Artemisia dracunculus L

Tarragon, (Artemisia dracunculus L) is a species of perennial herb in the family Asteraceae.


Central Asia, probably Siberia. It is not known when and by whom the aromatic varieties were first bred, nor when the plant was introduced to Europe. A herb dragantea is mentioned in the Capitulare de villis of Charlemagne, but its identity is not unambiguously clear.In the Middle Ages, tarragon was known as tragonia and tarchon believed to be an Arabic loan; in modern Arabic name is at-tarkhun. The origin of the Arabic name is not clear, but could be a loan from old Greek, perhaps akin to Drakon, as the rhizome resembled a dragon formation; much like a serpent. The belief being as it was used to ward off dragons and serpents, inclusive of healing snake bites.

The names of tarragon on modern languages of Europe and Western Asia are mostly derived from the names from Arabic and old Greek. In some languages, the herb has popular names that can be seen as translations of the tarragon/estragon type names into the vernacular: Examples include Dutch slangekruid- snake herb and drakebloed​- dragon’s blood, Italian dragoncella​- little dragon and French herbe dragonne- dragonwort.

Tarragon has long lanceolate green leaves and a thin woody stem and tiny greenish or yellowish white flowers. This herb is small shrub featuring slim woody branching stems that reach up to a metre in height. It grows well in rich sandy soil with adequate sunlight. Its leaves are smooth, dark green with pointed ends.


French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)

Russian Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculoides Pursch)

Mexican Marigold Mint (Tagetes lucida), in which is very similar to the Tarragon

Tarragon Aroma & Flavour

  • Tarragon has subtle yet a spicy anise fragrance that can improve many different kinds of dishes, and is particular suited for lightly flavoured food as is popular in Western and Central Europe.
  • German Tarragon is sweet and aromatic, reminiscent to fennel, anise and liquorice. Russian Tarragon, on the contrast, is not at all fragrant and tastes slightly bitter.
  • Tarragon’s strong and yet subtle flavour differs much from most other anise-flavoured spices. Yet, a plant popular in the USA but hardly known elsewhere, Mexican tarragon, offers an almost perfect imitation of tarragon aroma and a lot sweeter in contrast.

tarragon harvested

Health Benefits of Tarragon

Tarragon is rich in phyto-nutrients as well anti-oxidants that help promote health and prevent diseases.

The herb is very rich source of vitamins such as vitamin-C, vitamin-A as well as B-complex group of vitamins such as; folates, pyridoxine, niacin, riboflavin, etc., that function as antioxidant as well as co-factors in metabolism.

The so-called German Tarragon (called French Tarragon in all other countries) is the most aromatic cultivar. It contains up to 3% essential oil, whose aroma is dominated by the phenyl­propanoids methyl chavicol (also called estragole, up to 80%) and its isomer anethol (10%). Important terpene components are trans-β‑ocimene (up to 22%), cis-β‑ocimene (up to 15%) and γ‑terpineol (vary variable, up to 17%). Lesser amounts of p‑methoxy cinnam­aldehyde, phell­andrene, α- and β‑pinene, camphene, limonene and eugenol are also reported.

Another cultivar, the so-called Russian Tarragon (which is closer to the wild form) contains less essential oil (max. 1%), the main components of which are sabinene (up to 50%), methyl eugenol (up to 30%), elemicin (up to 30%), isoelimicin (up to 20%) and β-ocimene (10%). Since estragole is missing from its oil, Russian Tarragon lacks the sweet scent of German Tarragon; instead, flavonoids (quercetin, patuletin) contribute a harsh and astringent flavour. Unfortunately, the Russian variety is much easier to grow in cool climate; most tarragon plants sold for home gardeners belong to this inferior variety.

Tarragon is a notably excellent source of minerals like calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, and zinc. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for cellular respiration (co-factors for cytochrome-oxidase enzyme) and blood cell production.

Laboratory studies on tarragon extract shows certain compounds in them inhibit platelet activation, preventing platelet aggregation and adhesion to the blood vessel wall. It thus helps prevent clot formation inside tiny blood vessels of heart and brain protecting from heart attack and stroke.

Tarragon has been used as a traditional remedy to stimulate appetite and alleviate anorexic symptoms.

Poly-phenolic compounds in this herb help lower blood-glucose levels.

Tarragon herb has been used in various traditional medicines for stimulating the appetite and as a remedy for anorexia, dyspepsia, flatulence and hiccups.

The essential oil, eugenol in the herb has been in therapeutic use in dentistry as a local-anesthetic and antiseptic for toothache complaints.

The root of Tarragon was used to cure toothaches, because of its ability to numb the mouth. Chew a couple of fresh or dried leaves until it is a paste consistency and hold with tongue against sore tooth. It will numb the painful area.

Tarragon tea may help cure insomnia.

Tarragon also promotes the production of bile by the liver, which aids in digestion and helps to speed the process of eliminating toxic waste in the body.  To make tea for digestion, steep a handful of dried leaves in a jar with apple cider vinegar, stand 7 hours, strain and seal. Take 1 tblsp before each meal.

Tarragon is extremely valuable in removing intestinal worm. To prepare tea, take one quart of boiling water and one ounce of tarragon leaves, pour water over leaves and let stand for ten minutes, strain and drink two cups in the morning and refrigerate the remaining. It is recommended to drink at least four cups per day, once in the morning and in the evening.

Tarragon is also a mild sedative and has been taken to aid sleep. It is recommended to drink at least one cup of tarragon tea per day for its calming benefits.


Buying & Storing Tarragon

You must purchase the plants or take an established plant from an existing garden.Otherwise it is purchased at the green grocer or fresh produce market in your area.

Tarragon leaves are available fresh during late spring and summer season. Growing tips may be gathered for fresh use. Often times, the herb is grown in the backyard, and fresh leaves are readily available for cooking. Leaves may be harvested at flowering time for drying slowly under gentle heat. Dried tarragon can be available in the herb stores the year around.

Harvest the leaves regularly, freeze dry them or store in a sealed ziploc bag within the refrigerator and use within a few days. If you do dry the leaves store them immediately in a jar with a sealed lid or airtight container. Away from sunlight and stored in cool dark place where it will stay for up to six months.

Ideas with cooking with Tarragon

For cooking, use French tarragon.Russian tarragon can easily be mistaken for French, but Russian tarragon is coarser and less flavourful than French tarragon.

  • Used as component in herbes de Provence, of the fines herbs and of the French bouquet garni, the French use it mainly fresh.
  • The rich and pleasant fragrance of German (or French) tarragon makes it a great addition to delicate European poultry dishes, herb sauces based on sour cream or mayonnaise or mushrooms. Tarragon is, however, most popular for salads; frequently, it is used to flavour vinegar in the use of salad dressings-often combined with capers.
  • Tarragon is the characteristic flavouring for sauce béarnaise, a famous and justly praised recipe of classic French cuisine.A delicately flavoured sauce is mostly suggested to be served with fried, roasted or broiled meat, it also goes alongside boiled vegetables.
  • Tarragon herb is a very popular culinary herb used as flavouring agent, especially in the Mediterranean cuisines.