Tarragon, or Artemisia dracunculus L., is a perennial herb that comes from the sunflower family. It’s widely used for flavoring, fragrance and medicinal purposes (1).
It has a subtle taste and pairs well with dishes like fish, beef, chicken, asparagus, eggs and soups.
Here are 8 surprising benefits and uses of tarragon.
Tarragon is low in calories and carbs and contains nutrients that may be beneficial for your health.
Just one tablespoon (2 grams) of dried tarragon provides (2):
- Calories: 5
- Carbs: 1 gram
- Manganese: 7% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Iron: 3% of the RDI
- Potassium: 2% of the RDI
Though the amounts of these nutrients in tarragon aren’t considerable, the herb may still benefit your overall health.
Summary Tarragon is low in calories and carbs and contains the nutrients manganese, iron and potassium, which may be beneficial for your health.
Insulin is a hormone that helps bring glucose to your cells so you can use it for energy.
Tarragon has been found to help improve insulin sensitivity and the way your body uses glucose.
One seven-day study in animals with diabetes found that tarragon extract lowered blood glucose concentrations by 20%, compared to a placebo (10).
Moreover, a 90-day, randomized, double-blind study looked at the effect of tarragon on insulin sensitivity, insulin secretion and glycemic control in 24 people with impaired glucose tolerance.
Those who received 1,000 mg of tarragon before breakfast and dinner experienced an ample decrease in total insulin secretion, which can help keep blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day (11).
Summary Tarragon may help decrease blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity and the way your body metabolizes glucose.
Insufficient sleep has been linked to poor health outcomes and can increase your risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The Artemisia group of plants, which includes tarragon, has been used as a remedy for various health conditions, including poor sleep.
In one study in mice, Artemisia plants appeared to provide a sedative effect and help regulate sleep patterns (16).
However, due to the small size of this study, more research is needed on the use of tarragon for sleep — particularly in humans.
Summary Tarragon comes from the Artemisia group of plants, which may have a sedative effect and improve sleep quality, though this potential benefit has not yet been studied in humans.
Ghrelin is considered a hunger hormone, while leptin is referred to as a satiety hormone. When ghrelin levels rise, it induces hunger. Conversely, rising leptin levels cause a feeling of fullness (19).
One study in mice examined the role of tarragon extract in stimulating appetite. Results showed a decrease in insulin and leptin secretion and an increase in body weight.
These findings suggest that tarragon extract may help increase feelings of hunger. However, results were only found in combination with a high-fat diet. Additional research in humans is needed to confirm these effects (20).
Summary Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that control appetite. Research has found that tarragon extract may improve appetite by reducing leptin levels in the body, though human-based research is lacking.
In traditional folk medicine, tarragon has been used to treat pain for a long time (21).
One 12-week study looked at the effectiveness of a dietary supplement called Arthrem — which contains a tarragon extract — and its effect on pain and stiffness in 42 people with osteoarthritis.
Individuals who took 150 mg of Arthrem twice per day saw significant improvement in symptoms, compared to those taking 300 mg twice per day and the placebo group.
Researchers suggested that the lower dose may have proven more effective as it was tolerated better than the higher dose (22).
Other studies in mice also found Artemisia plants to be beneficial in the treatment of pain and proposed that it may be used as an alternative to traditional pain management (21).
Summary Tarragon has been used to treat pain for a long time in traditional folk medicine. Supplements containing tarragon may be beneficial for reducing pain associated with conditions like osteoarthritis.
There is an increasing demand for food companies to use natural additives rather than synthetic chemicals to help preserve food. Plant essential oils are one popular alternative (23).
Additives are added to food to help add texture, prevent separation, preserve food and inhibit bacteria that cause foodborne illness, such as E. coli.
One study looked at the effects of tarragon essential oil on Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli — two bacteria that cause foodborne illness. For this research, Iranian white cheese was treated with 15 and 1,500 µg/mL of tarragon essential oil.
Results showed that all the samples treated with tarragon essential oil had an antibacterial impact on the two bacterial strains, compared to the placebo. Researchers concluded that tarragon may be an effective preservative in food, such as cheese (24).
Summary Essential oils from plants are an alternative to synthetic chemical food additives. Research has found that tarragon essential oil may inhibit Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli, two bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
Since tarragon has a subtle taste, it can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are some simple ways to incorporate tarragon into your diet:
- Add it to scrambled or fried eggs.
- Use it as a garnish on roasted chicken.
- Toss it into sauces, such as pesto or aioli.
- Add it to fish, such as salmon or tuna.
- Mix it with olive oil and drizzle the mix on top of roasted vegetables.
Tarragon comes in three different varieties — French, Russian and Spanish:
- French tarragon is most widely known and best for culinary purposes.
- Russian tarragon is weaker in flavor compared to French tarragon. It loses its flavor quickly with age, so it’s best to use it right away. It produces more leaves, which make a great addition to salads.
- Spanish tarragon has more flavor compared to Russian tarragon but less than French tarragon. It can be used for medicinal purposes and brewed as tea.
Fresh tarragon is typically only available in the spring and summer in cooler climates. It’s not as readily available as other herbs, such as cilantro, so you may only find it at large chain grocery stores or farmers markets.
Summary Tarragon comes in three different varieties — French, Russian and Spanish. It’s a versatile herb that can be used in many ways, including on eggs, chicken, fish, vegetables and in sauces.
Tarragon has been claimed to provide other health benefits that have not yet been extensively researched.
- May be beneficial for heart health: Tarragon is often used in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. The health benefits of this diet are not only related to the food but also the herbs and spices that are used (25, 26).
- May decrease inflammation: Cytokines are proteins that can play a role in inflammation. One study in mice found a significant decrease in cytokines after tarragon extract consumption for 21 days (27, 28).
Summary Tarragon may be beneficial for heart health and decrease inflammation, though these benefits have not been thoroughly researched.
Fresh tarragon keeps best in the refrigerator. Simply rinse the stem and leaves with cold water, loosely wrap them in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag. This method helps the herb retain moisture.
Fresh tarragon will typically last in the fridge for four to five days. Once the leaves begin to turn brown, it’s time to discard the herb.
Dried tarragon can last in an airtight container in a cool, dark environment for up to four to six months.
Summary Fresh tarragon can be stored in the fridge for four to five days, while dried tarragon may be kept in a cool, dark place for up to four to six months.
Tarragon has many impressive health benefits, including the potential to reduce blood sugar, inflammation and pain, while improving sleep, appetite and heart health.
Not to mention, it’s versatile and can be added to a variety of foods — whether you use fresh or dried varieties.
You can easily reap the many benefits tarragon provides by adding it to your diet.