Tobacco smoke enemas were administered by medical practitioners in the 18th century to treat everything from colds to cholera.
In England around 1774 Drs. William Hawes and Thomas Cogan formed The Institution for, you aren't going to believe this, affording immediate relief to persons who were apparently dead.
The treatment for "apparent death" was warmth and stimulation. Anne Greene, a woman sentenced to death and hanged in 1650 for the supposed murder of her stillborn child, was found to be still alive. She was revived by pouring hot cordial down her throat, rubbing her limbs and extremities, bleeding her, applying heating plasters and a "heating odoriferous Clyster to be cast up in her body, to give heat and warmth to her bowels." After placing her in a warm bed with another woman, to keep her warm, she recovered fully and was pardoned.
The Institution later became the Royal Humane Society. In the 18th century, the society promoted the rescue of drowning people, and paid 4 guineas (about $160 today) to anyone who successfully brought a drowning victim back to life! In the process they began began the practice of a unique type of holistic medicine.
It was around this time that tobacco had been imported to England from Virginia in the United States that was intended to be inhaled, chewed, smoked (usually in a clay pipe), or smoldered as what were known as bum cigars.
Native Americans (American Indians as they used to be called) used tobacco as a medicine and pioneered the use of tobacco smoke enemas. Word of this treatment made its way to England and medical assistants with Hawes and Cogans's society began to use the procedure to treat half-drowned London citizens who were pulled from the Thames River.
An enema tube with rubber tubing attachments was inserted into the victim and smoke was blown into the rectum. It was thought to accomplish two things; first, warming the drowned person and second, stimulating respiration. Artificial respiration was used if the tobacco smoke enema failed.
Soon, along with bloodletting, tobacco smoke enemas were all the rage. Practitioners offered the practice as a treatment for headaches, respiratory failure, colds, hernias and abdominal cramps. In the case of cramps the enema was administered simultaneously with feeding chicken broth by mouth. Tobacco smoke enemas were used for treating typhoid fever and cholera outbreaks, during what was referred to as the “stage of collapse” and death. Liquid tobacco enemas were often given to ease the symptoms of a hernia.
|an early enema kit|
The effects of smoke was not unknown to European medical practitioners because incense has been used since antiquity and the effects of burning hemp seed was well known by the Scythians and Thracians. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates recommended the inhalation of smoke for "female diseases" and Pliny the Elder recommended it as a cure for coughs.
Native Americans used the leaf for a variety of purposes, including religious worship, but Europeans soon became aware that they also used tobacco for medicinal purposes. The French diplomat Jean Nicot used a tobacco poultice as an analgesic and Nicolas Monardes advocated tobacco as a treatment for a long list of diseases, such as cancer, headaches, respiratory problems, stomach cramps, gout, intestinal worms and female diseases.
Tobacco was thought to work because of its ability to soak up moisture, to warm parts of the body, and to therefore maintain the equilibrium that was considered so important to a healthy person. In an attempt to discourage disease tobacco was also used to fumigate buildings.
In 1686 a fellow named Thomas Sydenham described its use to cure iliac passion. First the patient was bled, then after an hour or two the patient was caused to puke by administering “a strong purging glyster.” He knew of nothing better than tobacco smoke. This was accomplished by the smoke being “forced up through a large bladder into the bowels by an inverted pipe, which may be repeated after a short interval, if the former, by giving a stool, does not open a passage downwards.”
By the 19th-century Danish farmers are reported to have used the enemas for horses that needed laxatives and it has also been reported that in the United States Catawba Native Americans also treated their horses using the technique.
Artificial respiration was not unknown, but blowing smoke into the lungs (or the rectum) was thought to be useful, but the smoke enema was considered the most potent method, due to its supposed warming and stimulating properties.
The Dutch experimented with methods of inflating the lungs, as a treatment for those who had fallen into their canals and apparently drowned. Patients were also given rectal infusions of tobacco smoke, as a respiratory stimulant.
One of the first to recommend tobacco smoke enemas to resuscitate victims of drowning was Richard Mead in 1745. His name is associated with one of the earliest documented cases of resuscitation by the tobacco smoke enema. In 1746, a woman who looked to be drowned had, on the advice of a passing sailor, the stem of the sailor's pipe inserted into her rectum. The bowl was covered with a piece of perforated paper and smoke was blown hard into her rectum; she recovered. Who did the inserting and blowing and what subsequently happened to the sailor's pipe is not known.
In the 1780s the Royal Humane Society installed resuscitation kits, including smoke enemas, at various points along the River Thames and by the turn of the 19th century, tobacco smoke enemas had become an established practice in Western medicine, considered by Humane Societies to be as important as artificial respiration.
By 1805, the use of tobacco smoke enemas was so established as a way to treat constrictions of the alimentary canal that doctors began experimenting with other delivery mechanisms. In one experiment, a concoction of about 30 drops of tobacco in four ounces of water was used as an enema in a patient suffering from convulsions. The convulsions ceased, but the patient suffered vomiting, and profuse perspiration.
Such enemas were often used to treat hernias. A middle-aged man was reported in 1843 to have died following an application, performed to treat a strangulated hernia and in a similar case in 1847 a woman was given a liquid tobacco enema, supplemented with a chicken broth enema, and pills of opium and and an oral dose of a purgative. Somehow she recovered.
An 1827 medical journal reported on a woman who was treated for constipation with repeated smoke enemas, with little apparent success, but according to a report of 1835, tobacco enemas were used successfully to treat cholera "in the stage of collapse".
Early in the 17th century King James I offered a scathing attack on the practice writing, of its effectiveness, writing "[it] will not deigne to cure heere any other than cleanly and gentlemanly diseases." Others claimed that smoking dried out the "humours", that snuff made the brain "sooty" and that old people should not smoke as they were "naturally dried up anyway".
Some beliefs about the effectiveness of tobacco smoke to protect against disease persisted until well into the 20th century, but the use of tobacco smoke enemas in Western medicine declined after 1811, when animal experimentation demonstrated that nicotine is a cardiac poison.
The point of all this is to inform readers that if someone accuses you of blowing smoke up their a** now you know where the term came from.