The Lowdown on Coffee Enemas

What Should I Know About Them?

coffee enema
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A coffee enema is a type of alternative therapy used to "cleanse the colon". It involves introducing a mix of coffee and water into the colon by way of the rectum. Proponents suggest that coffee enemas can promote detox and provide a range of benefits, such as improved liver health and protection against some forms of cancer.

Unlike colonics, which involve multiple infusions of water, an enema involves a one-time infusion of water.

The water sits in the lower part of the colon for a short period of time, then is released.

While coffee enemas are sometimes administered by practitioners of alternative medicine, many individuals perform coffee enemas on their own at home.

Uses for Coffee Enemas

Coffee enemas are typically touted as a natural treatment for the following health issues:

• chronic pain
• fatigue

In addition, coffee enemas are often used to boost mood, reduce stress, increase energy levels, improve digestion, and promote sounder sleep.

Coffee enemas are also purported to aid in the treatment and/or prevention of cancer. To that end, it's commonly used as a component of Gerson Therapy.

The Science Behind the Health Benefits of Coffee Enemas

Despite their popularity as an alternative therapy, coffee enemas and their health effects have been explored in very few scientific studies.

What's more, the available research indicates that coffee enemas may fail to offer significant health benefits.

For instance, a small study published in Human & Experimental Toxicology in 2012 provides evidence contrary to the claim that coffee enemas can increase the body's production of glutathione.

A compound with antioxidant properties, glutathione is known to stimulate the excretion of bile (a substance critical for digestion). Proponents of coffee enemas often name increased glutathione production as a key factor in the treatment's supposedly detoxifying effects.

For the 2012 study, 11 healthy participants either received coffee enemas three times a week for two weeks or drank coffee twice daily for 11 days. After a washout period, each participant then switched to the alternate coffee-based treatment. Results revealed that neither approach led to an increase in glutathione levels or in total antioxidant capacity.

However, a pilot study published in Clinical Nutrition Research in 2014 suggests that coffee enemas may be useful in preparing the bowel for endoscopy (a type of procedure that includes cancer-screening tests such as colonoscopy).

Side Effects & Safety Concerns

There's some concern that coffee enemas may be harmful to individuals with the following conditions: abdominal hernia, blood vessel disease, congestive heart failure, Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, gastrointestinal cancer, heart disease, intestinal tumors, severe anemia, hemorrhoids, and ulcerative colitis.

In addition, coffee enemas should be avoided by pregnant or nursing women, children, and people who have undergone colon surgery.

Like coffee consumed orally, coffee enemas can be stimulating and result in caffeine dependence.

Coffee enemas may also lead to a number of serious complications. Although infrequent, these complications include perforation of the wall of the intestines, electrolyte imbalance, heart failure, and even death.

The risk of side effects appears to increase if coffee enemas are combined with fasting.


Due to the lack of research on the health effects of coffee enemas, it's too soon to recommend this treatment for any health-related purpose. If you're seeking a natural approach to detox, it's possible that following a plant-based diet may be beneficial. You can learn more about detox-promoting foods here.

Since coffee enemas may pose certain health risks, it's important to talk to your doctor prior to undergoing a coffee enema.


Keum B, Jeen YT, Park SC, Seo YS, Kim YS, Chun HJ, Um SH, Kim CD, Ryu HS. "Proctocolitis caused by coffee enemas." Am J Gastroenterol. 2010 Jan;105(1):229-30.

Kim ES1, Chun HJ1, Keum B1, Seo YS1, Jeen YT1, Lee HS1, Um SH1, Kim CD1, Ryu HS1. "Coffee enema for preparation for small bowel video capsule endoscopy: a pilot study." Clin Nutr Res. 2014 Jul;3(2):134-41.

Teekachunhatean S1, Tosri N, Rojanasthien N, Srichairatanakool S, Sangdee C. "Pharmacokinetics of Caffeine following a Single Administration of Coffee Enema versus Oral Coffee Consumption in Healthy Male Subjects." SRN Pharmacol. 2013;2013:147238.

Teekachunhatean S1, Tosri N, Sangdee C, Wongpoomchai R, Ruangyuttikarn W, Puaninta C, Srichairatanakool S. "Antioxidant effects after coffee enema or oral coffee consumption in healthy Thai male volunteers." Hum Exp Toxicol. 2012 Jul;31(7):643-51.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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