What Is Colonic Therapy?

Colonic therapy is the cleansing of the colon, or large intestine, to remove toxins that advocates of the procedure believe are responsible for a wide variety of ills. Also known as a high colonic, colonic irrigation and hydro-colon therapy, the procedure uses water, enzymes, herbal formulas and even coffee to facilitate this cleansing process. The removal of toxins from the colon, according to colonic therapy proponents, helps promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the large intestine.

Mainstream Views

The consensus view about this procedure among mainstream medical organizations could at best be described as mixed, leaning toward skepticism. No such organization endorses colonic therapy, although some are less critical of this alternative medical treatment than others. Pointing out that there is no scientific proof that colonic therapy is effective in the treatment of any disease, much less cancer, the American Cancer Society (ACS) warns that the procedure “can be dangerous and can cause infection or death.” Writing about the topic on MayoClinic.com, Dr. Michael Picco reports that critics of colonic therapy argue that it is almost always unnecessary and in some cases can be injurious to the body.


The market is awash in colon-cleansing formulas, most of which are herbal in nature and designed to be taken orally over a number of days until the desired cleansing effect is complete. An Internet search for “colon cleansing” will bring up literally hundreds of such products, the efficacy and safety of which can be hard to determine. There are even so-called colon hydrotherapy products, which are designed for self-administration and are said to mimic professionally administered irrigation of the colon with a combination of water and herbal solutions.

Administration by Specialist

If you want to pursue colonic therapy but would prefer to have the procedure administered by a specialist, look for a colonic hydrotherapist in your area. The procedure involves the introduction of large quantities of filtered water—into which additional ingredients may be dissolved—into the colon via the rectum. The water enters the large intestine through sterilized hosing that has been inserted through the rectum into the colon itself. This procedure differs from an enema, which reaches only the rectum and the lower end of the colon. By contrast, colonic therapy is designed to cleanse the entire colon, which ranges in length from 5 to 5 1/2 feet.

A Brief History

Colonic therapy—or at least a primitive version thereof—has been around for centuries. Ancient Egyptian medical practitioners used a variety of cleansing methods, including enemas, in an attempt to rid the body of toxins. The procedure became widely popular in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s, during which time colonic irrigation equipment was routinely found in hospitals and doctors’ offices. The popularity of the procedure waned when medical research failed to find scientific evidence that it could achieve the benefits promised. Although no such evidence has been found in the intervening years, colonic therapy is once again enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

Possible Dangers

There have been cases of illness and even deaths linked to colonic therapy, according to the ACS. Such complications have been traced to the use of contaminated equipment, the perforation of intestinal walls and electrolyte imbalances caused by the procedure. The organization warns that those most prone to possible injury include people with a history of Crohn’s disease, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, intestinal or rectal polyps, and ulcerative colitis.

Colonic therapy is the cleansing of the colon