Tarragon (Scientific name: Artemisia dracunculus) is a perennial herb that belongs to the sunflower family. The plant grows mainly in North America and Eurasia. It may grow up to 5 feet in length, is quite nutritious, and contains a mix of minerals. Not only this, but traditionally, it finds usage as a medicinal herb due to its wide-ranging benefits for health. In addition, tarragon is a popular choice for culinary purposes because of its strong flavour, natural medicinal properties, and immense health benefits.
The medicinal benefits of tarragon are vast and distinct. Right from helping in relieving flatulence and colic to being a cure for insect bites and snake bites, humans have been using this herb as a remedy for several problems for ages now. Women have also reported that it has helped at the time of menstrual cramps and during an irregular cycle. It also helps in hyperactivity, indigestion, and insomnia.
The herb is much like the spice anise when we talk about the taste and aroma when we come to the culinary aspects. Due to its comprehensive utilisation, it is a commercial crop. This article briefly covers the nutritional profile of tarragon, its health benefits, potential side effects and allergies, different ways to use tarragon, different varieties of tarragon, and how to store the herb properly.
There are a few varieties of tarragon that are available in the market are:
- French Tarragon (Scientific name: Artemisia dracunculus): This variety of tarragon is popular in cooking.
- Russian Tarragon (Scientific name: Artemisia Dracunculoides): This variety of tarragon is bitter.
- Spanish Tarragon (Scientific name: Tagetes Lucida): This variety of tarragon is more robust in flavour than the other varieties and comes in handy for medicinal purposes.
Nutritional Properties of Tarragon
Tarragon is rich in a variety of nutrients. As per USDA, Just one tablespoon (approximately 2 grams) of tarragon leaves consists of the following nutrients:
- Calories: 5 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 1 g
- Protein: 0.3 g0
- Calcium: 170 mg
- Magnesium: 56 mg
- Phosphorus: 50mg
- Sodium: 1.5 mg
- Manganese: 0.1 mg
- Iron: 0.5 mg
- Potassium: 48.3 mg
Health Benefits of Tarragon
As is clear from the nutritional profile mentioned above, tarragon is rich in various nutrients. These nourishing properties make it very beneficial for the body. We have discussed some of them below.
Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Blood sugar may rise due to insulin resistance due to inflammation. Tarragon is effective in combating this insulin resistance. It helps in regulating blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity. Experts have backed its effectiveness in controlling blood sugar. An animal study found that tarragon effectively lowered blood glucose levels by 20%. Another study found that people given 1000 mg of tarragon before breakfast and dinner had balanced sugar levels throughout the day.
Improves Sleep Quality
The modern lifestyle has taken a toll on our society’s sleep schedule. In countries like Japan and South Korea, the impact is enormous, and people take just a few hours of poor sleep every day. Tarragon has sedative effects and can improve the quality of your sleep. A study on mice suggested that the sedative effect of tarragon can help in improving sleep patterns. Many people have reported that tarragon tea after a stressful day has helped them sleep better. However, the research on the effect of tarragon is limited, and more of it is necessary for more conclusive evidence.
Tarragon Increases Appetite
Loss of appetite is detrimental to your health and can lead to malnutrition. It is more common in old age. Two specific hormones determine your appetite: Ghrelin and Leptin. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone; more ghrelin makes you feel hungry. On the other hand, leptin is the satiety hormone. Rising leptin levels make you feel full and decrease your propensity to eat. Tarragon increases appetite by lowering leptin levels. You do not feel full and eat much more as you have less leptin in your blood.
Tarragon is very effective in reducing pain. It is so effective that many experts propose that people should use it as an alternative to traditional pain management. However, it is also used traditionally for treating pain. Now the effectiveness of tarragon in reducing pain is backed by considerable research.
The subjects got divided into three groups in a study regarding this matter.
