What’s the Deal with Dill?5 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Oprah loves gardening, and last year she posted a photo of herself on Instagram proudly holding a basket full of the “fruits” of her labor in the garden.
“What to do with all this Dill? #Harvestday,” she wrote for the photo’s caption.
There was just one problem…
She wasn’t holding dill. It was actually fennel!
As an amateur gardener myself, I can’t help but get tickled by this story. Any one of us could have made the same mistake as Oprah!
There are so many spices and herbs out there to choose from, it can get very confusing and overwhelming.
But don’t worry, we’re here to break it down for you.
Both fennel and dill are aromatic herbs with green, feathery fronds that make them look very similar. On top of this, both herbs (along with carrot and parsley), belong to the Apiaceae (also called Umbelliferae) plant family.
We already discussed the health benefits of fennel. So now, let’s discuss dill.
“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’,” according to one report.
(Dill is said to be native to Mediterranean countries and southeastern Europe).
“Gladiators were fed meals covered with dill because it was hoped that the herb would grant them valor and courage. Dill seeds are often called ‘meetinghouse seeds’ because they were chewed during long church services to keep members awake or kids quiet. The seeds were also chewed in order to freshen the breath and quiet noisy stomachs.”
(Reportedly, Hippocrates made mouthwash with dill seeds).
I’m not sure dill will make you more brave and bold for delivering that presentation at work or asking the one you admire out on a date. But this herb has antibacterial and antispasmodic properties and may, in fact, help with digestive issues like diarrhea and stomach cramps.
Dill may aid with digestion by encouraging the release of bile from the gallbladder.
(Bile contains bile acids, which are critical for digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also says that dill may help with digestive issues, along with other problems some of us may be familiar with.
“AG [short for Anethum graveolens, scientific name for dill ] is used in the traditional herbal medicine for the management and prevention of digestive disease, breath problem, motivation of lactation, and also reduction of cholesterol and glucose,” reports the NIH.
Dill may also help lower blood sugar levels, manage insulin levels and more.
There has been extensive research done on dill’s antidiabetic effects.
“Recent literature strongly supports the suggestion that consumption of AG [dill] has a significant antidiabetic effect in both humans and animals. According to the reported antidiabetic effects of dill, it can be suggested for the management of diabetic patients,” reports the NIH.
According to another report from the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, “Dill significantly decreased blood glucose, cholesterol, triglyceride (TG), low density lipoprotein (LDL), very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) and increased high density lipoprotein (HDL) level in alloxan induced diabetic rat model.”
For treatment of disease, dill essential oil is sometimes given in the form of a pill. If you are prediabetic or diabetic, ask your doctor about taking dill tablets and incorporating this herb into your diet.
Dill contains powerful compounds called monoterpenes.
“Monoterpenes are found in the essential oils of many plants including fruits, vegetables, and herbs,” reports the NIH.
“They prevent the carcinogenesis process at both the initiation and promotion/progression stages. In addition, monoterpenes are effective in treating early and advanced cancers.”
Specific monoterpenes dill contains include limonene, carvone and anethofuran.
Let’s take a closer look at these:
- Limonene. Limonene is one of the active components of dietary phytochemicals that appears to be protective against cancer, (NIH). It may also help promote weight loss and treat bronchitis.
- Carvone. Known to help kill microbes and bacteria. This substance is sometimes used in insecticides and has also exhibited anticancer activities.
- Anethofuran. Just like limonene and carvone, anethofuran may help with the fight against cancer. Anethofuran may be a chemoprotective agent, meaning it may help protect healthy tissue from some of the side effects caused by certain anticancer drugs.
Another great compound dill contains is quercetin.
“Quercetin has cholesterol-lowering properties. A study published in Cholesterol found that dill lowered cholesterol in hamsters. It may have a similar effect in humans,” according to this report.
Quercetin may aid in eye health (it is found in cherries as well).
Dill is also rich in amino acids and essential nutrients we need to be our healthiest selves.
This herb is an unexpected source of calcium.
One tablespoon of dill seed contains more calcium than one-third cup of milk!
Of course calcium is needed to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. This mineral is also needed for clotting of the blood to stop bleeding and for proper functioning of the nerves, muscles and heart. The National Cancer Institute conducted a study that monitored calcium intake in 135,000 men and women. The subjects who had a calcium intake of more than 700 mg. per day had a 35-45% reduced risk of cancer of the distal (lower) part of the colon than those who had a calcium intake of 500 mg. or less per day.
Let’s take a look at additional nutrients in one cup of fresh sprigs of dill:
- Potassium, 66 mg. This mineral helps keep blood pressure under control, may help reduce kidney stones and may prevent bone loss as you age. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), potassium may help reduce osteoporosis and prevent heart failure.
- Vitamin A, 687 IU. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, [w]e need vitamin A for good vision and eye health, for a strong immune system, and for healthy skin and mucous membranes.” Vitamin A may also reduce the development of cataracts and may reduce macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss.
- Folate, 13 mcg. Most adults need about 400 mcg of folate daily. If you are pregnant, you may need more. Folate is essential for cell growth and many other bodily functions. To see how much folate you need, click here.
Dill also contains traces of the essential minerals magnesium, phosphorus and sodium.
So how can you get more dill in your diet?
You don’t have to eat large amounts of dill pickles to reap the potential benefits of this herb.
Both the feathery fronds (the leaves) and seeds are edible parts of the dill plant. Dill can be consumed fresh, dried, or via essential oils (always speak with your doctor before you try essential oils).
I think the best way to use dill is by using fresh dill leaves to season meals at home. Dill is very versatile and goes practically with any egg, seafood, meat and vegetable dish. It is also great for flavoring soups and sauces.
For a simple, refreshing side dish for summer, consider trying this Creamy Dill Cucumber Salad.
- 4 seedless mini cucumbers, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp unpasteurized honey
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- ¼ tsp Himalayan salt
- ⅛ tsp ground white pepper
This is a great recipe, because you will also get the benefits of eating cucumbers.
Side effects & Warnings with Dill?
Dill may cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to plants in the carrot family. Applied directly to the skin, dill may cause your skin to be irritated and make you more sensitive to sun.
In moderation, dill appears to be safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding (but always consult your doctor and keep him or her informed of what you are eating).
I always recommend caution with any foods especially for people with existing medical conditions and those of you who are taking both prescription and over the counter medications. You always want to avoid a drug interaction.
Don’t like the taste of dill?
Not to worry!
Remember, there are many other spices and herbs you can choose from that offer many of the same benefits as dill.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.