It may make for a decent put-down when you’re a kid, but dill weed is more than just a childhood insult or something used to flavor pickles. In fact, dill and dill weed provide a surprising amount of health benefits, both mentally and physically.
Dill has been around for centuries for both food and medicinal purposes. In the food industry, it’s primarily used for making those dill pickles that are commonly placed on grilled burgers and sandwiches.
Dill seed, dill weed oil and fresh dill are the typical forms of dill and are often used by the food industry for added flavor in baked goods, snacks, condiments and meat products, and as ingredient in liqueurs. The fragrance industry has even taken advantage of dill by using it to produce soaps, perfumes, detergents, creams and lotions.
Dill weed is a good source of calcium, manganese and iron, and as an antioxidant food, its flavonoids provide anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties that give it a whole host of incredible health benefits.
What Is Dill?
The name “dill” means to “calm or soothe,” and most likely originates from the plant’s known ability to calm troubled stomachs and colicky infants.
Anethum graveolens, the scientific name for dill, is believed to have its beginnings in the Mediterranean region. The plant has a long and ancient history in many countries as a culinary and medicinal herb.
The earliest known record of dill as a medicinal herb was found in Egypt 5,000 years ago, when the plant was referred to as a “soothing medicine.” Around 3,000 B.C.E., the Babylonians were known to have grown dill in their gardens. Dill was also a widely used and familiar plant in Greek culture. Dill scented oil was burned in Greek homes, and the plant’s essential oil was used to make wine.
Dill grows up to 40–60 centimeters (16–24 inches), with slender, hollow stems that alternate and finely divided, very soft, delicate leaves that are usually 10–20 centimeters (3.9–7.9 inches) long. The ultimate leaf divisions are one to two millimeters (0.039–0.079 inches) broad, slightly broader than the similar leaves of fennel, which are threadlike, less than one millimeter (0.039 inches) broad but harder in texture.
The flowers are white to yellow, in small umbels 2–9 centimeters (0.79–3.54 inches) in diameter. The seeds are four to five millimeters (0.16–0.20 inches) long, one millimeter (0.039 inches) thick and straight to slightly curved with a longitudinally ridged surface.
1. May Help Reduce Menstrual Cramps
A study conducted by the Department of Biostatistics and Demography at Khon Kaen University in Thailand looked at dill’s effects among students with primary dysmenorrhoea, also known as painful periods or menstrual cramps, that were in their late teens or early 20s.
Interventions included 12 different herbal medicines: dill, chamomile, cinnamon, rose, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, guava, rhubarb, uzara, valerian and zataria, as well as five non-herbal supplements (fish oil, melatonin, vitamins B1 and E, and zinc sulphate) in a variety of formulations and doses. While the effects were not strong, some evidence of effectiveness for several supplements was clear in that they reduced some of the discomfort and pain associated with cramps, including dill. (1)
2. Helps Reduce Depression
Depression is a big problem among so many, both adults and teens. Dill weed may actually help as a natural remedy for depression. A study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics aimed to investigate the antidepressant and analgesic properties of the aqueous extract of dill from the South of Morocco. Extract of the dill plant was administered to subjects and showed a significant antidepressant and analgesic effect when compared with the drug references (sertraline and tramadol). (2)
3. Lowers Cholesterol
Dill weed provides amazing cholesterol-lowering benefits. Through careful studies, it was determined that the effect of dill extract and dill tablets on lipid profile, liver enzymes, gene expression and enzymatic activity was positive in hamsters with high cholesterol.
The subjects were randomly divided into six groups and received daily dosages of dill in its various forms. After one month, when compared with the group that did not receive the dill, the lipid profile, blood glucose and liver enzymes significantly decreased in all dill tablet or dill extract treated groups. (3)
4. May Act as a Natural Bug Repellent
Dill weed has shown the ability to repel bugs, as shown in research published in the Journal of Food Protection. Twenty plant-derived oils were evaluated for their insecticidal activities. Responses varied with different species, plant oils and exposure time.
Based on the 50 percent lethal dose values in the fumigant, dill oil induced the highest pest mortality, followed by yarrow and eucalyptus oil. Melaleuca and lemon-scented tea tree oils were also useful in repelling insects. Neroli birgard oil and citrus made the lineup as well as mugwort or common wormwood.
These results indicate that dill oil, among others, may have the potential for development as agents to help protect stored grain from insects and mites — clearly a much better and safer choice than disease-making chemicals. (4)
5. May Treat Epilepsy
Epilepsy is frightening to those that have it and their families. It’s a common neurological disorder characterized by unpredictable and episodic seizures. While there are many medications prescribed to help reduce the symptoms, such as seizure, most of these drugs cause unfavorable side effects.
Third-world countries have been using plants to help with epilepsy for centuries. Researchers from all over the world have been studying many areas of this disorder — however, in this research published in the Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences, the aqueous extract of dill leaves was reviewed for its effects on treating convulsions and epilepsy.
The evaluation defined the plant as having a traditional medical reputation for profound anticonvulsant activities, potentially working as a natural alternative treatment for epilepsy. (5)
6. Provides a Source of Energy and Aids in Digestion through Beneficial Fatty Acids
Fatty acids are major sources of energy. Most diets contain a great deal of fatty acid in the form of triacylglycerol (esters with glycerol). Some of our dietary carbohydrates are converted to fat and stored as triacylglycerol in adipose tissue. Subsequently, the fatty acids from this fat are released to provide energy for various aerobic tissues. (6)
The triacylglycerol (TAG) structure and distribution of fatty acids of seed oils determines the final physical properties of the oils and may affect digestion, absorption and metabolism, and physical and technological properties of TAGs.
