Latin name: Anethum graveolens
Common names: Dill, False Anise, Bastard Fennel, Russian Parsley, Swedish Parsley
Synonym: Peucedanum graveolens
A spice, which may result in allergy symptoms in sensitised individuals.
Allergen ExposureGeographical distribution
Dill is considered both an herb and a spice, and belongs to the Carrot (Apiaceae) family (which includes Anise, Caraway, Coriander, Fennel, Parsley and Celery). It is an annual plant similar in appearance to Fennel, with delicate, blue-green lacy leaves and small golden flowers. It is used to flavour a great many dishes.
Originating in Western Asia and probably brought to northern Europe as a medicinal herb to be grown at monasteries, Dill is most popular in Germany, Scandinavia and the Baltics. (Dill weed is a kind of “national spice” in Scandinavian countries. The name comes either from the Old Norse for “soothe” or the German for “umbel”.) Dill has a sweet and aromatic taste, which has been compared to both Anise and Caraway. Both the more pungent dried fruits or umbels (incorrectly called “Dill seeds”) and the milder fresh or dried leaves (“Dill weed”) are used: the various cultivars tend to be aimed at the production of one or the other.
The leaves and seeds have overlapping uses. The leaves are milder and evanescent in flavour and so are best used raw or added to cooked dishes only a few minutes before the cooking is complete. The “seed” is very pungent and bitter. Its main use is as an essential ingredient of herbal vinegar, which is used in many sauces and salads and is all but indispensable for pickling vegetables. Dill, both the leaves and the “seeds”, is also used directly as a flavouring or garnish, especially in fish, shellfish. It is a familiar ingredient in egg dishes, soups and stews. In Western and Central Asia, Dill is popular in spice mixtures and to flavour boiled lentils and beans.
A tea is made from the leaves and/or the seeds. An essential oil from the seed is used as a flavouring for food and medicine and a perfume for toiletries. It is also an effective insecticide.
The seeds have thousands of years of history as a treatment for digestive problems, especially gripe and flatulence. Dill has a range of other medicinal uses, including increasing the flow of milk and relieving period pains.
See under Environment.
No allergens from this plant have yet been characterised.
Potential Cross-ReactivityAn extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the genus and other members of the Apiaceae family could be expected (1). This has been demonstrated in a study of serum from a patient with an occupational allergy to spices: a closely related pattern of IgE binding to Coriander, Dill and Anise extract was observed. The results suggest that these botanically related plants contain common IgE-binding structures (2).
Clinical ExperienceIgE-mediated reactions
Dill may uncommonly induce symptoms of food allergy in sensitised individuals.
Anaphylaxis to Dill has been described. A 40-year-old woman complained that she developed oral pruritus, tongue and throat swelling and tightness, generalised urticaria, and immediate vomiting and diarrhea following ingestion of foods cooked with Dill, and subsequently with inhalation of fumes of foods prepared with Dill. Her symptoms progressed with each exposure. Skin-specific IgE was detected to fresh Dill extract (3).
A 32-year-male reported episodes of periorbital oedema, generalised itching, rash and “chapped lips” after preparing and eating fresh Dill. Two episodes occurred approximately 12 hours after eating fresh grilled salmon garnished with freshly ground Dill. Dried Dill and Dill pickles did not affect him. Skin- and serum-specific IgE were positive (4).
Contact urticaria was reported by a 32-year-old housewife from handling Dill plants. Serum and skin IgE were positive (5).
A 43-year-old man developed occupational allergic contact dermatitis when handling Dill plants. Serum-specific IgE to Dill was detected. A patch test was positive (6).
Phytophotodermatitis has been reported (7).
- Yman L. Botanical relations and immunological cross-reactions in pollen allergy. 2nd ed. Pharmacia Diagnostics AB. Uppsala. Sweden. 1982: ISBN 91-970475-09
- Van Toorenebergen AW, Dieges PH. Immunoblot analysis of IgE-binding antigens in spices. Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol 1988;86:117-120
- Chiu AM, Zacharisen MC Anaphylaxis to dill. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2000;84(5):559-60
- Freeman GL. Allergy to fresh dill. Allergy 1999;54(5):531-2
- Monteseirin J, Perez-Formoso JL, Hernandez M, Sanchez-Hernandez MC, Camacho MJ, Bonilla I, Chaparro A, Conde J. Contact urticaria from dill. Contact Dermatitis 2003;48(5):275
- Monteseirin J, Perez-Formoso JL, Sanchez-Hernandez MC, Hernandez M, Camacho MJ, Bonilla I, Guardia P, Conde J. Occupational contact dermatitis to dill. Allergy 2002;57(9):866-7
- Egan CL, Sterling G. Phytophotodermatitis: a visit to Margaritaville. Cutis 1993;51(1):41-2