They gave the first group 150mg of tarragon twice a day. Then, the second group received 3000mg of tarragon twice a day. Finally, the third group got a placebo. The first group saw better results than the other two groups. These results suggested that smaller doses of tarragon were more effective than larger doses because of the better tolerance of smaller quantities.
Tarragon has Antibacterial Properties
Tarragon has antibacterial properties as well. There is research done on cheese that provides scientific evidence for the antibacterial properties of tarragon. Various kinds of bacteria are primarily responsible for foodborne illness: Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, B. Subtilis, E. coli, etc. Cheese samples treated with tarragon had an antibacterial effect compared to the cheese samples treated with a placebo. This research highlighted the possibility of using tarragon as a natural preservative for foods.
A class of proteins known as ‘cytokines’ is responsible for causing inflammation. Immune cells secrete cytokines. A 21-day study on mice showed that tarragon has anti-inflammatory properties. Tarragon extract significantly reduced cytokinins and hence helped in combating inflammation in mice.
Healthy Mental Health
As per research, manganese in tarragon plays an essential role in enhancing brain health. Tarragon also has compounds like chlorogenic acid, luteolin, and quercetin. In addition, some experiments on animals have shown that tarragon helps in reducing stress and increases resistance to depression in animals.
Improves Heart Health
Heart diseases like stroke and heart attack are the leading cause of death globally. However, studies have shown that tarragon, when taken with other herbs and spices, can be very beneficial for your heart health.
There are a few varieties of tarragon. A recent study has shown that the Russian type of tarragon can help prevent obesity. Not only this, it can improve muscle building capacity of the body because tarragon increases creatine absorption in the muscles. This property of tarragon can be helpful both for bodybuilders and ordinary people who want to keep their bodies in good shape.
The thyroid produces two critical hormones vital for digestion: Thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Tarragon extract stimulates the thyroid to produce these hormones and maintain good metabolism. Some animal studies have backed this claim. For example, the levels of these hormones increased in animals just after their treatment with 300mg of tarragon extract.
Rich in Antioxidants
Oxidative stress is harmful to the body as it can cause numerous diseases and fastens the ageing process. Flavonoids are a class of compounds present in tarragon that have an antioxidant effect and ease oxidative stress. These antioxidants help combat oxidative stress and free radicals from cellular damage.
Improves Digestive Health
Bloating, dyspepsia and stomach irritation are a few problems that may affect your digestion. Tarragon can help you prevent these. It stimulates the liver to produce more bile, an enzyme that helps digest better. Drinking tarragon tea or even eating raw tarragon can help solve the problem of poor digestion.
Healthy for Women
Tarragon can be of use to women who experience irregular menstruation. Tarragon is also good for the overall reproductive health of women. However, because of tarragon’s nature that stimulates menstruation, it is not recommended for pregnant women.
Enhances Dental Health
It is one of the underrated benefits of tarragon. There is evidence that the Greeks used tarragon as a cure for toothache. This usage is because tarragon consists of a compound called Eugenol (this compound is also present in clove oil). Eugenol dulls tooth pain. Tarragon is also effective in treating gum inflammation that comes with toothache.
Possible Side Effects of Tarragon
There are few side effects of tarragon. It is usually safe when you take it in small amounts. However, there are some doubts about the effectiveness of the long-term use of tarragon. Tarragon can cause rashes, coughs, and irritation in the mouth in rare cases. In addition, there is some evidence that tarragon may even be toxic in the long term due to compounds like estragole and methyl eugenol.
When taken as a medicine, tarragon may also increase bleeding and cause slower blood clotting. As a result, it is best for specific populations to avoid tarragon or consult their doctor before taking tarragon. Patients with bleeding disorders, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people who are due to undergo surgery within two weeks should be alert and check for themselves before taking tarragon.
Ways to Use Tarragon
You can use tarragon in numerous ways by adding it to other foods. However, because it has a subtle flavour, it is best to add tarragon at the last minute of cooking to experience the best taste.
