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Anethum graveolens

Dill is a well established herb in our kitchens, though over the years it has lost some ground in the medicine chest. The ancients knew it well and used it extensively, not just to pickle cucumbers (which is a very ancient custom), but for a whole range of conditions and complaints. Dioscorides describes how to make Dill oil and Dill wine. Distilled Dill water was also commonly available at any apothecary - particularly recommended to calm wailing babies. It is thought that Dill is native to Southern Europe and the near East. A closely related species found in India may be native or may be a subspecies that developed from seeds left behind by early traders along the spice route. Both Dill seed and herb are utilized, although the seed is medicinally more active. The whole herb also played a significant role in various folk-magical customs.

Like all our culinary spices Dill is an excellent digestive herb. It is a warming, stimulating carminative that incites the appetite, soothes cramping and nausea and dispels flatulence. Old herbals also recommend it for hiccup. Chewing Dill seeds is recommended for bad breath. Dill also stimulates the menstrual flow and eases menstrual cramps. Wailing babies are quickly soothed with Dill water or tea - it calms the tummy and procures sleep. However, probably Dill's most useful action is as an excellent galactagogue, stimulating the flow of milk in nursing mothers.

Dill has long been used as a magical herb - not only by the witches themselves, but also to protect against their evil doings. Dill is hung above doorways for protection, or strewn about the stables for the same purpose. Cows are given a drink of Dill and Caraway immediately after giving birth to their calves - to protect them against the jealous witches that might steal their milk. Dill protects against the evil eye, and it is thought to work magic in court hearings. It was also used weather magic: burning the seeds was thought to dispel the thunder clouds. Dill is an herb of protection especially against the negative energies of jealousy and envy.