An oil enema is the insertion of a small volume of oil into the rectum. Oil enemas, otherwise known as sneha basti are commonly used in Ayurvedic therapy as part of a complex cleansing treatment called panchakarma.
Benefits of Oil Enema
- lubrication of the rectum and colon
- preparation for higher-volume enemas
- relief from gas and bloating
- softening of hard stools
- relief of constipation
- reduction of other symptoms due to excess vata dosha
- a gentle complement to your cleansing regime
An oil enema is an effective alternative for individuals who are unable to administer high-volume enemas: pregnant women, the elderly, or people with weakness due to illness.
How to Give Yourself an Oil Enema
An oil enema can be a little messier than a regular enema, but following the advice below will help to reduce the risks of spills and leaks, and help you to get the most benefit from your oil enema.
Buy the Appropriate Equipment
Using the right equipment is very important for giving yourself an oil enema without the mess. First of all, an enema bag is much too large for the volume of oil you will need, and it will take a much longer time to clean it afterwards. But, most importantly, if you use a bag you will not be able to achieve the appropriate pressure for injecting the oil all the way into to colon. You need a syringe to inject oil; since oil is thick, it will not flow as water does through enema tubing.
There are two types of syringes available:
Bulb Syringe – Bulb syringes range in volume from 1oz – 26oz (30-780ml). You will need nothing larger than an 8oz size (240ml) for an oil enema. These syringes are easy to find; however, they can get a little messy and may not be the best choice. Because the bulb self-inflates when you release pressure from it, if you do not maintain a firm grip on the bulb for the entire time it is in your rectum, you will draw oil from your rectum back into the syringe. This means that you will end up with less oil in the colon than you were hoping for (you can’t squeeze it back in because then you will also inject a fair amount of air). Also, along with the oil, the bacteria, and matter from your rectum will be drawn into the syringe. That is not at all sanitary because these bulbs are difficult to clean inside.
You may not have problems using a smaller sized bulb syringe, but the larger the bulb, the more difficult it will be. To make it easier to use, lay in a position where both of your hands can reach the enema syringe, or get assistance from another person.
You can buy a bulb syringe here.
Standard Syringe – A larger sized standard syringe is preferable to a bulb syringe, because with this type of syringe, once the oil is injected into your rectum the syringe will not draw it back in. With a standard syringe, you also do not have the same risk of injecting air into the colon as you do with bulb syringes. These are easier than the bulbs to clean and sanitize for reuse.
This syringe is harder to find in a variety of sizes. Sizes ranging from 30- 100ml/cc are common, but you may have difficulty finding this syringe with a larger volume than 100ml. If you want to inject more than 100ml of oil you can either refill the syringe once emptied, or fill more than one syringe and keep it within close reach.
You can buy one of these syringes with a soft tube that you insert into the rectum here.
Preparation for Oil Enema
Unlike the larger volume enemas, there is no preparation required for oil enema; however, oil enema should be done after a meal. Lunch time (between 10 am and 2 pm) is best because your body’s ability to absorb peaks at this time. Administer this enema while you still have a full stomach.
Of course, you still want to have the basics covered:
- Make sure the room is warm, because you will probably want to be naked from the waist down
- Choose a comfortable spot; you will remain there for 30minutes after injection
- Place some old towels where you be laying to catch any spills or leaks
How much oil should you use?
60-90ml of oil is enough in most cases, but more oil (up to 240ml) can be administered safely.
What kind of oil should you use?
You can use any natural oils. Sesame, almond, and castor oil are commonly used. Castor Oil is best if you are suffering from severe constipation because it has laxative properties. Use sesame oil (make sure to use only unrefined sesame oil) if you are the type of person who is prone to becoming cold and use almond oil if you are more prone to becoming hot.
