While modern gardeners may not be aware of it, there’s so much more to dill weed than pickles or potatoes bathed in butter and sprigs of the feathery herb.
While dill’s tangy notes help accentuate the flavorful bite of sour pickles, dill seed and its essential oil offer a wealth of health benefits that have been recognized for centuries.
A member of the celery family, dill originated in certain regions of the Mediterranean, and its essential oil is extracted using steam distillation, which helps preserve the nutrients that have given dill its reputation as a medicinal herb.
Dill essential oil pairs well with citrus oils including lime, lemon, bergamot, and orange; spiced scents such as nutmeg and clove; and oils from the herb garden including, oregano, cilantro, caraway, and Roman chamomile.
The History of Dill Seed
Dill, scientifically known as Anethum graveolens, has been recognized for its diverse range of health benefits since 1500 BCE.
Dill is first mentioned in the ancient Egyptian Ebers papyrus, an herbal manuscript circa from around 1550 BC, where it was cited as part of an herbal mixture used to treat pain.
One of the ancient herbs of the Bible, where it was mentioned for use as currency, dill’s roots can be traced back more than 5,000 years, cementing the versatile herb as one of the oldest and most powerful of medicinal herbs.
Both the Greeks and Romans used dill as a curative for stomach upsets and digestive issues, which also helped boost the immune system because it created a healthier environment for probiotics to flourish.
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Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used dill as an antibacterial to treat the wounds of soldiers injured in battle in ancient Rome and also used dill as the base for a cleansing mouth rinse. (Dill was boiled in white wine to create a rinse that was used by Syrian and Babylonian herbalists).2
Ancient Babylonians grew dill in their gardens, suggesting that dill may have been part of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Ancient Egyptians used the herb as an aphrodisiac, while ancient Greeks harvested fronds of dill to cover their eyes to induce sleep.
Dill was believed to be a symbol of good luck by ancient Romans, although they, too, used dill for medicinal purposes. Gladiators were given food laced with dill before battle to give them strength. Winners of those battles then wore crowns with dill fronds woven among other herbs and flowers.
The herb appeared in the book Hildegard of Bingen’s Medicine, a collection of research from one of the best-known herbalists of the Middle Ages. During this era, dill was used as an air freshener, although it was also believed to have magical properties that offered protection against the evil eye.
Later, German brides carried dill as a traditional part of their wedding bouquets, and in the early days of the United States, dill seeds were given to hungry, cranky children to appease them during long church services because of the appetite suppressant properties of dill seeds.
There are at least 70 compounds that explain why dill has been such an important part of herbal medicine for so many centuries, and why dill seed essential oil is an excellent addition to any herb-based medicine cabinet.
Packed with monoterpenes and flavonoids, dill has been shown to provide stress relief and immune support, making it a powerhouse among essential oils. Some of the key compounds contributing to dill’s benefits include:
The primary component of dill weed essential oil, dillapiole offers anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis while protecting against the development of a wide range of diseases associated with inflammation, including type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
A flavonoid named for 7th-century German naturalist Engelbert Kaempfer, kaempferol is an antioxidant that helps fight free radical activity and reduce oxidative stress. It has been the source of many studies looking at it as a potential treatment for cancer. In that research, kaempferol has been shown to interrupt the growth of malignant cancer cells.3
A volatile terpenoid, carvone helps regulate the hormones that control stress, anxiety, and emotion, preventing the release of blood glucose, which can elevate blood pressure and increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Because of its calming effects, carvone can also help prevent insomnia.
One of several power-packed flavonoids found in dill seed essential oil, vicenin acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells against damage from the free radical activity.
Eugenol is not only a powerful antifungal but also provides antioxidant properties that protect cells from damage by penetrating the cell lining, creating a shield that protects from oxidative stress.
A monoterpene, limonene has been studied as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial that may help speed up the healing of wounds. It is also a powerful antioxidant that can prevent free radical damage and inflammation, potentially playing a role in the prevention of some cancers.
In a 2013 study appearing in the Journal of Natural Medicines, researchers found that terpinolene was an effective aromatherapy-based sedative, in addition to having antibacterial properties. Terpinolene also works in synergy with other terpenes, increasing their efficacy.4
Calcium is vital for bone strength, but it also plays a role in the function of the heart, muscles, and nerves.
