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Artemisia dracunculus L.

Family : Compositae


Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is a vigorous perennial plant native to Southern Russia and Asia. It is distributed in the Western Himalayas at altitudes of 4200-4800m. This sweet anise-scented herb belongs to the aster family and is adaptable to various growing conditions. It is widely cultivated in Southern Europe and to some extent in Uttar Pradesh for its volatile oil, known commercially as estragon oil, and is used as a flavouring and scenting agent.


Tarragon gets its name from the French word estragon and the Spanish taragona, which are both derived from the Greek word for dragon. The basis for this is that it was used to treat snake bites, or that the roots of the plant are coiled and look like snakes.


The cultivated plants rarely form seed, but the plant is easily propagated by root or crown divisions. The root divisions should be set early in spring in rows 3 feet apart and at intervals of about 1 foot in the row. The large crown that is soon formed should be taken up and subdivided about every 3 or 4 years.

After the plants become established, the leaves and tender tops can be harvested throughout the growing season and used fresh or may be dried for winter. The leafy top growth can be cut back several times during the season. The leaves and tops should be dried rapidly away from light; otherwise they will turn dark. Store the dry leaves in sealed glass jars, to prevent loss of the essential oil.

Culinary use

Tarragon contains 0.2 - 1.5% volatile oil, containing mainly methyl chavicol or estragole and anethole. Ocimene, phellandrene and p-methoxycinnamaldehyde are the other components in tarragon. The anethole gives it an anise or licorice-like flavour.

Aroma and flavour

Tarragon is generally used in high end speciality products in the food industry such as tarragon flavoured vinegars, sauces and salad dressings. The aromatic leaves form the leading flavour in green salads, salad dressings, salad vinegars, fish sauces, tartare sauce, and some egg dishes.

Medicinal and other use

Tarragon or estragon oil is used primarily in the perfume industry. The leaves are used as a aprient, stomachic, stimulant and febrifuge.



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