What Are the Health Benefits of Tarragon?

Tarragon isn't as common in the United States as black pepper, basil or oregano, but perhaps it should be. The herb is slightly peppery and has a taste that's somewhat similar to fennel, anise and licorice, according to Michael T. Murray and Joseph E. Pizzorno, authors of "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods." In addition to being quite flavorful, tarragon supplies a small amount of iron and has certain health benefits, as well.

A bundle of fresh tarragon on a wooden table. Credit: Aneta_Gu/iStock/Getty Images

Good Source of Iron

A teaspoon of ground tarragon supplies 0.52 milligram of iron, which doesn't sound like a lot, but is an impressive dose for such a small amount of food. That 0.52 milligram is about 6 percent of the 8 milligrams of iron men need each day and about 3 percent of the 18 milligrams women should have as part of their daily diet. Iron helps your body make red blood cells, which are, in turn, responsible for moving oxygen around in your body, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Additional Vitamins and Minerals

In addition to iron, tarragon supplies trace amounts of several other vitamins and minerals. Sprinkling tarragon into recipes will add a trace amount of potassium, which promotes normal heart and muscle function. The herb also supplies a tiny amount of bone-building calcium and vitamin A, a nutrient essential for healthy eyes.

Protective Benefits

Tarragon has been used for medicinal purposes in the past. The Yuma County Cooperative Extension notes that tarragon has been used as a numbing agent and as a treatment for snake bites, though there isn't definitive proof that it's truly effective for either. Murray and Pizzorno note that tarragon might have anti-fungal and antimicrobial compounds, suggesting it can be useful in treating certain types of infections. They also point out that tarragon has compounds that fight free radicals, as well. Free radicals can cause cell damage and increase the risk of health problems such as heart disease and cancer. The herb might also be effective in treating diabetes because it helps regulate blood sugar levels, according to Murray and Pizzorno.

Buying, Storing and Cooking With Tarragon

Dried tarragon is available in the spice section of supermarkets, but the fresh form is much harder to find. If you're able to locate fresh tarragon, look for sprigs that have straight leaves that aren't wilted or yellow. You might also consider growing your own tarragon in an indoor pot or in your garden. Store fresh tarragon in a plastic bag in your refrigerator and use it within a week for the best flavor and quality. Store the herb in vinegar as another way to preserve it -- this method also infuses the vinegar with a bold flavor. Add fresh or dried tarragon to grilled meat, stew, scrambled eggs or tossed green salads. The herb also enhances the flavor of sauces, such as Hollandaise, as well as pasta and soup recipes.

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