Dill (Anethum graveolens), is a popular culinary herb which has been used medicinally since ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times. It is an annual herb in the celery family Apiaceae, and is the only species in the genus Anethum.

This herb often grows up to 40 – 60cm and has slender, hollow stems, and alternate, finely divided, feathery leaves which are similar to those of fennel, except harder in texture. The flowers are commonly white to yellow in colour and the aroma is similar to that of aniseed.

Dill originated in the Mediterranean region, specifically southern Russia, and West Africa.
The parts of this plant commonly used are the leaves, flowers, and seeds. The leaves should be picked fresh, usually, after the plant has reached 8.5cm in height, as the leaves are often difficult to dry successfully. The dried leaves need to be stored in an airtight container so as to retain some of their flavour.

The seeds should be collected when fully mature and then spread out and air dried. Essential oils can be extracted from the fresh leaves and the seeds, with these two oils differing slightly in scent and taste.
The name ‘dill’ comes from the Saxon word ‘dilla’ which means to ‘lull’ or ‘soothe’. When taken internally, this herb is used to relieve an upset stomach, bloating, gas, and nausea.


• Improves appetite and digestion: The essential oils found in dill are effective at stimulating and producing bile and digestive juices. These oils also stimulate the peristaltic motion of the intestine, therefore easing the passage of bowel movements and relieving constipation.
• Treats intestinal gas (flatulence): A few teaspoons in a cup of boiling water as a tea was commonly used to treat infants with colic. Dill has an antispasmodic action that helps to reduce flatulence, and aid digestion. The component of the essential oil of dill, carvone, is effective in relieving stomach upset and gas.
• High in Vitamins A and C: One ounce of dill offers 43% of the daily required amount of Vitamin A, and 40% of Vitamin C. it is also quite high in manganese, folate, copper, potassium, calcium, and iron.
• Protects against cancer: The enzyme glutathione-S-transferase helps to attach the molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules to prevent damage. Dill oil has been called “chemoprotective” as it helps to neutralize carcinogens that everyone encounters on a daily basis such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, and vehicle exhaust. This is due to three monoterpenes: anethofuran, carvone, and limonene that were determined to have chemopreventative effects by inducing the production of the glutathione enzyme.
• Reduces inflammation: Dill aids in inhibiting white blood cells from releasing cytokines, which are molecules that promote inflammation.
• Has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties: Monoterpenes and flavonoids found in dill are antibacterial and germicidal in nature. Other substances known as polyacetylenes found in the herb have also been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal activity. Studies have shown it to be effective at completely inhibiting the growth of Fusarium graminearum, as well as being toxic to 5 other bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus.
• Treats fevers, colds, coughs, and bronchitis: Inhaling dill oil is helpful in alleviating allergies and respiratory infections and is helpful as an anti-inflammatory agent.
• Acts as an galactagogue: This means substances that increase lactation in humans and animals. Studies suggest that dill may also support the digestive health of the infant consuming the breastmilk.
• Treats haemorrhoids
• Promotes healthy teeth and bones: This is because of the high calcium content of dill.
• Treats infection: This is due to its antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties.
• Boosts the immune system: Dill is high in Vitamin C, which helps to make the immune system stronger by stimulating the production of cells in the immune system which protects the body from possible illnesses and diseases. The antioxidant properties of dill also offer additional protection from free radical damage. It contains certain compounds known as polyacetylenes which have also been found to have antimicrobial properties, which has the ability to inhibit the growth of microbes in the body.
• Reduces cholesterol: Experiments show that dill may be effective in reducing total cholesterol levels by 20% and triacyl glyceride levels by up to 50%. More studies are needed.
• Treats diarrhoea, and dysentery (infectious diarrhoea): diarrhoea is usually caused by indigestion or microbial action, while dysentery is usually caused by fungal infections. Dill is effective at treating all of these problems.
• Relieves the pain and spasms of menstrual cramps: Dill has actively been used to regulate the menstrual cycle in women for many years.
• Aids with sleep disorders: the rich flavonoids and Vitamin B complex found in dill activate the secretion of certain enzymes and hormones which have a calming effect, and induce sleep.
• Lowers blood sugar: One of the oils found in dill, eugenol, has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance, particularly in those with diabetes.
• Improves eye and skin health: Dill has high levels of beta-carotene which has been shown to improve eye health and promote healthy skin.


Dill leaves can be added to food, even in large amounts, as it is not too overpowering. It goes well with fish, particularly salmon, as well as in kinds of butter, sour cream, in egg dishes, or with potatoes.

Dill seeds can be used whole or crushed. The crushed seeds can also be added to boiling water to make tea.

Add 2 teaspoons of crushed seeds to 250mL of boiling water and steep for 5 minutes.

To make dill water, add 2 pinches of dill seeds to 250mL of water and bring to the boil. After the colour changes, continue boiling for another minute and then strain and cool.


When applied to the skin, dill can sometimes cause skin irritation. Dill juice can also cause the skin to become sensitive to sunlight.

In small amounts, dill is considered safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. However, excess or supplementary forms of dill may induce menstruation which may cause miscarriage.

People who are allergic to plants in the carrot family (asafoetida, celery, caraway, fennel, and coriander) are likely to be allergic to this herb.

Dill extract may lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, causing hypoglycaemia.

You should always consult a doctor or physician before taking dill supplements as it may cause adverse side effect,s or interact with other medications.

Essential oils are usually highly concentrated and so not always safe to ingest, particularly without first being diluted.


The Herb Companion – Edited by Alison Candlin