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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 7, 2004


JAMA. 2004;291(13):1646. doi:10.1001/jama.291.13.1646

The space devoted to the therapeutic uses of olive oil in most text-books is very small, reference usually being made to the nutritive value of the oil and its use by some physicians in gallstone attacks. Rutherford1 and his colleagues at the Army General Hospital in San Francisco have recently given an extensive trial to this medicament in cases of chronic dysentery with excellent results. Most of the cases were long-standing ones, in which the various recognized remedies for the disease had been tried over long periods of time with unsatisfactory or only partly satisfactory results. The oil was given in very large doses over long periods of time; beginning with doses of thirty cubic centimeters three times a day, the dose was gradually increased to ninety cubic centimeters three times a day. At first it was necessary to disguise the taste of the oil by mixing it with milk, but the patients soon acquired a toleration to or even a strong liking for the oil. Of the first twenty-eight completed cases under this treatment, seventeen returned to duty, and only two of these had any evidences at all of dysentery. The remainder were either discharged improved or passed from notice. Rutherford regards the results as being due in large part to the effect of the oil on the biliary secretion. The bile is increased in quantity and acts in a three-fold manner; it favors the absorption of fats, stimulates peristalsis, and acts as an intestinal antiseptic. This is shown by the presence of an increased amount of bile in the feces, the cessation of signs of fermentation and putrefaction, and the general systemic improvement.

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