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Dill (Anethum graveolens)

From Pickles to Colic

Fast facts: improves digestion, eases colic, fights flatulence, prevents infectious diarrhea in children

Ever wonder how dill got into dill pickles? Flavor enhancement is only part of the reason. The herb is also a natural preservative, and in the days before refrigeration, vegetables were often pickled in vinegar or brine to preserve them. With dill added, they lasted even longer. Dill also helped settle the stomach, because the herb is a digestive aid. In fact, the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese all used dill to soothe the stomach. The Vikings also appreciated dill's digestive benefits. Our word dill comes from the Old Norse dilla, to lull or soothe. During the Middle Ages, dill was used to protect against witchcraft, and throughout history, cooled dill tea, or "dillwater," has been a popular folk remedy for infant colic. "Dillwater works," says Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D., director of the American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah, and author of The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine. "It's gentle enough for infants."

"For colic, many herbalists recommend a combination of dill and fennel," says James A. Duke, Ph.D., a botanist retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and author of The CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. "Both herbs contain stomach-soothing oils."

Dill owes its preservative action to its ability to inhibit the growth of several bacteria (staphylococcus, streptococcus, pseudomonas and Escherichia coli). This effect suggests that it might help prevent another common early childhood gastrointestinal illness-infectious diarrhea caused by these same microorganisms.

Traditional herbalists also recommended dill for prevention of flatulence, and perhaps there was something to this. The herb has anti-foaming action, suggesting that it might help break up gas bubbles.

How to do dill To brew a stomach-soothing tea, use two teaspoons of mashed seeds per cup of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes. Drink up to three cups a day. In a tincture, take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon up to three times a day. To treat colic or gas in children under two, give small amounts of a weak tea.

In sensitive individuals, ingesting dill might cause skin rash, but the leaves, seeds and seed oil are generally considered nontoxic. If any skin irritation develops, discontinue use.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

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