The Dill plant is native to West Asia, the Mediterranean region, southern Russia, and eastern Europe. It has been used since ancient times for culinary as well as medicinal purposes.
What Is Dill?
Dill belongs to the Umbelliferae family to which belong the herbs bay, cumin and parsley. Its name is derived from the Nordic word ‘dilla’, meaning ‘to lull’, pointing to its soothing properties. Its botanical name is Anethum graveolens and it is commonly known as Anethum, dilla, anise and shubit.
The Dill plant is about 40 to 60 cm in height. It has a slender stem with thin, delicate leaves which are about 10 to 20 cm long and have a sweet flavor. The seeds are ½ cm long, oval, light brown, flat on one side and convex ridged on the other, and have a bitter-sweet taste.
How Does It Work?
Fresh dill contains Vitamin A, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, B12, Vitamin C, and is a good source of calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, copper and fibre. It also contains two special groups of healing compounds:
Monoterpenes, including carvone, limonene and anethofuran
Flavonoids, including kaempferol and vicenin.
These chemicals have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which render a wide range of health benefits.
Benefits Of Dill
Both the leaves and seeds of Dill are used for flavouring pickles, sauces, dips, salads and dishes, while dried dill seeds are chewed as a mouth freshener. Dill oil is used for making soaps, perfumes and cosmetics.
Dill is used for treating disorders of nearly every organ or system of the body.
Dill contains compounds like monoterpenes, flavonoids and polyacetylenes which have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory effects. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Food Science found that dill oil was toxic for Staphylococcus aureus, Fusarium graminearum, E. coli, P. aeruginosa, Shigella flexneri and Salmonella typhii, fungal strains of Aspergillus niger, and the yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans. As such, dill is used for fighting both internal and external infections, including diarrhea, dysentery and bad breath.
Apart from containing fibre which aids digestion, dill provides relief from stomach cramps, spasms, pain, gas and diarrhea. Dill contains essential oils which stimulate the peristaltic movements of the digestive system as well as the secretion of digestive juices. Hence, it improves the overall functioning of the digestive system, and can be used as an appetizer. A 2002 study showed that dill reduced stomach acid secretion in mice, which may help to reduce bad breath, acid reflux and ulcers.
Dill has shown promising results towards having a heart-protective function in rats. Oral administration of its leaf extract for 14 days reduced the levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides and low density lipoprotein (LDL) by a significant 20 – 50%.
Dill may have potential for controlling corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Indian research has shown that dill leaf extract administered to rats for 15 days reduced concentrations of insulin and serum glucose.
Protects From Free Radicals
Dill contains substances which have antioxidant effects on free radicals that damage tissues. Studies have shown that dill’s protective ability is comparable to that of alpha-tocopherol, ascorbic acid and quercetin. Protection from free radicals helps prevent serious health problems like cancer and heart disease among others.
Dill contains monoterpenes which are known to be anti-carcinogenic. They stimulate the secretion of enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which effectively neutralizes carcinogens like free radicals and cyano- and benzo-derivatives.
Regulates Menstrual Cycles
Traditionally used to regulate the menstrual cycle, studies have found that dill extracts stimulate secretion of progesterone, which can help maintain regular menstrual cycles and even help in fertility problems.
Eases Respiratory Problems
Dill contains kaempferol and other flavonoids which help clear congestion in the respiratory tract caused by cold, cough or allergies.
Dill is rich in flavonoids and B-group vitamins which activate certain enzymes and hormones that induce relaxation. Its leaves and seeds can be consumed along with chamomile for a calming effect.
Due to its calming effect, dill has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy to cure insomnia and sleep disorders.
Builds Bones and Teeth
Dill is a good source of calcium, hence regular consumption of dill can help strengthen bones and teeth.
Drinking dill pickle juice, or boiling fresh dill in water and drinking the strained liquid (tea), has been used as a herbal remedy for hiccups.
The method used for treating hiccups was also used for treating headaches in ancient times.
Other Benefits Of Dill
Dill is a diuretic, which helps in clearing away toxins. It contains arginine which increases libido, and it is believed to enhance the flow of milk in lactating women. It is used as an herbal remedy for heartburn. It is also fortifying, that is, it builds strength.
Dosage Of Dill
Dill can be safely used as a condiment. For seeds, the average daily dose is 3 gm, while for its essential oil the dailydose is 0.1 to 0.3 gm.
Side Effects Of Dill
Dill can be safely consumed as food, or as properly administered medicinal dosages. However, it may cause dermatitis or skin irritation when applied directly, and fresh dill juice can cause photosensitivity.
This may increase the risk of sun burns and skin cancer, particularly in fair-skinned people. It may also trigger an allergic reaction in people having an allergy to plants of the carrot family such as celery, caraway, coriander, fennel and asafoetida. Dill may have a diuretic effect.
Pregnancy And Breast-Feeding
While dill can be consumed safely as food during these phases, it is contraindicated during pregnancy in medicinal amounts. This is because dill can cause menstruation to commence which can lead to a miscarriage. The effects of using dill during breast-feeding have not been studied.
Reviews For Dill
Investigative research conducted on Anethum graveolens has reiterated its pharmacological effects, such as being antimicrobial, antispasmodic, antihypercholesterolemic, and an antioxidant.
Drug Interactions With Dill
Dill might reduce the body’s ability to remove lithium, which might increase the level of lithium in the body causing serious side effects. Hence, consult your physician before consuming dill if you have been prescribed lithium.