What is Tarragon: Uses and Benefits
Tarragon is an aromatic herb that has been dubbed the ‘King of Herbs’ thanks to its distinctive taste and smell which combines sweet and licorice flavors with an anise-like aroma. You may see it referred to as ‘mugwort’ but it must not be confused with the plant called Artemisia vulgaris which is true mugwort.
It is an attractive plant with thin, blade-like leaves that are dark green. These are picked and used in recipes as well as to make medicines. Traditionally, tarragon has been used to treat anything from digestion problems to water retention. It is also widely used in the production of fragranced soaps and cosmetics.
Here is some more fascinating information about the uses and benefits of this popular herb.
Culinary Uses of Tarragon
The distinctive tarragon taste has long been prized by chefs and cooks and this herb has a distinguished culinary history. It was introduced into Europe by the Mongolians during the 14th century and spread from here throughout the world. There are different types of tarragon including Russian and French tarragon but the French version is most often used in cooking.
This is because French tarragon soon became the superior product and was used more widely than the Asian varieties. Although it was originally used for flavoring vinegar, it was soon being widely used as a salad leaf and to season vegetables. It soon became the signature flavor of French cuisine and led to the creation of classic French dishes including bearnaise sauce, chaufroid and the famous poulet a l’estragon. Tarragon is also the herb that makes French dijon mustard so special and is a vital part of Herbes de Provence.
Medicinal Uses of Tarragon
The history of the use of the tarragon plant as a medicinal herb stretches back as far as the history of the herb itself. It has been used for the treatment of anything from malaria to liver disease. However, there is scientific evidence to support its therapeutic effects and it has been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.
The essential oil element of the plant contains a total of 69 beneficial compounds which include coumarins, phenolic acid, flavonoids and polyacetylene derivatives to name just a few. To get the maximum tarragon benefits, the plants need to be harvested when the oil content of the tarragon is highest and this is at the start of the budding stage which is usually in early spring. The oil content is also high during the beginning of the flowering stage. However, the exact concentration of the compounds will be influenced by the climate and the region where the plants are grown.
Some other compounds within tarragon aid healing and these include phenols, vitamins and tannins. In fact, tarragon works on the whole body and helps to maintain equilibrium which promotes balance and health.
The fresh version of the herb always has a more potent mix of nutrients and beneficial compounds so it should always be used in preference to the dried herb. However, you will get plenty of benefits from dried tarragon as well. Here is a summary of some of the benefits.
- Antibacterial and antimicrobial
Tarragon in acetone, chloroform, menthol and water have been shown to discourage bacterial growth and the growth of other microorganisms.
Tarragon has historically been used in the treatment of malaria. Scientific research has supported its role in combatting uncomplicated forms of the disease. It can help to stop the spread of malaria and contributes towards eliminating Plasmodium falciparum from infected individuals. This is the organism that causes the disease. It has been recognized as a first treatment in basic malaria by the World Health Organization. It is also highly effective against Leishmania, Toxoplasma, Schistosoma and Trypanosoma.
Tarragon has impressive antioxidant properties and is highly effective at reducing free radical damage and oxidation. It also reduces the accumulation of malondialdehyde and sialic acid. The effect is to reduce inflammation and protect from cell damage.
- Gastrointestinal benefits
Tarragon can be used to make a water extract which has many benefits for the digestive system. In the upper digestive system, it can both treat and prevent stomach ulcers and increases the secretion of gastric juices. This can help to improve appetite and helps the body to breakdown the food that has been eaten and extract the beneficial nutrients that it contains.
- Treating diabetes
The Russian variety of tarragon has been found to be helpful for supporting healthy glucose levels in the blood and insulin levels. This is a great help in diabetes. It is necessary to combine the treatment with a holistically healthy lifestyle which includes exercise and dietary changes. Tarragon aids glucose metabolism and helps cells to absorb this important nutrient. The herb needs to be ingested every day in food and as a supplement to make the cells more receptive to insulin. The medical term for this is antihyperglycemic action and it curbs hyperphagia in diabetics so that they do not crave as much food. It also reduces polydipsia so they don’t need to drink so much. The Russian variety of the herb also boosts glucose transport into muscle cells. This has the effect of decreasing blood sugar levels and reduces the amount of glucose that the liver can synthesize. It is thought that it plays a role in delaying or even preventing the onset of diabetic neuropathy.
- Digestive Bitter
A digestive bitter stimulates gastric juice secretion. It stimulates the appetite and reduces bloating whilst encouraging more nutrients to be absorbed by the body. The bitter effect of tarragon is provided by artemisinin. To get the benefits, you should eat some Tarragon with some salad before a large meal or take a supplement or a tincture.
How You Can Use Tarragon in Your Daily Lifestyle
It’s not for you to get some of the benefits of the ‘King of Herbs’ yourself. All you need to do is consume some tarragon daily. You can add it to water and drink it or you can simply add tarragon to salads, pasta dishes or fish and chicken recipes. You could also sprinkle it on roasted vegetables. Delicious!