Rue (Ruta graveolens) COMMON NAMES: Common Rue, Countryman's-treacle, Garden Rue, German Rue, Herb-of-grace, Rue,

Rue (Ruta graveolens) is a genus of strongly scented evergreen subshrubs 2060 cm tall, in the family Rutaceae, native to the Mediterranean region, Macaronesia and southwest Asia. Rue is indigenous to Europe, but has now acclimatized to the conditions in the United States and is widely cultivated there.

This evergreen shrub bears small yellow flowers with 4-5 petals, about 1 cm diameter, and borne in cymes. The leaves are bipinnate or tripinnate, with a feathery appearance, and green to strongly glaucous blue-green in colour. The fruit is a 4-5 lobed capsule, containing numerous seeds.

Rue has an obnoxious fragrance and has been used to thwart plague and other contagions since ancient times. The fresh leaves of this evergreen flowering shrub called Ruta graveolens belongs to the Rutaceae family emit such a horrid smell that people who have smelled it once will remember the scent life long. While the terrible scent of the plant keeps insects away, the herb is also used to treat insect bites. Dehydrated leaves of the rue herb have reduced aroma owing to the evaporation of the volatile oil enclosed in them. These dried rue leaves are said to have several therapeutic benefits and have been used as an anti-spasmodic to cure cramps, a calmative or sedative, an emmenagogue that helps in increasing the menstrual flow as well as an abortifacient or a drug that causes abortion.

It was recommended by Dioscorides for the treatment of snakebite, as he reckoned that weasels ate the leaves before fighting snakes. He also claimed it had contraceptive properties. "Plant Rue round buildings to keep out snakes." In Medieval and Tudor times it was one of the main ingredients for exorcism. Shakespeare called rue the herb o'grace o'Sundays, and the English writer Elizabeth Goudge called one of her novels Herb of Grace. Down through the ages, rue has been the symbol of loss, regret and bitter lessons.

In the Middle Ages it was believed that Rue gave second sight. In seventeenth century Italy it was hung round the neck to prevent vertigo. Was grown around temples to Mars in ancient Rome. The Greeks regarded it as anti-magical because it prevented nervous indigestion when eating in front of strangers, a condition believed to be brought on by spells. Pliny tells us that painters in Italy would eat lots of Rue leaves to help their eyesight. Believed that witches used the plant for its hallucinogenic properties. Bunches of Rue hung up in windows, particularly those facing east, would protect from plague (infected air was believed to blow in from France). If a child touches Rue when it first goes into the garden, he/she will have a sad life. Bathe in Rue if you have a spell on you. Rue renders a werewolf powerless.

Rue was once believed to improve the eyesight and creativity, and no less personages than Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci regularly ate the small, trefoil leaves to increase their own. The legend of rue lives on in playing cards, where the symbol for the suit of clubs is said to be modeled on a leaf of rue. There are concerns that rue is poisonous and can cause violent gastric reactions when taken in large doses. In addition, some people are highly sensitive to the plant's oils and can develop a severe rash when they are exposed to it and then the sun.

Nicholas Culpeper says of Rue:

"It provokes urine and women's courses, being taken either in meat or drink. The seed thereof taken in wine, is an antidote against all dangerous medicines or deadly poisons. The leaves taken either by themselves, or with figs and walnuts, is called Mithridate's counter-poison against the plague, and causes all venomous things to become harmless; being often taken in meat and drink it abates venery."

RueUsed for menstrual problems because it contains rutocide. Very small doses of the herb can ease colic. Fresh leaves can be used on cuts. Dried and powdered plant can be used to treat skin inflammation. The plant is a uterine stimulant and has been used in the past to induce abortion. It tends not to be used nowadays medicinally. Juice has been used for earache.

According to The Oxford Book of Health Foods, extracts from rue have been used to treat eyestrain, sore eyes, and as an insect repellent. Rue has been used internally as an antispasmodic, as a treatment for menstrual problems, as an abortifacient, and as a sedative.

Rue is a very strong herb, and it should be used with care. This Mediterranean plant has hidden virtues and vices: the Latin name of this plant, ruta, comes from the Greek reuo, which means freedom, and indeed herbalists believed strongly that rue would provide freedom from many diseases. It was given magical properties in ancient times and the Middle Ages, as a talisman against witchcraft and an essential ingredient in spell breakers. In Italy, sprigs of Rue are added to 'Grappa' a distilled grape spirit.

The plant contains flavonoids (notably rutin) that reduce capillary fragility, which might explain the plants reputation as an eye strengthener. Some caution is advised in its use internally, however, since in large doses it is toxic and it can also cause miscarriages. The whole herb is abortifacient, anthelmintic, antidote, antispasmodic, carminative, emetic, emmenagogue, expectorant, haemostatic, ophthalmic, rubefacient, strongly stimulant, mildly stomachic and uterotonic. The tops of fresh shoots are the most active medicinally, they should be gathered before the plant flowers and can be used fresh or dried.

An infusion is used in the treatment of hysterical affections, coughs, flatulence etc. The juice of the plant has been used in treating earaches and chewing a leaf or two is said to quickly bring relief from giddiness, nervous headaches, palpitations etc. An alkaloid found in the plant is abortifacient, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. A homeopathic remedy is obtained from the fresh herb, harvested in early summer shortly before flowering begins. This is used in the treatment of a variety of complaints including eye strain, headache and sprains.

The growing or the dried plant can be used to repel insects, it is most useful when the plant is grown near roses and raspberries. The dried herb can also be put in the linen cupboard to repel moths. The growing plant is also said to repel cats. A red dye is obtained from the plant. An essential oil is obtained from the leaves and young shoots, it is used in perfumery and as a food flavouring. The plant was formerly used as a strewing herb. Plants can be grown for ground cover when planted about 45cm apart each way. They can be trimmed back in spring to keep them bushy.

RueRue is toxic in large doses, you should not experiment with Rue if you are not familiar with using herbs. It should not ever be taken by pregnant women because it may affect uterine contractions and blood flow. Extreme overdoses of the pure essential oil of rue have even been reported to cause abortus, and the plant was even called herbe la belle fille, Herb of fair maidens in French due to its abortive action. Rue contains pilocarpine which is used in horses to induce abortion, and is a traditional abortifacient among Hispanic people in New Mexico. It should also be avoided by children and nursing women, and by those who are allergic to the plant. Rue may cause photo toxicity and dermatitis in sensitive individuals. May cause photo toxicity in some individuals.

Rue as a medicinal herb has declined in modern times due to it's toxicity, and the bitterness of its taste. Rue was valued as a country simple for its ability to ward off toxins and pests and is one of the ingredients in the "Vinegar of the Four Thieves" made famous during the plague years in Europe. Used in small amounts rue can ease headaches, especially those caused by nervous tension. The leaves can be applied externally in poultice form to relieve sciatica. The reason rue has declined in popular use is that while using small amounts of the herb is beneficial, rue is poisonous in large amounts and can cause violent stomach upset, skin irritation and photosensitivity.

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