Application cutanée, massage
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Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus), a bushy perennial, with many highly branched stems and thin leaves, belongs to the Asteraceae family. It is a native of the Central Asia steppes.
Propagation is carried out by division of clumps and cuttings. There are several Artemisia species (annua, arborescens, herba alba, pallens).
Both the Latin and common names of tarragon derive from its real or supposed virtues. In the Middle Ages it was believed that its root looked like a dragon (drakonion in Greek), and it was thought to be effective against snake bites, and was called tarragon, dragonne, herbe à dragon or serpentine. It is Artemisia because like the goddess Artemis, protector of women, it cures gynaecological ailments. The plant was introduced in Europe by the Moors of Andalusia with the name of tharkoum, and was described for the first time by the great Arabic botanist of the 13th century Ibn el-Beithar in his Collection of simple. He considered as a precious digestion auxiliary. Tarragon occupies the seventh position in the French aromatic plant production. It is used as a condiment in many preparations (flavoured vinegar, mustard, sauce Bearnaise, etc.).
Cultivation and production
In Provence, tarragon is traditionally cultivated for perfumery, only small surfaces are dedicated to aroma therapy. Tarragon has a reputation of being difficult to cultivate and cannot survive in wet soil during winter. The plant is harvested in June and September. Harvest must take place in the afternoon in good weather for the best yield.
The odour of essential oil of tarragon is strong and slightly sour.
Extraction and yield
The flowering herbs are distilled in a pot like for hybrid lavender. In this fast technique, the plant is ground at the time of harvest, and the farmer can connect a full "pot" to a distillation device himself. A cultivated hectare yields on average eight tonnes of fresh plant, which give thirty to fifty kilograms of essential oil, i.e. a yield of approximately 0.5%.
The active ingredients of essential oil of tarragon are principally methyl-ethyl phenols (chavicol M.E.) and coumarins which are not present in all batches, but may reach between 1% and 3%.
Tarragon is a digestive tonic. It opens the appetite, and is not just, as it is often believed, an effective remedy for digestive disorders, including colitis and aerophagia. A potent antispasmodic, it also fights respiratory allergies, rheumatism and menstrual (dysmenorrhoea) pains, neuritis and polyneuritis, cramps and various spasms (hiccough).
Excerpts from the book « Aromatherapia – Tout sur les huiles essentielles », by Isabelle Pacchioni. Aroma Thera Editions.