Tarragon is a perennial herb native to Europe, Siberia and Mongolia. It is now grown all over the world and is a popular culinary herb, particularly in France, which is one of the main sources of the essential oil. Other producers include Holland and the United States of America. The name dracuncuius means Tittle dragon’ and in France, tarragon is known as herbe au dragon, or the ‘dragon herb’. It is a member of the family Asteraceae (Compositae).
Tarragon grows well in sunny situations but can be dam¬ aged by frosts in winter. It grows to a height of approximately 2 feet (0.6 meters) and the slender aromatic leaves are dark green in color. The flowers are small and yellow. Two varieties are cultivated: Russian and French.
In ancient times, the herb was used as an antidote for various poisonous animal and insect bites. The root of the plant was also used to treat toothache. In Persia, tarragon was eaten to stimulate the appetite.
Essential oil of tarragon is obtained by the process of steam distillation from the leaves of the plant. The oil is either colorless or pale yellow in appearance. It has a strong, spicy smell, fresh and green in quality. It is used for its fragrance in the manufacture of toiletries and perfumes, and for its flavor it is extensively used by the food and drinks manufacturing industries.
Therapeutically, tarragon has a stimulating effect on the digestion. It is also antispasmodic and can relieve hiccups, flatulence and colic. Tarragon has therapeutic value in the treatment of some menstrual dysfunctions. The effects of the oil on the circulation is stimulating. However, tarragon oil has a degree of toxicity and is not recommended for home use.
It is not suitable for home use. And it should be avoided during pregnancy.