Pure dill oil is extracted from Anethum sowa, an herb native to Southwest Asia. The plants can grow up to 3 feet (91 cm) tall and have small yellow flowers containing tiny seeds that produce the oil. This essential oil is extracted by means of steam distillation from the seeds of fresh or partly dried dill. Also commonly known as Indian dill, or by its botanical name Anethum Graveolens, dill oil is either clear or pale yellow color. Dill oil has a watery consistency, a grassy smell, and a strong, pungent flavor.
Dill has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The first known reference to dill as a remedy appears in the Egyptian Ebers papyrus, dating back to 1500 B.C., where it is listed as a painkiller. The ancient Greeks and Romans used dill in various potions and mixtures to relax the body and mind. Placing fronds of the dill herb upon the eyelids was believed to induce peaceful sleep. The Romans referred to dill as Anethon, which became the basis for the herb's botanical name. The Norse named it "dylla," which translated means "to soothe" or "to lull."
In the year 812, Emperor Charlemagne of France ordered the herb to be cultivated extensively because of its healing properties and also for culinary purposes. In the Middle Ages, dill oil was thought to ward off evil spells and witchcraft. Some believed that dill could even be used to control the weather, that it could part thunderclouds. Throughout the ages, up until the present day, however, dill's primary use has been medicinal. The oil's known therapeutic properties are sedative, disinfectant, antispasmodic, anti-gas, lactation-promoting, digestive and sweat-producing.
Dill oil is widely used as an herbal remedy for stress and tension headaches. It can calm feelings of being overwhelmed or in a state of crisis. Dill oil also eases sweating due to nervousness. For therapeutic purposes, the oil is typically administered by being inhaled through a vaporizer. Gripe water can also be made from the fresh dill herb to treat infants and small children for colic and related digestive complaints. Dill oil should not be given to babies, however; it is too potent. It should also not be used by expectant mothers, although dill oil can be very helpful after birth to stimulate production of breast milk.
Holistic doctors may recommend mixing dill oil with lotion or massage oil to promote rapid healing of wounds. This mixture can be applied directly to the skin or poured into bathwater. When taken internally, dill oil has soothing properties that can aid digestion and ease flatulence, hiccups and other gas-related intestinal problems. Cooking with dill oil adds flavor and healthful benefits to many dishes. It stimulates the appetite, activates the flow of digestive juices, and inhibits the microbial infections that cause diarrhea. It also fights against fungal infections throughout the body and bacterial infections in the mouth. Chewing on dill seeds or the leaves cleans the teeth after a meal and leaves breath smelling fresh.