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Wild Tarragon

  • Artemisia dracunculus L.
  • A. redowskii
  • A. glauca var. draculina
  • Compositae
  • Composite family

Common Names

herbsRussian Tarragon

Parts Usually Used

The flowering plant; leaves and root

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Tarragon is a green, glabrous perennial shrub; its branched root system with runners produces erect, bushy-branched stems from 2-4 feet high. The lower leaves are ternate, the upper leaves lanceolate to linear and small-toothed or entire. The small, drooping whitish-green or yellow flowers are almost globular and bloom from May to June in terminal panicles.

Where Found

Grows in sunny, dry areas in the western United States, southern Asia, and Siberia. In Europe it is cultivated for its leaves, which are used as a seasoning.

Medicinal Properties

Diuretic, emmenagogue, hypnotic, stomachic

Legends, Myths and Stories

Sometimes substituted for the cooking herb French Tarragon (A. dracunculus var. sativa), which, not producing viable seed, must be propagated vegetatively. The French Tarragon, also called little dragon (esdragon), smells strongly of anise; Wild Tarragon may be odorless and flavorless.

Tarragon traces its historic roots back hundreds of years before Christ. Its use was recorded by Greeks about 500 BC; tarragon was among the so-called "simples", one-remedy herbs, used by Hippocrates. European gardeners knew tarragon in the Middle Ages, but it wasn't until the end of those dark times that it leaped the English Channel. It entered England during the Tudor reign probably as a preferred gift for the royal herb garden from the Continental monarch. For many years, tarragon was relatively unknown outside the royal garden. It must eventually have made good its escape, because it arrived on America's post-Revolutionary shores in the first few years of the 19th century.

The common name probably is a corruption of the French esdragon, derived from the plant's Latin specific name dracunculus, a little dragon; p possibly so named because of its brown coiled roots resemblance to a cluster of small, gnarled serpents.

In ancient times, it was thought that tarragon could draw venom from bites of snakes and insects and in treating the bite off a mad dog (Rabies).

Tarragon has a licorice flavor that is both sweet and slightly bitter. One of the important herbs in French cooking; indispensable. in bearnaise sauce.

Tarragon adds zest to herbal combinations used to make liqueurs.

Do not mistake Artemisia dracunculus (Tarragon) with Artemisia absinthium (Wormwood) which is poisonous.


Relieves digestive problems and catarrhal difficulties, stimulates the action of the kidneys, and promotes the onset of menses. The tea stimulates the appetite, especially when it has been caused by illness. Taking the tea before retiring for the night helps overcome insomnia. Native Americans used leaf or root tea for colds, dysentery, diarrhea, headaches, difficult childbirth. Externally, leaves poulticed for wounds, bruises.

Formulas or Dosages

Infusion: steep 1/2 tsp. dried plant in 1/2 cup boiling water. Take 1/2 to 1 cup per day, unsweetened.

How Sold

As a spice in supermarkets


Do not mistake Artemisia dracunculus (Tarragon) with Artemisia absinthium (Wormwood) which is poisonous.

Allergic reactions may result from use.

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