Some ways in which you can use tarragon:
- Add it to soups and stews.
- Add it to salads.
- Use it as a garnish on chicken.
- Add it to fried eggs.
- Add it to fish.
Safety and Storage
You can store fresh tarragon for a maximum of five days. After washing the tarragon leaves, loosely wrap them in a towel so that the towel absorbs the moisture. Then, please put it in the refrigerator to chill. Once you see brown spots on tarragon leaves, you should discard them.
If you want to store tarragon for longer, you can store dry tarragon. You can freeze it and store it in a refrigerator. You can vacuum seal it by removing extra air from the storing bag. Alternatively, you can chop dry tarragon and put it in the ice tray. Then fill the ice tray with water so that the tarragon freezes.
Tarragon is a very nutritious plant with immense health benefits. Tarragon is beneficial for almost all parts of your body. It enhances mental health, improves sleep quality and schedule, enhances appetite, reduces pain from conditions like osteoarthritis, kills bacteria, reduces oxidative stress, improves digestive health, heart health, and dental health, regulates blood glucose levels, and can even help in losing weight and building muscle.
Tarragon comes in a few varieties and is functional for culinary and medicinal purposes. Moreover, it is easy to add tarragon to your day-to-day diet and reap the immense health benefits of its regular intake. However, though it is safe to use by most people, it may have certain side effects and allergies. Hence, certain populations should use it only after proper consultation with their healthcare provider.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. 1 What does tarragon taste like?
A. Tarragon consists of a naturally occurring compound known as methyl chavicol. This compound gives tarragon a pungent, bittersweet flavour like liquorice, anise, and fennel. This bittersweet tarragon flavour makes it suitable for adding to dishes at the last minute for the best flavour.
Q. 2 Is tarragon and rosemary the same?
A. No, Tarragon and rosemary are not the same. However, you can use them as substitutes. If you have run out of rosemary, you can safely substitute it with tarragon in a ratio of 1:1. However, make sure that you use only French Tarragon as it is the only variety of tarragon used for culinary purposes.
Q. 3 What herb is similar to tarragon?
A. Tarragon can be used as fresh tarragon and dried tarragon. If you have run out of fresh tarragon, you can substitute it with fresh basil in a 1:1 ratio. You can also substitute fresh tarragon with fennel fronds. If you wish to substitute dry tarragon, then you have different options. For example, you can use dill (Eurasia, a herb) instead of dried tarragon in a 1:1 ratio or dried oregano or marjoram.
Q. 4 Is tarragon the same as oregano?
A. No, Tarragon and oregano are not the same. However, you can use them as substitutes. Oregano goes very well as a substitute for tarragon. You can use fresh oregano in place of tarragon. However, if you want a slightly more bitter and sharp flavour, you can use dried oregano instead of fresh.
Q. 5 What does Tarragon pair well with?
A. Tarragon has a bittersweet, pungent taste. As a result, it goes well with salmon, chicken, eggs, and baby vegetables. However, you should add tarragon at the last minute to get the best flavour.
Q. 6 Can you eat tarragon leaves raw?
A. You can consume small amounts of raw tarragon safely. However, you will most likely find the taste bitter. Therefore, it is better to use raw tarragon as a flavouring agent in dishes.
Q. 8 Can you substitute thyme for tarragon?
A. Thyme is a good substitute for tarragon. However, you may like fresh oregano better than thyme as a substitute for tarragon. Further, if you want a slightly more bitter and sharp flavour, you can use dried oregano instead of fresh.
Q. 9 Is there a substitute for fresh tarragon?
A. If you have run out of fresh tarragon, you can substitute it with fresh basil in a 1:1 ratio. You can also substitute fresh tarragon with fennel fronds.
Q. 10 What can you use in place of dried tarragon?
A. If you wish to substitute dry tarragon, you have two different options. First, you can use dill instead of dried tarragon in a 1:1 ratio. Alternatively, you can use dried oregano or marjoram as well.