Cordial waters distilled from the fragrant herb called Dill are, as every mother and monthly nurse well know, a sovereign remedy for wind in the infant; whilst they serve equally well to correct flatulence in the grown up "gourmet." This highly scented plant (Anethum graveolens) is of Asiatic origin, growing wild also in some parts of England, and commonly cultivated in our gardens for kitchen or medicinal uses.
It "hath a little stalk of a cubit high, round, and joyned, whereupon do grow leaves very finely cut, like to those of Fennel, but much smaller." The herb is of the umbelliferous order, and its fruit chemically furnishes "anethol," a volatile empyreumatic oil similar to that contained in the Anise, and Caraway. Virgil speaks of the Dill in his Second Eclogue as the bene olens anethum, "a pleasant and fragrant plant." Its seeds were formerly directed to be used
by the Pharmacopoeias of London and Edinburgh. Forestus extols them for allaying sickness and hiccough. Gerard says: "Dill stayeth the yeox, or hicquet, as Dioscorides has taught."
The name Anethum was a radical Greek term (aitho to burn), and the herb is still called Anet in some of our country districts. The pungent essential oil which it yields consists of a hydrocarbon, "carvene," together with an oxygenated oil; It is a "gallant expeller of the wind, and provoker of the terms." "Limbs that are swollen and cold if rubbed with the oil of Dill are much eased; if not cured thereby."
A dose of the essential oil if given for flatulent indigestion should be from two to four drops, on sugar, or with a tablespoonful of milk. Of the distilled water sweetened, one or two teaspoonfuls may be given to an infant.
The name Dill is derived from the Saxon verb dilla, to lull, because of its tranquillizing properties, and its causing children to sleep. This word occurs in the vocabulary of Oelfric, Archbishop of Canterbury, tenth century. Dioscorides gave the oil got from the flowers for rheumatic pains, and sciatica; also a carminative water distilled from the fruit, for increasing the milk of wet nurses, and for appeasing the windy belly-aches of babies. He teaches that a
teaspoonful of the bruised seeds if boiled in water and taken hot with bread soaked therein, wonderfully helps such as are languishing from hardened excrements, even though they may have vomited up their feces.
The plant is largely grown in the East Indies, where is known as Soyah. Its fruit and leaves are used for flavoring pickles, and its water is given to parturient women.
Drayton speaks of the Dill as a magic ingredient in Love potions; and the weird gipsy, Meg Merrilies, crooned a cradle song at the birth of Harry Bertram in it was said:
"Trefoil, vervain, John's wort, Dill
Hinder witches of their will."