Ladies! Cannonball cure for constipation

In 1901, this Ladies Guide in Health and Disease ad advised women that they should let an "eminent German physician" cure their constipation by rolling a leather-encased cannonball around on their tummies.

Well then, that's good to know.


  1. Wait, so did people, like, used to have cannonballs hanging around in their homes?

    “Honey, I’m a bit constipated. Could you fetch the armaments from the kitchen? No, not that drawer, the one next to it, besides the cooking pots!”

  2. … and, correct me if i’m wrong but I believe the actual cannon, itself, was used for checking prostate problems.

      1. I much prefer analogue stimulation. Especially *tubes*

        (keeps the fingers cleaner too)

  3. Crazy Seventh-Day Adventists. You’ve seen The Road to Wellville, right? That was Battle Creek Sanitarium, run Dr. Kellogg (of Kellogg cereal) who is largely responsible for the US being one of the few countries where circumcision is performed for non-religious reasons. The idea was that it reduces masturbation. But that’s another story.

  4. Apparently this worked by giving the colon a not-so-subtle threat as to what it will be required to pass if it doesn’t get its act together!

  5. For men, they just packed the rectum with dynamite, lit the fuse and yelled ‘Fire in the hole!’

  6. This sounds a lot like the “I Love U” massage for constipated babies.  The “I” is a stroke low right side of the belly upward.  The “L” is the same stroke extended by a right to left stoke across the top of the belly.  The “U” begins lower right on the belly, then up, across, and down the other side to end at the lower left.  


    1. It’s just a massage following the lines of the colon – ascending, transverse, descending. Basically, squeezing out the poo. No woo involved, just anatomy.

  7. Chinese physicians have known for centuries that a gentle circular
    massage in a counter-clockwise motion (facing the person) will have a
    helpful effect on constipation.  Going the other way helps with

    If you stand, with your knees slightly bent, and relax.  Put your right
    hand over your belly just under your navel and place your left on top of
    your right.  Now slowly move the hands to the left and then up and then
    right and then down.  Don’t press hard.  Remember to breathe.  Really
    helps.  If the opposite of constipation is the problem, go the other

    That’ll be $25.

  8. Lewis Thomas (I think — one of the eminent medical popularizers of mid-century anyway) told the story of how, when he was a child, the local authorities in Flushing, NY thought they had found a Revolutionary War cannonball and were all atwitter trying to figure out trajectories from the Battle of Long Island. Then Thomas’ father, a physician himself and one who was always interested in new medical fads, explained that it was one of these constipation balls — he’d thrown it out years before when he concluded it didn’t work, and the leather covering had rotted off in the time since.

  9. I dunno about any kind of “rolling pin” effect on stuck poop…but it probably did wonders for their day-to-day digestion, and abdominal strength/health.
    Especially back in the days before the four food groups created a balanced diet, during which time stuff like wheat and other grains were considered actual food, and everything else was basically bonus.

  10. I am now inspired to start a high-end day spa exclusively using antiquated weaponry. Come for the canon ball massage, stay for the boiling oil facial. 

  11. I was mildly relieved to find out that it was not necessary to ingest the cannonball to achieve relief.

  12. The key bit of science here is rolling the cannonball “along the course of the colon”, which is a clockwise circle. You can do the same with your fist, but the cannonball would provide a constant moderate force with minimal exertion from the patient.

  13. This is awesome some guy obviously had a surplus of cannon balls, and wanted to get rid of them in a clever way.

    1. This is awesome some guy obviously had a surplus of cannon balls, and wanted to get rid of them in a clever way.

      Heavy Artillery, the forerunner to Big Pharma!

      1. Please don’t hit enter between the blockquote tag and the start of the quote. It adds an extra line.

  14. Cannonballs are effective in combating certain forms of disease, as well as destroying human life.

    That first line of the ad makes me laugh.  Seems like a risky move for the copy writer.  A little like saying “The BMW is a fun and sexy car to drive, and it’s also been responsible for over 300 fatal crashes this year alone!”

  15. One wonders what currently popular medical remedies will be viewed as no more sensible than the cannonball/constipation cure in 100 years. Leeches, bloodletting, or cupping, anyone?

  16. Wonder if the cannonball was as successful as the yogurt enemas administered multiple times daily to some patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium?

  17. It’s shipped “express”!  It would arrive on the Cannonball Express, I would imagine. 

  18. For all it’s wackiness, and the giddy fun we can have at talking about yoghurt enemas, Battle Creek Sanitarium was advocating a vegetable, fruit, whole grain and nut rich diet as well as frequent exercise about a century before mainstream medicine jumped on the bandwagon. 

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