Uses for Dill Seed Essential Oil
While it has a history of magical properties, the health benefits of dill seed essential oil are all science, with plenty of research to back it up.
Some of the key health benefits that dill seed essential oil provides are highlighted below.
Relieves Muscle Cramps
The pain of muscle cramps—whether from a pulled muscle, menstrual cramps, a pinched nerve, or other spasms—can be relieved by the aromatherapy benefits of dill essential oil, which relaxes nerves and muscles, providing almost immediate relief.
A study from researchers at Khon Kaen University in Thailand found that dill helped play a slight role in easing painful menstrual cramps. To ease muscle cramps, a few drops of dill weed essential oil can be mixed with a carrier oil or massage oil and applied topically.
Remedies Allergy and Asthma Symptoms
Despite having the sneeze-inducing word “weed” in its name, the antihistamine properties in dill weed and the essential oil from its seeds can help alleviate allergy symptoms, including respiratory inflammation. It can also help ease asthma flare-ups. Adding a few drops to a vaporizer can relieve symptoms overnight.5
Treats Cuts and Scrapes
Thanks to a range of antioxidants, dill seed essential oil helps encourage the production of collagen at the site of wounds, so injuries heal faster. Dill also offers antibacterial properties that help prevent infection.
Improves Appearance of Skin
The vitamin C in dill essential oil helps protect skin from free radical activity, reducing signs of aging and helping skin remain bright, vibrant, and free from signs of aging. Vitamin C also helps lighten dark spots associated with both aging and sun damage.
Supports Bone Health
The natural calcium found in dill seed essential oil is better absorbed by the body than calcium found in supplements, so it can help protect against diseases such as osteoporosis, which causes weakened, brittle bones that are more at-risk of breaking.6
Improves Sleep Quality
The carvone in dill seed essential oil helps to regulate the hormones that are linked to stress and anxiety, quieting the mind to allow for restful sleep.
Protects Against Oxidative Stress
Dill contains monoterpenes, as well as the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which has the ability to connect glutathione molecules to antioxidants that offer powerful protection against free radical damage.
Maintains Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Studies have shown that dill seed essential oil helps lower cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of health problems including hardening of the arteries, which can lead to heart disease. Animal research from Iran’s Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics found that dill seed essential oil significantly decreased both triglyceride and total cholesterol levels in just two weeks.7
A study the appeared in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that dill seed oil alleviated stress and anxiety.
Dill seed essential oil has been shown to provide analgesic benefits, according to research appearing in the American Journal of Therapeutics. It also helps ease inflammation associated with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
One of the oldest treatments for digestive problems, dill helps regulate the secretion of digestive juices, improving digestive health and boosting the body’s immune system strength. Dill oil also acts as an antimicrobial, helping remove bacteria from the colon, kidneys, and urinary tract.
Curbs Sugar Cravings
The aroma of dill essential oil helps keep sugar cravings in check. When less sugar is consumed, blood glucose levels and energy are more stable, and hunger is more regulated.
Compounds in dill have been shown to help fight a wide range of bacteria, including the antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus.
How To Use Dill Seed Essential Oil
There are a variety of ways to benefit from dill seed essential oil.
The oil can be used in a diffuser or inhaled directly from the bottle, with both options offering aromatherapy benefits. It can also be mixed with a carrier oil such as olive oil, shea butter, or coconut oil and used as a massage oil, or it can be added to food.
Dill Weed Fun Facts
- Dill has been linked to pickles for the last 400 years. Dill pickles are the most popular form of the crisp processed cucumber.
- During the Middle Ages, dill was used as a charm to protect against the spells of witches.
- Dill was considered a symbol of good luck and nestled among the blankets in a baby’s cradle to offer protection for the infant.
- Dill is one of the home remedies to cure hiccups. Charlemagne, the first emperor to rule western Europe after the fall of the Roman empire, presented vials of dill tea to guests who developed the hiccups.
- One of the most beloved books in American history, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by the late Harper Lee, featured the character Dill Harris, a young boy who became summer friends with Scout and Jem Finch.