Use Tarragon Essential Oil with Caution (here’s why)

I love to cook with tarragon. It has a great unique flavor. And tarragon essential oil smells the same way. But you should use the oil with caution. It has high levels of estragole in it, a suspected carcinogen.

Tarragon essential oil

Tarragon Essential Oil Properties

Botanical name

Tarragon’s botanical name is Artemisia dracunculus. Be sure to look for this name when buying the oil.

Color and smell

The oil is colorless to very pale yellow and has a spicy, sweet smell. It actually reminds me of anise and licorice.

What is in the oil?

Estragole (also called methyl chavicol) mostly dominates tarragon essential oil. It can make up anywhere from 20% to 80% of the oil.

Other main compounds in this oil include methyl eugenol, sabinene, and beta-ocimene.

Tarragon Essential Oil Benefits

There is little research into the benefits of this oil. For the most part, it has shown weak antioxidant, antibacterial and insecticidal benefits.

It may be antioxidant

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Tarragon oil showed better antioxidant activity than german chamomile in this 2011 study. But its activity was weak when compared to a common antioxidant in an earlier 2005 study.

It has low antibacterial benefits

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A 2007 study tested several oils against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. The oils included thyme, peppermint, caraway, fennel, tarragon and pennyroyal.

It’s hard to compete with such strong antibacterial oils like thyme and peppermint. Tarragon couldn’t. It killed bacteria, but it gave the worst results in the study.

You can see similar findings in this 2012 article too.

So tarragon has some antibacterial benefits, but it is weaker than most.

It repels insects

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This Tennessee State University study looked at the repellent effects of 41 oils.

Wintergreen and peppermint were found to be the most effective. But oils like anise, tarragon and wormwood also had good repellent benefits. So you can use tarragon to keep insects away.
There isn’t much more research into tarragon oil. That’s a bummer.

Tarragon Oil Uses

You must use this oil with caution because of its estragole content. Estragole is a suspected carcinogen. But scientists believe low levels of exposure should not affect your health.

So if you do want to use the oil, use small amounts. You can add a drop to your diffuser. And blend it with other spicy and floral oils like galbanum, lavender, and peppermint.

I won’t recommend using it on your skin.

You should also avoid the oil if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking special medication. And talk to your doctor before using this or any other essential oil.

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