It is ideal if you can obtain medicinally prepared Ayurvedic herbal oils, as these are the most beneficial. Sacharadi thaila or Dhanwantaram thaila are the most suitable. Any Ayurvedic supplier will have herbal medicinal oils. Choose the “vasti pakam’ grade for injecting into your colon. These oils are great, but very difficult to find outside of India.
If you want to increase absorption, use the following Ayurvedic recipe for sneha vasti. The rock salt aids the absorption of oil, and the dill seeds are a strong carminative.
Related: How to Use a Castor Oil Pack
Small oil enema
- 60-90ml suitable oil (Sacharadi thaila or Dhanwantaram taila)
- 15g paste of Anethum sowa (roasted and powdered dill seeds)
- 10g powdered rock salt
- 240ml suitable oil
- 30g paste of paste of Anethum sowa
- 15g powdered rock salt
Using a mortar and pestle, mix the salt, dill seeds, and oil together. Once mixed, filter through cheesecloth or fine muslin. Squeeze the cloth to get any remaining oil out.
1. Warm the oil
Heat the oil until lukewarm. The best way to heat the oil is by keeping it in another container which is filled with warm water. You can also heat it over a low temperature on the stove. You will want it relatively warm, to increase it’s absorption in the colon, but make sure you do not heat the temperature above 104˚ F (40˚ C); if the oil is too hot, it may scald the delicate lining of the rectum.
Fill your syringe and make sure everything that you need is in place. You do not want to wait too long before you inject because the oil will cool rather quickly.
2. Insert and Inject
Before you begin, squeeze the syringe until a small amount of oil comes out; this will get rid of any air in the syringe. If you are using a bulb syringe, maintain your grip and make sure not to let the bulb inflate and draw the air back in.
Lay on your left side with the left leg straight and right knee bent. You can rest your head on your left arm or a pillow. Your right hand should be able to reach your anus, if it does not, you will need assistance to administer your enema. This position is usually the most comfortable for people. If it isn’t working for you, then try the other positions outlined in ‘How to Give Yourself an Enema’.
Lubricate the anus as well as the enema nozzle and gently guide the nozzle into the anus until you have passed the internal anal sphincter (about 3 inches). Remember to relax! Once the nozzle is in, it is time to inject the oil; it will only take a moment to get all of the oil inside the colon.
Leave a small amount of oil in the syringe, if you inject it all into the rectum, you risk injecting air as well. If you take in air, it will become harder to retain the enema.
3. Remove the nozzle and retain the oil
After the enema is administered, slowly withdraw the nozzle from the rectum and squeeze the muscles of your anus. Retain the oil for 30 minutes. If oil comes out before 30 minutes, then repeat the basti right away; oil which does not remain inside does not serve the purpose.
While you are laying down, massage the abdomen in a counter-clockwise direction to move the oil deeper into the intestinal tract.
After you have held the oil enema for 30 minutes, you can evacuate in the toilet. If oil does not come out, it is ok; this just means that it was absorbed into the tract. If it is going to come out, it will do so within nine hours. If nine hours has passed, then forget about it, it means it was all absorbed.
4. Be aware of post-enema leaking
Some oil may leak out, even a few hours after the enema; wear a pad or an old pair of underwear that you do not mind getting oil stains on.
Keep in mind, that if you pass some gas after your oil enema, you are likely to pass some oil along with it. Of course, holding intestinal gas is never recommended, so either make sure you are wearing something that will absorb the oil or move to the toilet before expelling the gas.
You will only have to be cautious about the possible leaks on the day which you took your enema; all remaining oil will be absorbed or expelled by the next day.
How Often Should You do an Oil Enema?
For maintenance purposes, an oil enema can be performed daily, in doses under 60ml (usually 15-25ml is plenty for daily use). Volumes over 90ml should be done on an as-needed basis, for a maximum of seven consecutive days.
Precautions for Administering an Oil Enema
Do not administer oil enema is you are currently suffering from:
- cold or flu
- consumption of poison
Photo: Michelle Greene