DILL

Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), Anethum graveolens L.

Modified from: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Dill, Anethum graveolens L., an annual or biennial aromas herb native to Europe, is naturalized to North America and the West Indies. Also known as common dill, American dill, European dill, and Danish dill, this widely cultivated species has sometimes been classified as Peucedanum graveolens (L.) C.B. Clarke. Principal dill production areas are India and Pakistan, but Egypt, Fiji, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United States, England, Hungary, Germany, and Holland also have commercially productive areas. The plant grows erect and can reach a height of one meter. It is characterized by hollow stems, blue-green leaves, and yellow-flowering compound umbels, which produce a dried ripe fruit canmonly called seeds.

The reported life zone is 6 to 26 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.5 to 1.7 meters and a soil pH of 5.3 to 7.8 (4.1-31). The hardy plant requires long days and cool weather, and is sensitive to environmental stresses, such as low moisture, hail, high temperatures, strong winds, and hard rains during the flowering and seed maturation period. The plant grows best in deep, fertile loam soils.

Grown best as an annual crop, timeliness of harvest is crucial to maximize seed yield, because seeds tend to ripen at different times and seed shattering is a potential problem. Generally, harvesting for dill weed or the essential oil of dill weed is done before the plant flowers. Harvesting for seed is initiated when the bulk of the seed crop is physiologically mature. Plants used for essential oil production are steam distilled on the day of harvest to minimize volatilization losses.

The essential oils of dill differ in flavor and odor depending upon whether they are obtained from mature seed or dill weed. The seed oil resembles the essential oil of caraway because of the high carvone content (reaching 50 to 60 percent) in mature seeds (14.1-9). Dill seed oil includes d-carvone, d-limonene, d-phellandrene, -pinene, diterpene, d-dihydrocarvone, -phellandrene, -pinene, 1,8-cineole, -myrcene, para-cymene, and -thujone (3.3-44, 14.1-7). Dill herb oil contains d--phellandrene, terpinene, limonene, carvone, dillapiole, isomyristicin, and myristicin (3.3-44, 14.1-9). The quality of dill oil can fluctuate greatly, depending on the percentage of seed oil, the physiological maturity of the seeds used for oil. The time of harvest may also be significant, because carvone is synthesized during the day from -phellandrene breakdown (4.6-97). Dill herb oil is sometimes adulterated with terpenes from other sources (14.1-9).

Dill seeds are used whole or ground as a condiment for flavoring meats, sauces, stews, breads, vinegars, pastries, and vegetable. Dried and fresh leaves are used in sauces, salads, soups, stews, and vinegars. Dill is an important flavoring agent in the pickling of cucumbers. Some dill oil is used in cosmetics and perfumes. Dried dill foliage is commonly called dill weed.

As a medicinal plant, dill has been used as an antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, stimulant, and stomachic. It has also been used as a remedy for colic and insomnia and as a stimulant for lactation. The name 'dill' may come from the Norwegian word dill (to lull), referring to the plant's alleged carminative properties (11.1-50). Dill will provoke photodermatitis and contact dermatitis in humans (11.1-96). Myristicin, apiol, and dillapiol present in dill oil are effective naturally occurring insecticides (1.8-90). Myristicin is also known to be responsible for psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties in some other plants, and the apiol content may be responsible for diuretic properties (7.2-62, 7.8-12).

Indian dill or East Indian dill, Anethum sowa Roxb., is a perennial herb grown and utilized similarly to dill. Indian dill has a higher specific gravity than common dill, attributed to the presence of dillapiole and a lower carvone content (14.1-9). The high dillapiole content may make Indian dill a source of pyrethrum synergists (1.8-166).

Dill and Indian dill are generally recognized as safe for human consumption (21 CFR sections 172.510, 184.1282 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].


Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997