Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Artemisia dracunculus

The leaves contain about 0.3% essential oil, about 70% of which is methyl chivacol[240]. This is used as a food flavouring, in detergents and also medicinally[61, 238].

Both the growing and the dried plant repels insects[99].

  • Medicinal Use

    Tarragon is a bitter warming aromatic herb that stimulates the digestive system and uterus, lowers fevers and destroys intestinal worms[238]. It is little used in modern herbalism, though it is sometimes employed as an appetizer[268].

    The leaves (and an essential oil obtained from them) are antiscorbutic, diuretic, emmenagogue, hypnotic and stomachic[21, 146, 179, 238]. An infusion is used in the treatment of indigestion, flatulence, nausea, hiccups etc[244]. The plant is mildly sedative and has been taken to aid sleep[254]. It also has mild emmenagogue properties and can be used to induce a delayed period[254]. A poultice can be used to relieve rheumatism, gout, arthritis and toothache[244]. The plant is harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use[238]. This herb should not be prescribed for pregnant women[238].

    The root has been used to cure toothache[4].

    The essential oil is used in aromatherapy to treat digestive and menstrual problems[238].

  • Edible Use

    Leaves – raw or used as a flavouring in soups etc[2, 4, 14, 21, 37]. Tarragon is a commonly used herbal flavouring that is used in many traditional recipes[244]. It is particularly of value because of its beneficial effect upon the digestion and so is often used with oily foods[244]. The leaves can also be harvested in late summer and dried for later use[4]. The aromatic leaves have a very nice flavour that is somewhat liquorice-like[183, K]. They make an excellent flavouring in salads[K]. The young shoots can also be cooked and used as a potherb[183]. The leaves are used as a flavouring in vinegar[4].

    An essential oil from the leaves is used as a flavouring[61].

  • Cautionary Notes

    Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, skin contact with some members of this genus can cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions in some people[222].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – surface sow from late winter to early summer in a greenhouse. Fertile seed is rarely produced from this plant – most if not all seed supplied under this name is of the inferior form, Russian tarragon (A. dracunculoides). Therefore, it is best to only propagate by division. Division is very easy in spring or autumn[K]. The divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, though we prefer to pot them up first and grow them on in a cold frame until they have rooted well. Basal cuttings in late spring. Harvest young shoots about 10 – 15c long and pot them up in a lightly shaded place in a greenhouse or cold frame. Plant them out into their permanent positions when well rooted. A very quick and easy method of propagation[K].
Easily grown in a well-drained circumneutral or slightly alkaline loamy soil, preferring a warm sunny dry position[1, 37, 52, , 200]. Plants are not very long-lived when grown in clay soils[190]. Plants are longer lived, more hardy and more aromatic when they are grown in a poor dry soil[245]. Established plants are drought tolerant[190, 200]. Tolerates a pH in the range 6.5 to 7.8. Plants are relatively hardy in Britain, but can be killed in wet winters. It is best to grow tarragon in a dry, rather poor soil since this will produce hardier plants[4]. The dry soil will also help to reduce predation by slugs, these creatures are very fond of the young growth and have been known to completely destroy even well-established plants[K]. When well suited, the plants can spread freely at the roots[K]. The flowers do not open in cool summers and viable seed is seldom produced[238]. Often grown in the herb garden, tarragon is also sometimes grown commercially for its edible leaves which are used mainly as a flavouring[46]. There is at least one named variety, ‘Epicure’ is a new fragrant cultivar[183]. There is a closely related species, A. dracunculoides or Russian tarragon, which is quite inferior in flavour, though sometimes supplied under this name. A good companion for most plants, especially aubergines and sweet peppers[201]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233].
S. Europe to W. Asia.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.