This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics Inorganic Substances", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia medica and therapeutics.
Charcoal has been recommended in dysentery, and its antiseptic powers may be serviceable in chronic cases. The putrid smell of the discharges may certainly be relieved by a few doses of 30 to 60 gr., but it returns on discontinuance of the remedy; the effect is a temporary chemical one.
Dr. Farre has reported cases in which it has acted equally well when given in enema (Ranking, ii., 1862).
In Enteric Fever charcoal lessens the distention of stomach and intestines, and when mixed with magnesia sometimes proves still more beneficial.
Moseley, in his work on tropical diseases, considers alum to be one of the best medicines in acute and chronic dysentery, and Dr. Waring has often seen it useful in asthenic cases; it was commonly given with opium. I think that a good mode of administering it in chronic cases is by injection, from 10 gr. to 2 dr. in a pint of liquid being used at a time (Hannon: Bulletin de l'Academie, xxxii.); this will also relieve the troublesome tenesmus, and the sense of itching and excoriation about the anus. One drachm to the pint is a proportion I have commonly used twice daily with good success: a strength of 1/2 oz. to the pint has also been used, but caused some burning pain; improvement, however, soon began, and cure resulted after about fourteen days of treatment (Medical Record, 1879).
M. Brassac, of the French naval service, records the best results from bismuth in epidemic dysentery. Finding little or no benefit from small doses, he followed the teaching of Monneret, and beginning with 230 to 300 gr. daily, increased to more than 1,000 gr.; he divided this into about five doses, according to the case, giving it in broth or milk, or sometimes by enema, and so long as more than one stool occurred in the day. This plan was very successful, and had no ill result; as a rule, his patients began at once to eat better and to gain strength (quoted Edinburgh Medical Journal, 1867). Trousseau also used bismuth injections in dysentery (Lancet, i., 1855), and more recently Dr. Houghton writes from Borneo, concerning their great value in subacute and chronic cases in tropical climates; he prescribes 30 gr. with mucilage to be injected two or three times daily, and retained if possible (Lancet, ii., 1879). In acute and chronic colitis, Laseque also used, with the best results, enemata of 30 to 150 gr. with egg or mucilage.
I cannot recommend iron preparations during the acute stage of dysentery, for I believe there are much better remedies, but some practitioners have found iron valuable. Bandon reports twelve cases suffering with tormina and very frequent sanguineous stools, which were treated by 12 to 30 min. doses of steel tincture internally, at the same time that about 12 min. with water (and sometimes laudanum) were injected; these cases were much relieved or cured within a week (Bulletin de Therapeutique, folio 71). Blanvillon corroborated these results (Gazette des Hopitaux, No. 130), and the same medication was largely used during the last German war (Lancet, ii., 1870): as a general rule, it is better restricted to chronic stages of dysentery, and for the anaemia and debility attendant upon this condition it is of great value.
In acute dysentery, with violent pain, severe prostration and frequent muco-sanguineous stools, small doses of corrosive sublimate, given at short intervals, commonly relieve in a few hours, and almost in a "specific" manner - certainly better than any other remedy I have known. Sublimate is equally useful in the "white dysentery" of Ceylon and India. I have seen the best results from it when opium, lead, and other astringents had proved useless. I thus agree with Wood, who asserts that in this malady "no remedial influence is more effective than that of mercury," rather than with Maclean, who deprecates its use in all forms and stages. I can only suppose that the injurious effects traced by him and by others to calomel, etc., resulted from doses that were too large.