Some possible health benefits of tarragon include pain relief and increased insulin sensitivity. However, scientific evidence supporting tarragon’s potential health benefits is limited.

Tarragon (Artemesia dracunculus L.) is a green herb commonly used in cooking and herbal remedies.

Most people use this herb to provide flavor and aroma in cooking. However, some promote its medicinal purposes. Although research has investigated the potential health benefits of tarragon, the evidence is limited.

Many of the health studies were done on animals and not humans, so researchers cannot draw conclusions about its efficacy.

Read on to learn about tarragon’s possible health benefits, how to consume it, risks and side effects, and more.

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Scientific research suggests that tarragon may have wide-ranging benefits. However, it is worth noting that the researchers carried out many of the available studies on animals rather than humans.

With that in mind, here are some ways tarragon could help with health maintenance.

1. Relieving pain and inflammation

A 2015 study on mice examined the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties of tarragon. The researchers found significant benefits, and the results suggested that opioid receptors could be involved in the pain-relieving effect of the herb.

However, research on mice does not mean these effects would be the same in humans.

2. Increasing insulin sensitivity

A randomized, controlled trial published in the Journal of Medicinal Food recruited 24 people with impaired glucose tolerance (prediabetes). The researchers gave half of the participants 1,000 milligrams (mg) of tarragon before breakfast and dinner for 90 days and the other half a placebo.

Before and after the intervention, the researchers gave all participants 75 grams (g) of dextrose and tested their glucose and insulin levels every 30 minutes for 2 hours. They also tested their A1C (average blood glucose level for the past few months) and lipid profile (balance of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood).

The results showed that people in the tarragon group had significantly reduced:

  • systolic blood pressure (the force of the blood as it leaves the heart to travel around the body)
  • A1C
  • insulin

Conversely, their high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), also known as “good cholesterol,” significantly increased.

3. Alleviating depression

A 2018 study on mice examined tarragon’s potential for increasing mental resilience. The researchers gave tarragon extract to the mice before leaving them in a cage with an aggressive individual for 10 minutes.

They found that after the tarragon treatment, the mice were less susceptible to depression caused by social stress. The mice also showed reduced levels of inflammatory cytokines associated with stress.

As mentioned previously, researchers cannot apply the results of an animal study to humans. They have not replicated the results in human trials.

4. Combating fungal infection

A 2017 study showed that tarragon has a strong antifungal effect. It showed that fungi did not grow within a 14.7-millimeter (mm) circular area surrounding the tarragon extract.

Additionally, the researchers found that the tarragon was more effective against fungi such as Candida albicans than bacteria such as Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. However, experts do not fully understand tarragon’s antifungal properties and the types of fungi it works against.

5. Regulating the immune system

In another 2017 study on mice, researchers tested the potential immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of a tarragon extract produced using a water extraction method.

After receiving tarragon extract for 21 days, the mice showed significantly decreased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. They also had increased macrophage activity. Macrophages are cells that are important for immunity and tissue growth.

6. Fighting cancer

Additionally, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food examined the effect of tarragon leaf extract on the reproduction of cancer cells in the lymphatic system of mice.

The mice in the control group had a higher tumor cell count than those in the tarragon group. However, researchers have not replicated these results in humans, and a single study on mice does not prove that tarragon fights cancer cells.

7. Healing the skin

According to a 2020 study, herbal preparations using tarragon may help to treat skin wounds, irritations, allergic rashes, and dermatitis. Tarragon contains various essential oils, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other natural plant chemicals.

One tablespoon (1.8 g) of dried tarragon leaf provides a wide range of important nutrients needed to maintain good health. These include the following vitamins and minerals, measured in mg and micrograms (µg):

calcium20.5 mg
iron0.581 mg
magnesium6.25 mg
phosphorus5.63 mg
potassium54.4 mg
vitamin C0.9 mg
riboflavin (vitamin B2)0.024 mg
niacin (vitamin B3)0.161 mg
folate4.93 µg
vitamin A3.78 µg
vitamin B60.043 mg

Eating tarragon in food is a simple and delicious way to consume the herb. However, it is worth noting that there are different types of tarragon.

There are two main types: Russian and French.

Russian tarragon’s scent is described as balsamic and leathery. It has a bitter taste, and people rarely cook with it. French tarragon, on the other hand, has a flavor similar to aniseed or basil, which makes it more popular in food.

It works well in a wide range of dishes. For instance, the American Heart Association (AHA) includes tarragon in heart-healthy meal suggestions such as herbed halibut and spring vegetables en papillote. The American Diabetes Association also suggests recipes incorporating tarragon.

Alternatively, a person may consume tarragon in the form of medicinal products.

However, people should exercise caution when consuming the herb other than as an ingredient in food. This is because it may be possible to consume too much and experience side effects. It is important to read the label on all supplements.

Tarragon may cause itching in the mouth in certain people who eat the fresh herb. Additionally, some studies suggest that taking tarragon as a medication may be toxic to the liver if consumed long term. This is due to the plant’s natural compounds: estragole and methyl-eugenol.

Once again, this study involved mice rather than humans, so a person cannot draw conclusions about its effect on humans.

Any person with a health condition or who is pregnant or nursing should speak with a doctor before consuming large amounts of any herb or supplement.

Tarragon provides flavor in addition to some potential health benefits. These include reducing inflammation, increasing insulin sensitivity, and regulating the immune system. However, most research involved small animal trials, so the results are unproven.

The herb contains various vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, calcium, and potassium. Eating tarragon as part of a meal is unlikely to lead to side effects if consumed in moderate amounts.