By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Did you ever try dill spice as a tangy addition to your salad dressing? Or dill in a sauce for fresh fish? If you haven’t already caught on to the culinary attraction of dill, now’s the time – because it seems dill spice is also surprisingly good for your health.
Native to Russia, West Africa and the Mediterranean, the dill plant (also called dill weed) has wispy, fernlike leaves and its seeds are also commonly used in cooking.
Dill has a sweet, tangy, citrus-like taste and helps to relieve period pain, has an antioxidant effect, and even acts as an antifungal protector. Read on for more crazy health benefits of this versatile spice.
How Dill Has Been Used Through the Ages
The name dill comes from the ancient Norse word "dilla", which means “to lull”.
The name therefore hints at dill’s historic use as a stomach soother. Dishes of dill seed have traditionally been placed on banquet tables for guests who have overindulged and also as an aid for insomnia.
Dill has actually been used as medicine for millennia.
Dill spice was written about in the Bible and was also used heavily in ancient Greek and Roman times.
Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine, listed dill as a component of a medicine for cleaning the mouth.
And in ancient Greece, soldiers, when in battle, would help wounds heal by applying burnt dill spice seeds.
Dill spice has even been used in the past as a weapon against witchcraft – in the Middle Ages, people would include dill seed in potions to protect against enchantments.
How to Use and Enjoy Dill
If possible use dill fresh from the plant, as fresh dill has a more delicate and pleasing flavor. Dried dill seeds are available all year round. When using fresh dill, store it in the fridge with the stems in a little water where it will keep fresh for around two days.
You can freeze fresh dill to prolong its life.
Dill weed, chopped and fresh, is great with plain yogurt alongside cucumber as a dip.
Dill is a spice that works very well with fish as the flavor brings out the taste, and it is also used as a garnish for fish sandwiches.
Dill can be added to eggs for a hint of citrus spice, and mixed with chopped potatoes, green beans, and yogurt for a refreshing salad.
What Are the Health Benefits of Dill?
Aside from the taste benefits, dill also boasts a whole host of health-giving benefits. The components in dill that make it particularly healing include the monoterpenes, carvone, limonene, and anethofuran, and its flavonoids, particularly kaempferol and vicenin. Dill is also a good source of vitamin A, and calcium.
We took a closer look at the recent scientific reports to see how dill spice can specifically help your health – in surprising ways.
1. Can Dill Improve Memory Performance?
Dill contains phytoestrogenic compounds, according to scientists, and many believe that these compounds have beneficial effects on memory and cognition. A 2016 study from the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences tested dill essence on mice in order to discover if it could directly improve memory performance.
Mice completing an object recognition task were judged on their memory performance and essence of dill helped prevent memory impairment when mice were also given a sedative.
Researchers concluded that compounds in dill could therefore “be promising in improving memory and cognition, mainly in postmenopausal women.”
2. Anti-Bacterial Dill Spice for Health
Dill is also believed to contain volatile oils that prevent bacterial overgrowth; much like garlic, which also has a bacteria regulating effect.
In 2010, scientists from Assiut University, Assiut, Egypt studied the anti-microbial effects of dill alongside pepper and parsley while trying to preserve kareish cheese.
Pepper was better than dill at reducing bacterial content in the cheese. But dill did display antibacterial activity that helped limit the growth of mold in the cheese.
Dill essence could, in theory, have a role to play in helping preserve food.
3. Dill Protects Your Liver
Dill offers a potential liver-protective effect when used against chemically induced liver damage.
In 2016, scientists from the Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, Hamadan in Iran conducted a study on lab rats to determine whether the anti-oxidants in dill help to reduce liver damage.
Dill essence resulted in a significant decrease in markers of liver damage, as well as corresponded with lower levels of liver cholesterol and triglycerides.
4. Dill Spice Can Reduce Period Pain
One surprising use for dill spice that you may not have known --- dill can help relieve period pains.
A 2014 study from Qom University of Medical Sciences in Iran looked at the power of dill against dysmenorrhea in women.
The study looked at 75 women between 18 and 28 years of age who took 100mg of dill powder for five days, 250mg of a commonly prescribed dysmenorrhea medication, or placebo.
The results showed that dill was as effective as the drug in reducing the severity of pain associated with menstruation.
As dill poses few side effects, it has potential, scientists say, for treating this condition.
5. Dill Offers Protection Against Free Radicals and Carcinogens
Dill spice is a powerful anti-oxidant. Dill's antioxidant effect in your body is thanks to its "monoterpene" components that help protect against free radicals and neutralize carcinogens.
A 1992 study from LKT Laboratories Inc., Minneapolis demonstrated that anethofuran, carvone, and limonene in dill weed oil (which are also present in caraway oil) are of potential help as anti-cancer agents – although much more research needs to be done in order to state that dill could offer a specific protection against cancer.
6. Is Dill Spice a Detox?
Dill spice could help reduce toxins in your body, a team of scientists from LKT Laboratories Inc., in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Dill increases two types of compounds, GST and GSH. Scientists believe that these two compounds help your body to detoxify itself of foreign compounds and carcinogens.
7. Use Dill Spice as an Antifungal
Dill also seems to have significant antifungal powers.
Essential oil from dill seeds is a potential source of an antifungal agent that could help protect organisms from fungal infection, according to a 2012 study from the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine & Natural Products at Wuhan University, China .
As yet, the essential oil has only been tested in a lab situation but it seems promising that dill essence could be used as an antifungal agent.