Beware the Limonadier !

In New York alone there are over a thousand members of the International Association For Colon Hydrotherapy (IACH). On New Yorker complained recently that she could hardly get an appointment to have her colon “toned” because of all “the models lined up at the door” of her therapist.

A former IACH president explained her attraction to the cleansing process: “It gets tacky in there. Get a colonic! There’s probably macaroni and cheese in there from 1978.” But the medicinal value of treatments of this ilk is not a new discovery, nor an uncommon one , as revealed in Panati’s Extraordinary Endings Of Practically Everything and Everybody [1989, Charles Panati, published by Harper & Row, 470 pages].

In a chapter on Vanished Vogues, Panati takes us back to Louis XIV, the Sun King, whose seventy-three years of rule guided France to her zenith of military power and to an unprecedented level of refinement and culture of his French court, incorporating food, drink, manners and, most significantly, the administering of enemas.

In those times, and for two full centuries following, the enema (known as the “clyster”, from the Greek, meaning, “to wash out”) was the mode at the French court; believed to brighten the spirits, freshen the complexion and rid the body of wastes.

As with the Personal Fitness Trainer of today, wealthy nobility were visited daily. Typically, two or more pharmacists, known as the limonadiers des posterieurs, literally “lemonaders of the rear end” (who worked out of fashionable chemist’s boutiques) would arrive with a smorgasbord of enema syringe tips and aromatic mixtures. Then at the height of his fame, dramatist Moliere, said the enema tip was used “to converse with the other cheeks”.

The seventeenth-century noble had a personal limonadier who provided a selection of syringes (gold, tortoiseshell or mother-of-pearl) and enema mixtures (orange blossom extracts, angelica, rosemary, damask rose, bergamot and thyme), each having their own restorative properties and chosen with respect to the client’s personal goals of the day.

The trained limonadier would advertise their skills as administering an enema was considered a high art. Much prose and poetry was devoted to this revered trade and it’s various techniques. One of the more prosaic texts refers to the lemonader as a “skilled tactician”, who was to be gentle and discreet and “not take the place by storm, but like a trained sharp shooter prepares for action and fires as he catches sight of his enemy”.

Instructions even employ terms of musical composition; the pressure pump is inserted “amoroso” and “set in motion pianissimo”

The enema was considered to be a daily vitamin pill, high fiber breakfast and facial all in one. Royalty and nobility took three of four per day whilst common folk administered their own. Even in French jails, prisoners from the better families were not deprived their right to a daily enema. A day without an enema was considered to be a day without care to health or hygiene.

Some special enemas were known to increase sexual potency. The “high” men and women enjoyed was probably linked to the fact that the most popular rejuvenating enema was the tobacco enema. With the nicotine being absorbed directly through the bowels this produced both a “rush” and an addiction which accounts for the widespread enema abuse of the time.

Initially the enema contained a solution of tobacco, but later craftsmen constructed an “enema pipe” by which the lemonader blew smoke into his client’s bowels. This was rectal smoking.

The smoke enema was widely used and was accepted procedure for reviving a fainted woman or anyone who had drowned. But I’m not sure that I recommend you try this when helping out a stranger at your next party or beach trip. It makes sense when you think about it though. No matter how unconscious I was I reckon a good blast of smoke blown right up my clacker by another would have me upright in no time.

Because the seventeenth-century physician considered constipation to be a lethal condition, the enema as cure, was an indispensable tool of his trade and it appears to be making a comeback after being out of favor for the last century.

With Princess Diana publicly espousing her own personal support and use of such traditional medicinal procedures, one can only acknowledge her hitherto questioned royalty and nobility as she leads a crusade to return to the impeccable manners of the seventeenth-century French court and its aristocratic lemonaders.