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Monday, July 16, 2007

Dill is shi luo zi, Dill is xiao hui xiang

The dill plant is an annual or biennial herb with a smooth and erect stem, up to about 1 m (3.3 ft) high. Its leaves are finely dissected, like branches of needles. Dill is scientifically called Anethum graveolens of the parsley family and is known in Chinese as shi luo zi or xiao hui xiang ("small fennel"). It is a native of the Mediterranean and southern Russia and is cultivated in European countries as well as in the United States, the West Indies, India, and China. The dried ripe fruit (dill seed) and the whole aboveground herb (dill herb) furnish the well-known spices. They are also used for the production of dill-seed oil and dill-herb oil, both of which are used as flavor or fragrance components in food, drug, and cosmetic products in Western countries.

For Chinese medicine, the dill fruits are harvested by collecting the whole of the fruiting branches (umbels). After drying under the sun, these are thrashed to release the fruits, which, after being separated from extraneous matter, are further sun-dried to yield the dill seed.

Dill seed usually contains 2.5% to 4% volatile oil, composed mainly of carvone with lesser amounts of numerous other aromatic chemicals. Dill also contains coumarins (e.g., bergapten, scopoletin, and umbelliferone), steroids (e.g., sitosterol), flavonnoids, glucosides, phenolic acids, about 16% protein, 15% fats, 55% carbohydrates, minerals (especially calcium and potassium) and vitamins (e.g., A and C), among other constituents.

In Western folk medicine, dill seed is used as an antispasmodic, sedative, carminative, diuretic, and stomachic. Conditions for which it is used include lack of appetite, upset stomach, insomnia, and flatulence. It is also used to promote milk flow in nursing mothers.

Dill seed oil has been the subject of various experiments with animals and has been found to lower blood pressure, inhibit the growth of bacteria, and relax the spasms of the intestines and uterine muscles.

Dill seed is considered in Chinese medicine to taste pungent and to have invigorating properties. It is said to benefit the spleen, kidney, and stomach - dispersing colds, increasing appetite, and getting rid of fish and meat toxins. It is used mainly in treating gastrointestinal problems, including stomachache, colic, vomiting, lack of appetite, and abdominal distention. The usual daily internal dose is 2.5 to 5 g. (o.1 to 0.2 oz.) taken in the form of a decoction, pills, or powder.

The following are three remedies reproduced from classical herbals.

To treat abdominal distention, vomiting, inability to hold food, and flank pain in children, a well-known 15th century book of remedies directs one to make pills the size of mung beans (or peas) out of dill-seed powder. For a three-year0old child, 30 pills are given with tangerine-peel tea. For adults, the dose is of course larger.

To treat backache due to sudden sprain, 6 g. (0.2 oz.) of dill-seed powder is taken with wine.

For treating hernia, and "painful abdominal mass" in women, 38 g. (1.3 oz.) of dill seed is roasted (fried) until brown, ground to a powder, and taken with wine.

Availability: Dill seed is readily available as a spice in grocery stores and supermarkets.

This information is excerpted from Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Chinese Healing Foods and Herbs. This publication includes further information and home remedies using dill as well as over 45 other herbs. Learn more about dill and read further about Dr. Leung and his writings! Visit http://www.earthpower.com/.

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