Dill (Anethum graveolens), wrongly translated in Matthew 23:23 as Anise is recorded in the Talmud as being subject to tithe. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
The ancient Greeks and Romans grew it and used it to flavor foods. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and western Asia. The word dill comes from the old Norse word dylla, meaning to soothe or lull. It dates back in writing to about 3000 B.C. when it earned a mention in Egyptian medical texts. In the 1st century Rome, dill weed was considered a good luck symbol. Ancient Egyptians used it to ward off witches and as an aphrodisiac.
To Greeks, dill signified wealth. Many cultures cultivated it for medicinal qualities, particularly its ability to soothe an ailing stomach. In ancient Greece athletes spread dill infused olive oil all over their body as muscle toner. In Anglo-Saxon England dill was made into a herbal tea according to a recipe borrowed from ancient Greek medicinal texts and used to treat jaundice, headache, boils, lack of appetite, stomach problems, nausea and liver problems.
Today dill is widely grown in Eurasia and other parts of the world where its leaves and seeds are used as an herb or spice for flavoring soups, sauces and salads. The aromatic fernlike leaves of dill are used to flavor salmon and other fish dishes as well as cucumber pickles, where the dill flower is sometimes used. Dill is best when used fresh as it loses its flavor rapidly if dried. Dill seed is used as a spice and dill oil, extracted from the leaves, stems and seeds of the plant is used in the manufacturing of soaps.
Dill weed is a good source of calcium, manganese and iron, and as an antioxidant food, its flavonoids provide anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties that give it a whole host of incredible health benefits. A study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics investigated the analgesic and antidepressant properties of dill from the South of Morocco. Extract of the dill plant was administered to subjects and showed a significant antidepressant and analgesic effect when compared with the drug references, sertraline and tramadol, and dill had the advantage of no adverse effects.
Dill weed also has proven cholesterol-lowering benefits. It aids in digestion and provides a source of energy through beneficial fatty acids. A study published in the Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences found that extract of dill had profound anticonvulsant activities making it a potential natural alternative treatment for epilepsy.
The triacylglycerol structure and distribution of fatty acids of seed oils determines the final physical properties of dill oil that has a positive effect on absorption and metabolism. Regular consumption of fresh dill aids in the digestion of some important fatty acids.
Dill oil has been shown to be effective agent against several bacteria strains, completely inhibiting the growth of Fusarium graminearum, a devastating wheat disease caused by the fungal plant pathogen, as well five other toxic bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus. Dill extracts taken from seeds stored for thirty-five years remained potent enough to kill several fungal strains, such as the mold Aspergillus niger and the yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans.
Dill also contains monoterpene effects which help antioxidant molecules attach to oxidized molecules that would otherwise do damage in the body. These antioxidant effects are comparable to those obtained by ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol and quercetin. Thus, dill exhibits anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties capable of fighting free radical damage associated with cancer.