Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) a member of the Compositae family, is a perennial herb generally cultivated for use as an aromatic seasoning and in the preparation of tarragon vinegar used in certain sauces by French cooks. The plant, a native of the Caspian Sea area and Siberia (and now widely cultivated throughout Asia, Europe and the United States) grows to a height of about 2-3 feet and has 1-4 inch long, narrow, undivided leaves and a woody stem. Its small, yellow or greenish-white flowers generally do not open fully and are usually sterile. Tarragon spreads via runners growing from its long and fibrous roots. The name tarragon derives from the French, esdragon, meaning “Little Dragon” which refers to its dragonshaped root. The leaf is commonly used as a domestic herb, particularly with chicken and fish. It is also used to make tarragon vinegar. The leaf was used for digestive and menstrual irregularities, while the root was used as a remedy for toothache. It is used as a fragrance component in soaps, detergents, cosmetics and perfumes. It is also used as a flavor ingredient especially in condiments and relishes, as well as alcoholic and soft drinks.
A colorless to pale-green essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves with a yield of 0.25 – 1%. Its major components are phenols (70%) methyl chavicol (estragole)(60 – 87%), anethole. The essential oil is strongly antibacterial, although its main component estragole is not responsible for this activity. It has a licorice like aroma and blends well with anise, cinnamon, lavender, oakmoss, pine, vanilla and basil.
Psychologically, tarragon has hypnotic and stimulating properties and has been used as an energetic shock rescue remedy. On the physiological level it has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and neuromuscular tonic properties. Kurt Schnaubelt says that this is one of aromatherapy’s strongest antispasmodics. It is recommended for dyspepsia, flatulence, hiccoughs, intestinal spasm, nervous indigestion and sluggish digestion. It has also been recommended for amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea and pre menstrual tension.
Contraindications:. Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic. However due to the high methyl chavicol content it should be sued with caution. Do not use during pregnancy.
Albert Y. Leung & Steven Foster , Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, John Wiley & Sons, 1996
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 201 Course 1999 revised 2000…20011