebiasis spread by colonic irrigation at a chiropractic clinic. N.Engl J Med 8-5-1982;307(6):339-342.
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  • Lim JF, Tang CL, Seow-ChoenF, et al. Prospective, randomized trial comparing intraoperative colonic irrigation with manual decompression only for obstructed left-sided colorectal cancer. Dis Colon Rectum 2005;48(2):205-209.
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  • Sha LJ, Zhang ZX, Cheng LX. [Colonic dialysis therapy of Chinese herbal medicine in abstinance of heroin addicts–report of 75 cases]. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1997;17(2):76-78.
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  • Sisco V, Brennan PC, Kuehner CC. Potential impact of colonic irrigation on the indigenous intestinal microflora. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1988;11(1):10-16.
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  • van der Berg MM, Geerdes BP, Heij HA, et al. Defecation disorders in children: treatment with colonic irrigation through an appendicostomy. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd 2005;149(8):418-422.