By Dr. Mercola
Dill is perhaps most well known for its use in making pickles, but it also makes a flavorful addition to salad dressings, fish, dips (such as mixed with plain yogurt and cucumber) and added to salads (especially egg salad).
Both the leaves and the seeds can be used in your cooking; the seeds have a stronger flavor than the leaves and taste similar to caraway seeds. They’re popular in German and Scandinavian cuisines.1
Dill is not only versatile in its uses but it’s also very easy to grow, making it an ideal herb for kitchen gardens. It doesn’t keep well either, so having a source nearby to snip fresh leaves from is ideal.
However, this herb also has a long history of medicinal use. In fact, the name dill comes from the Old Norse word “dylla,” which means “to soothe” or “to lull.”
Dill May Soothe Digestive Upset and Other Gastrointestinal Complaints
Dill has a long-held reputation as a soothing herb, especially for digestive complaints. It was even recommended by Dr. W.T. Fernie in 1897 as a remedy for quieting fussy children.2
Traditional remedies often point to dill for soothing a wide variety of gastrointestinal issues, including gas, diarrhea, heartburn and even ulcers. It was also sometimes recommended to relieve insomnia.
Dill was used by ancient Egyptians and Greeks for relieving gas, as well as by ancient Romans for everything from hiccups to constipation.3 Many of these uses have been backed up by modern-day science. According to a study published in BMC Pharmacology:4
“As a folk remedy, dill is considered for some gastrointestinal ailments such as flatulence, indigestion, stomachache and colic. Dill fruit has an antispasmodic effect on the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract.”
The study found that dill seed extract had anti-ulcer activity in an animal study, as well as “significant mucosal protective and antisecretory [inhibits gastric secretions] effects.”5
The American Botanical Council further noted, “Dill herb is used for prevention and treatment of diseases and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, kidney and urinary tract, for sleep disorders, and for spasms,” although they continued, “The effectiveness of the claimed indications is not documented.”6
Dill for Male Fertility and Sluggish Menstruation
Dill is considered to be an emmenagogue, or an herb that can help remedy a sluggish menstrual cycle. Dr. James Duke, author of the book “The Green Pharmacy” recommends making a tea from two teaspoons of crushed dill seeds as a remedy to encourage menstruation (pregnant women should avoid it).
Dill is also said to increase milk production in breastfeeding women, and the resulting dill-infused milk may further help to soothe a baby’s stomach. Because dill plants produce thousands of seeds, the plant has long been linked with enhanced fertility as well.7
One study found that dill seed increased sperm concentration and motility and decreased abnormal sperm in rats.8 Caution is warranted, however, as dill may act as an anti-fertility agent in women.9
What Else is Dill Good For?
Nutritionally speaking, dill contains vitamin C and manganese, but it is its phytochemicals that provide much of its beneficial punch.
Dill contains monoterpenes, including carvone, limonene, and anethofuran, along with flavonoids, including kaempferol and vicenin, which offer multiple potential health benefits.10
Carvone and limonene in dill weed oil have potential anti-cancer effects and “induced the detoxifying enzyme glutathione S-transferase” in mice.11 In other words, the dill provided protection against free radicals.
Dill is also considered a chemoprotective food that may help neutralize certain carcinogens, including benzopyrenes, which are found in cigarette smoke and smoke from charcoal grills.12
Hamsters treated with a dill tablet or dill extract had significantly decreased lipid profiles, blood glucose and liver enzymes compared to control hamsters.13
Protective Against Atherosclerosis
When rabbits were fed dill powder along with a fatty meal, they had significantly lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, glucose and fibrinogen (which is sometimes used to help measure risk of heart disease) following the meal.14
The researchers concluded dill “might have some protective values against atherosclerosis and that it significantly affects some biochemical risk factors of this disease.” They further explained:
“Dill is a short-lived perennial herb and is the sole specie of the genus Anethum. Its seeds contain 3% oil, carotene, flandrenin, limonene and tannin.
In traditional Iranian medicine, Dill has been used as sedative, carminative, antispasmodic, lactogogue, diuretic and home remedy for hyperlipidemia.
It has been found that other than glucose, dill significantly may reduce triglyceride, total cholesterol (TC) … LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) and increases HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C) in diabetic rats. These effects have also been attributed to antioxidant contents of dill.”
In one study, “dill exhibited antibacterial activity against natural microflora, coliforms, yeast and molds.”15
Antidepressant and Pain-Relieving Properties
Dill extract had significant antidepressant and pain-relieving properties without any adverse effects in a study on rats.16 According to the researchers, “The dose of 250 mg/kg, body weight shows the best antidepressant and analgesic effects.”
Dill contains nutrients that support bone health, including iron, magnesium, manganese and calcium.
Dill seeds have traditionally been chewed to freshen breath, while their antimicrobial properties may help to clean your mouth. According to the George Mateljan Foundation, “Dill was used by Hippocrates, the father of medicine, in a recipe for cleaning the mouth.”17
Dill Is a Versatile Herb for Your Health and for Cooking
In short, dill is a versatile herb that’s most known for its soothing effects on the gastrointestinal tract, but its beneficial properties extend to potentially helping to ward off chronic disease, relieve pain, help promote sleep and much more. Organic Facts added:18
“Dill is a relaxant, increases strength, and increases urination to help in the removal of toxins, excess salts, and water from the body. Furthermore, it is a carminative (helps remove excess gas), antispasmodic (prevents cramps), and an antiflatulent substance.
It stimulates lactation (galactagogue) and endocrinal secretions, enhances the libido due to the presence of Arginine and last but not the least, it ensures bone and dental health since it is a good source of calcium.”
For use in cooking, dill pairs especially well with salmon, chicken and eggs, or use it in sauces made from sour cream or cream or alongside vegetables like cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, beets or pickles. Dill should be added at the end of cooking to protect its flavor.
If you’re using dill in a recipe, one tablespoon of dill seed is equal to about three heads of fresh or dried dill leaves (also known as dill weed).19 You can also leave a small dish of dill seeds right on your dinner table and chew them after a meal to help with digestion.
Do You Want to Grow Dill?
If you want a fresh supply of dill all summer, plant it from seed a week or two before the last spring frost date. Dill plants like a lot of sun, and if you leave the soil undisturbed the plants will self-seed so you’ll have new plants that come up next year. The plants reach about three feet in height. To harvest, you can cut entire stalks if you have a lot of plants. Otherwise, use scissors to snip the feathery leaves from the plant.20
To ensure you have dill to harvest all season, plant more seeds every few weeks. Once harvested, dill will only keep for a day or two, so ideally cut what you need right before cooking. You can also freeze dill leaves. One trick is to place chopped dill leaves in an ice cube tray covered in water or stock, then pull them out to add to soups, sauces or stews.21
Remember, you can collect dill seeds, too, both for use in cooking and to plant next year. To collect the seeds, gather a bouquet of stalks then hang them upside down in a protected spot (such as in your garage, pantry or basement) to dry. Attach a paper bag around the flower head after hanging to catch the seeds as they dry and fall off. Poke a few holes along the opening to keep them dry, and they can be stored in an airtight glass jar for up to a year.