Why the French Call Tarragon “King of Herbs"

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

One of my resolutions this year is to cook more meals at home. And this can be a challenge because if I am not careful, my meals may all start to taste the same. So I have had to educate myself on a myriad of spices and herbs to vary the flavor.  

A herb I have started using more is tarragon. Recently, I included it as one of the flavors to spice up the taste of my eggs. It made such a difference that I decided to do some research to determine whether this herb had any significant health benefits.  

Tarragon is an herb from the sunflower family and is scientifically known as Artemisia Dracunculus or sometimes “dragon herb.”

This aromatic, licorice-scented herb has been cultivated for thousands of years. It is believed to be native to Siberia. It is very popular in French cooking and one of the main ingredients in the famous French Bernaise sauce. There is even a type of tarragon specifically called French Tarragon. In France, tarragon is commonly called “King of Herbs.”

You can buy fresh sprigs of tarragon or buy dried tarragon. If you cook with fresh tarragon, remember that a little goes a long way. I prefer to use fresh herbs. If you are worried about it going to waste, you can freeze fresh tarragon and use it within three to five months. You don’t have to even unthaw it before you cook with it. Keep dry tarragon up to one year. Store in a sealed tight container in a cool, dark place.

Tarragon is great for pretty much any meat or vegetable dish. It is also a great flavoring agent for soups. This parsnip and carrot soup with tarragon looks good, and I plan to try this soon. You can even make tarragon tea with fresh mint or infuse vinegar with tarragon to make salad dressings and meat marinades.

There is some evidence tarragon may assist in regulating blood sugar by helping the pancreas release insulin.  

There exist two cultivars of this species: French Tarragon is used as a spice in cuisine and Russian Tarragon (RT) has been used medically in Russia and middle Asia, mainly to treat gastrointestinal disorders. However, recent studies also reported possible antidiabetic and hypoglycemic activities,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A study on Russian Tarragon (RT) found that an ethanolic extract of RT was able to reduce blood glucose concentration in rodents.

Let’s check out some additional potential health benefits of tarragon:

Tarragon may help provide relief from a toothache.

Several reports say the ancient Greeks discovered that chewing on tarragon leaves helped relieve tooth pain by providing numbing effects. This may be because tarragon is rich in eugenol, a natural anesthetic that is also present in clove oil. Eugenol may help fight inflammation, which explains why it would be a good painkiller. Eugenol also has antibacterial properties. If you are experiencing tooth pain, you might discuss with your doctor whether there are any downsides to adding a few drops of tarragon essential oil to a glass of water and gargling with it. An added bonus is it may freshen your breath.

Tarragon may help with intestinal function.

Tarragon is a natural vermifuge. A vermifuge helps kill parasitic worms inside of the intestines. These parasites can cause malabsorption by essentially stealing the nutrients from the foods you eat. If you practice good hygiene and do not consume undercooked meat from an infected animal, you will likely not get intestinal worms. But it never hurts to be informed about these parasites and ways to prevent and/or combat them.

Tarragon may be great for digestion and stomach issues.

Tarragon may promote saliva production. Saliva is key in the digestion process for a number of reasons, including its role in breaking down food.

Tarragon may also be a great digestive aid, because it may help with the production of bile by the liver. Bile is important for the breakdown and absorption of fats. Bile also helps remove waste from the body.

Because tarragon also has great antibacterial properties, it may help prevent the growth of bad bugs in the gut that can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea. Tarragon is also a natural diuretic and can help reduce water retention.

The National Institutes for Health (NIH) reports that the antimicrobial agents in tarragon may help fight E. Coli and Staph bacteria. It may even be used as a natural food preservative in foods such as cheese.

Tarragon may help with cardiovascular health.

Chemicals in tarragon may help prevent platelet aggregation, which is the clumping together of platelets in the blood. Platelets are involved in the formation of blood clots, and blood clots can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Tarragon is also rich in antioxidants, like omega 3s, that help protect the heart and prevent a variety of diseases, including cancer.

Tarragon may help with insomnia.

Tarragon essential oil may cause sleepiness and drowsiness, making it a natural sedative that may help you fall asleep. If you have problems getting good sleep, speak with your doctor about the possibility of using tarragon as a sleep aid.

Tarragon may make a nice, natural insect repellent.

As an upcoming gardener, it’s exciting to learn about natural ways to repel bugs from the fruits and veggies I plant in my garden. Several natural gardening guides say that bugs and pests do not like the licorice scent of tarragon. Simply infuse water with tarragon and put in a spray bottle for homemade bug spray.

Now let’s check out some of the vitamin and mineral content in one tablespoon of dried tarragon leaves.

  • Calcium, 21 mg. An adult between 19-50 years of age (male or female) in general should aim to have about 1,000 mg. of calcium per day. This mineral is needed to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also needed for clotting of the blood to stop bleeding and for proper functioning of the nerves, muscles and heart. The National Cancer Institute conducted a study that monitored calcium intake in 135,000 men and women. The subjects who had a calcium intake of more than 700 mg. per day had a 35-45% reduced risk of cancer of the distal (lower) part of the colon than those who had a calcium intake of 500 mg. or less per day.
  • Magnesium, 6 mg. This mineral is needed by more than 300 human body enzymes to facilitate biochemical reactions. It helps create energy for the body and activates muscle and nerve tissues by enabling potassium and calcium transfer through your cell membranes. If magnesium levels in the body are too low, whole body systems don’t work properly, resulting in fatigue and cramps.
  • Phosphorus, 6 mg. Phosphorus works with calcium to help build strong bones and teeth. It is also needed to help balance and use other vitamins and minerals including vitamin D, iodine, magnesium and zinc.
  • Potassium, 54 mg. Potassium may help lower blood pressure by balancing out negative effects of salt. According to Harvard Health, “[w]hen it comes to fighting high blood pressure, the average American diet delivers too much sodium and too little potassium. Eating to reverse this imbalance could prevent or control high blood pressure and translate into fewer heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from heart disease.”
  • Vitamin A, 76 IU. Vitamin A helps with bone growth and reproductive health. It is mainly known for improving your eyesight, skin health and cell regeneration.

So are there any downsides to consuming tarragon?

“Despite concerns about the toxic effects of two of its main constituents, estragole (up to 82%) and methyleugenol (up to 39%), no acute toxicity or mutagenic activity has been reported at doses relevant for human consumption,” reports the NIH.

Be mindful of any over-the-counter or prescription drugs you are taking. Taking medications along with tarragon might cause a drug interaction or make one of your medications work less effectively.

Some reports suggest avoiding tarragon if you are pregnant, but the best thing to do is to consult your doctor. If you have any health issues, always speak with a competent healthcare professional about what you are eating and how it may affect your health.

Enjoy your healthy life!


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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