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French Tarragon

This image taken from A nievve herbal by Rembert Dodoens, 1578. This book is available in the John R. Martin Rare Book Room at Hardin Library.

French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus ‘Sativa’)

French Tarragon, an aromatic perennial plant from the Asteraceae family, provides an anise-like flavor to foods and has been used for centuries in the daily diet in many Middle Eastern countries (Durić et al., 2015). While there is insufficient evidence to support the medicinal effectiveness of the herb, it is used for digestive disorders and toothache, to promote menstruation, and as a diuretic, appetite stimulant, and hypnotic (Therapeutic Research Center, 2022). In folk medicine and in experimental studies, French Tarragon is believed to be beneficial in gastrointestinal tract function and diuretic action (Obolskiy et al., 2011). French Tarragon contains estragole, which can be harmful if taken in large quantities, although research has determined that short-term consumption at recommended dosages is not a significant risk (Public statement on the use of herbal medicinal products containing estragole; Smith et al., 2002). In the nursery trade, French Tarragon may be confused with Russian Tarragon, the unselected form of the same species, but lacking its attractive culinary qualities. One recent, preliminary animal study indicated that an intake of Russian Tarragon extract can prevent diet-induced insulin resistance, metabolic dysfunction, and lipid accumulation in the muscle and liver without reducing body weight (Yu et al., 2018). 

Historical Use

In historical texts, the common name for Tarragon is Mugwort. This excerpt, from A nievve herbal, produced in 1578 by Rembert Dodoens, describes the virtues of the plant. The text indicates that Tarragon may be combined with oil of sweet almonds and, applied to the stomach as a plaster, “cureth all the payne and griefe of the same.” The text also claims that the herb has some useful benefits to travelers, because, for those that carry the herb, “no venomous beast or any like thing shall hurte him, and if he travels upon the way, he shall not be weary.” 

Latest Research


Durić, K., Kovac Besovic, E. E., Niksic, H., Muratovic, S., & Sofic, E. (2015). Anticoagulant activity of some Artemisia dracunculus leaf extracts. Bosnian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences15(2), 9–14. 

Obolskiy, D., Pischel, I., Feistel, B., Glotov, N., & Heinrich, M. (2011). Artemisia dracunculus L. (tarragon): A critical review of its traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology, and safety. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry59(21), 11367–11384. 

European Medicines Agency(2014). Public statement on the use of herbal medicinal products containing estragole

Smith, R. L., Adams, T. B., Doull, J., Feron, V. J., Goodman, J. I., Marnett, L. J., Portoghese, P. S., Waddell, W. J., Wagner, B. M., Rogers, A. E., Caldwell, J., & Sipes, I. G. (2002). Safety assessment of allylalkoxybenzene derivatives used as flavouring substances—Methyl eugenol and estragole. Food and Chemical Toxicology40(7), 851–870. 

Therapeutic Research Center. In Natural Medicines. French Terragon. Retrieved February 13, 2020.

Yu, Y., Mendoza, T. M., Ribnicky, D. M., Poulev, A., Noland, R. C., Mynatt, R. L., Raskin, I., Cefalu, W. T., & Floyd, Z. E. (2018). An extract of Russian tarragon prevents obesity-related ectopic lipid accumulation. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research62(8), e1700856.