In a study conducted by Texas Southern University and Agilent Technologies, fixed oils from the fruits of dill, caraway, cumin, coriander, anise, carrot, celery, fennel and Khella, all from the Apiaceae family, were extracted at room temperature. Petroselinic acid was the major fatty acid in all samples ranging from 57 percent to 82 percent.
This means that including dill in your diet on a regular basis may help you obtain some important fatty acids. (7)
7. Contains Antimicrobial Effects
Dill has been investigated for its various antimicrobial effects. In research, the essential oil of dill weed has been shown to be effective against several bacteria strains, completely inhibiting the growth of Fusarium graminearum, a devastating disease of wheat and barley caused by the fungal plant pathogen, as well as being toxic to five other bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus. (8)
Another study found that dill extracts taken from seeds stored for 35 years also killed several fungal strains, such as the mold Aspergillus niger and the yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans. (9)
8. Protects Against Free Radicals
Dill contains monoterpene effects, which ultimately help antioxidant molecules attach to oxidized molecules that would otherwise do damage in the body. These effects were confirmed in a multinational study, and research showed that the antioxidant activity of dill is comparable to ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol and quercetin. Thus, dill exhibits anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that fight free radical damage. (10)
This study showed the antioxidant activity of the aqueous extracts of various herbs, including dill, revealing the beneficial scavenging of superoxide radicals. Overall, the daily use of dill, in various forms, common in India due to the antioxidant activity of extracts that are superior to known antioxidant ascorbic acid, makes it a great addition to food.
One cup of fresh dill weed sprigs contains about: (11)
- 4 calories
- 0.6 gram carbohydrates
- 0.3 gram protein
- 0.1 gram fat
- 0.2 gram fiber
- 675 IU vitamin A (14 percent DV)
- 7.4 milligrams vitamin C (12 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram manganese (6 percent DV)
- 13.1 micrograms folate (3 percent DV)
- 0.6 milligrams iron (3 percent DV)
How to Use
You want to avoid washing or over-washing dill for several reasons. Because dill weed wilts very quickly, it’s best to keep it free of moisture. If possible, avoid washing the dill weed before storing it.
If you purchase organic dill, there’s no need to wash it because it has been grown without the use of pesticides. If your fresh dill is free from bugs and excessive dirt, simply place it in a clean plastic bag and store it in the fridge.
Since the plastic is kept cool, this should eliminate any concern with chemical leaching — however, you can also use a glass container with an airtight lid. In fact, some prefer placing the stems in a little water. You can add a piece of paper towel around the dill leaves to help absorb any condensation.
When stored in the fridge, dill can last up to 10 days and still maintain its freshness. Make sure your fridge temperature isn’t below 40 degrees F.
Freezing is another great way to store dill, and it will last several months. Either freeze it as is, or after you have done a gentle wash and dry, gently chop the leaves into small pieces and freeze in portions. Grab what you need as you go.
We probably all agree that dill is most commonly known for the dill pickle — however, it’s culinary uses are extensive. Most chefs prefer dill weed, due to the stronger flavor, over dill seeds, which can be bitter. Both forms have undertones of caraway or anise.
If you choose dill seeds, keep in mind that they can take a while to release their flavor, so give them time. Chopped or whole dill weed can be added to soups, stews, casseroles, meat dishes, pasta and eggs. It’s a great addition to sauces and dips, such as hummus, and quite popular with smoked or baked salmon.
Lemon Dill and Basil Hummus — makes about two cups and lasts for about four to five days in the fridge in a sealed container.
- 1 cup fresh dill, finely chopped (leaves only)
- ¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons purified water
- 6–8 drops of your favorite hot sauce
- Put all ingredients in the blender.
- Blend on medium speed until it achieves a smooth, peanut-butter-like consistency. Add additional cooking liquid if it seems too stiff.
- Chill overnight to let the flavor intensify.
You can also try the following dill recipes:
- Breakfast Salmon Egg Bake
- Blackberry Lemon Salad
- Easy Guacamole
- Mushroom Soup
- Homemade Ranch Dressing
Risks and Side Effects
Dill has shown very few adverse side effects and is likely safe for consumption both as food and medicine for most people. However, there are some precautions to take when it comes to dill and dill weed. (13)
It can sometimes cause skin irritation when applied directly to the skin, and fresh dill juice can cause extra skin sensitivity to the sun, which could increase the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Be careful when using dill topically.
Due to dill’s effects on menstruation, it’s not recommended to use dill when pregnant or breastfeeding. It can start menstruation, which could in some cases lead to miscarriage. In addition, the effects dill has on breast-feeding have not been studied enough, so it’s recommended to avoid dill while breast-feeding.
Dill can also cause allergic reactions in people with allergies to plants in the carrot family. In addition, dill may lower blood sugar, so you should be careful and consult your doctor if you have diabetes or are having surgery, as lowered blood sugar can cause complications. It’s recommended to stop taking any dill at least two weeks prior to surgery.
- Dill weed is extremely beneficial and safe for most people, and it’s more versatile than just making dill pickles.
- You can use it in salads, dips, dressings and a whole other host of recipes, all of which help you receive some of the amazing dill benefits.
- Since dill weed may help reduce menstrual cramps, reduce depression, lower cholesterol, act as a natural bug repellent, treat epilepsy, provide a source of energy, aid in digestion, contain antimicrobial effects and protect against free radicals, it’s something you should add to your diet today.