GENERAL DESCRIPTIONS: A perennial herb with smooth narrow leaves; an erect stem up to 1,2 metres tall, and small yellow-green, inconspicuous flowers.
DISTRIBUTION: Native to Europe, southern Russia and western Asia. Now cultivated world-wide, especially in Europe and the USA. The oil is mainly produced in France, Holland, Hungary and the USA.
HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION: The leaf is commonly used as domestic herb, especially with chicken or fish, and to make tarragon vinegar. The name is thought to derive from an ancient use as an antidote to the bites of venomous creatures and ‘madde dogges’. It was favoured by the maharajahs of India who took it as a tisane, and in Persia it was used to induce appetite. The leaves, which are chiefly used, are heating and drying, and good for those that have the flux, or any prenatural discharge. The leaf was also formerly used for digestive and menstrual irregularities, while the root was employed as a remedy for toothache.
ACTIONS: Antihelmic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aperitif, carminative, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, hypnotic, stimulant, stomachic, vermifuge.
EXTRACTIONS: Essential oil by steam distillation from the leaves.
CHARACTERISTICS: A colourless or pale yellow mobile liquid (turning yellow with age), with a sweet-anisic, spicy-green scent. It blends well with labdanum, galbanum, lavender, oakmoss, vanilla, pine and basil.
PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS: Estragole (up to 7O per cent), capillene, ocimene, nerol, phellandrene, thujone and cineol, among others.
SAFETY DATA: Moderately toxic due to ‘estragole’ (methyl chavicol): use in moderation only. Possibly carcinogenic. Otherwise non-irritant, non-sensitizing. Avoid during pregnancy.
AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE: Digestive system: Anorexia, dyspepsia, flatulence, hiccoughs, intestinal spasm, nervous indigestion, sluggish digestion. Genito-urinary system: Amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, PMT.
OTHER USES: Used as a fragrance component in soaps, detergents, cosmetics and perfumes. Employed as a flavour ingredient in most major food categories, especially condiments and relishes, as well as alcoholic and soft drinks.