Jeffdelonge [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Ruta graveolens-Rue

Family: Rutaceae

Other names: Garden Rue, Herb of Grace, Herbygrass,Mother of Herbs,Ruta hortensis Mill. 

Habitat: Native to Southern Europe, cultivated in Britain and elsewhere as an ornamental. Rocks, old walls and dry hills, mainly on limestone.

All parts of this plant are poisonous in large quantities. It should not be used at all by pregnant women since it can induce hazardsmallabortions. The sap contains furanocoumarins, sensitizing the skin to light and causing blistering or dermatitis in sensitive people.

Rue Herb has a long history of use as a medicinal herb, being especially valued for its strengthening action on the eyes. 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. This is used in the treatment of a variety of complaints including eye strain, headache and sprains.

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Rue:

Ruta graveolens, Rue, is an evergreen Shrub growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in). 
It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Cultivation of Rue:

Succeeds in any soil but is hardier in a poor dry soil. Prefers an open sunny position. Prefers a partially shaded sheltered dry position but succeeds in full sun. Prefers a well-drained or rocky soil. Likes some lime in the soil. Established plants are drought tolerant. Hardy to about -10°c, possibly to lower temperatures when it is grown in a dry soil. Often cultivated as a culinary and medicinal herb, there are some named varieties. The bruised leaves have a pleasant orange-like fragrance. It is one of the most pleasant herbs to inhale. Rue releases its scent in a remarkable way. The essential oil is contained in a cavity immediately beneath the surface of the leaf, above which is a thin layer of cells pierced by a cavity in the middle. The cells swell up and bend inwards, pressing on the essential oil beneath, which is driven to the surface of the leaf and there released. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.

Companion plant: Rue is a poor companion plant for many other species, growing badly with sage, cabbage and sweet basil. It is a good companion for roses and raspberries.

Propagation of Rue:

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, it can also be sown in early to mid spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of young shoots in late spring. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Very easy. Layering in early summer. Old plants often self-layer.

Collection: The herb should be collected before the flowers open in the summer and dried in the shade. 

Culinary uses of Rue:

Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses: Condiment,  Rutin,  Tea.

Leaves – raw or used as a seasoning. It is occasionally eaten in salads, but is strongly aromatic and slightly toxic, so should only be used in small quantities. The taste is strong and bitter. The leaves contain rutin, which has a beneficial effect upon the circulatory system. Some caution is advised, see notes on toxicity above. The leaves can be brewed into a tea.

Rue,Ruta_GraveolensMedicinal uses of Rue:

Actions: Anti-spasmodic, emmenagogue, anti-tussive, anti-microbial, bitter, abortifacient.

Part Used: Dried aerial parts.

Indications: Rue is a herb with an ancient history. The genus name ” Ruta ” comes from the Greek work ” reuo “, to set free, showing its reputation as a freer from disease. Its main use is the regulation of menstrual periods, where it is used to bring on suppressed menses. The oil of Rue is a powerful abortifacient, therefore the plant is best avoided during pregnancy. The other area of usage is due to the plant’s anti-spasmodic action. It may be used to relax smooth muscles, especially in the digestive system where it will ease griping and bowel tension. The easing of spasm gives it a role in the stopping of spasmodic coughs. It also increases peripheral circulation and lowers elevated blood pressure. If the fresh leaf is chewed, it will relieve tension headaches, ease palpitations and other anxiety problems.

To quote King’s Dispensatory – ” Its action is chiefly directed upon the uterus, and is capable of exciting menorrhagia, inflammation and miscarriage. It has been successfully used in flatulent colic, hysteria, some nervous complaints, epilepsy, and as an excellent vermifuge. Rue is a stimulant to the genito-urinary tract, and, in small doses, might prove a remedy in atonic conditions of those parts. Owing to its affinity for the nervous system, it relieves irritation and pain when administered in small amounts.

CAUTION: Avoid during pregnancy.

Preparations & Dosage of Rue:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 1-4ml of the tincture three times a day.

Combinations: For use in the regulation of periods it will combine well with False Unicorn Root and Life Root.

Other uses of Rue:

Dye,  Essential,  Repellent, Strewing.

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.

my_rue_fairyEsoteric uses of Rue:
Magickal uses include healing, health, mental powers, freedom and protection against the evil eye. Use as an asperger to cast salt water for purification of the circle or removing negativity from the home. Hang the dried herb indoors to help yourself see and understand your mistakes. Burn to banish negativity or bad habits. Add to incenses and poppets to prevent illness or speed recovery. Add to baths to break hexes and curses that may have been placed against you. 
[Warning – Rue should not be handled by women who are pregnant.] 
The Chemistry:


  • Volatile oil, 2-undecanone (50-90%), 2-haptanol, 2-nonanol, 2-nonanone, limonene, pinene, anisic acid, phenol, guiacol and others
  • Flavonoids such as quercitin and rutin
  • Coumarins: bergapten, daphnoretin, isoimperatorin, naphthoherniarin, psoralen, pangelin, rutamarin, rutarin, scopoletin and umbelliferone
  • Alkaloids: arborinine, [[gamma]]-fagarine, graveoline, graveolinine, kokusaginine, rutacridine.
  • Lignans, in the root; savinin and helioxanthin.


Citations from the Medline database for the genus Ruta Rue al-Said MS Tariq M al-Yahya MA Rafatullah S Ginnawi OT Ageel AM Studies on Ruta chalepensis, an ancient medicinal herb still used in traditional medicine.

J Ethnopharmacol 1990 Mar;28 (3): 305-12 Gandhi M Lal R Sankaranarayanan A Sharma PL Post-coital anti-fertility action of Ruta graveolens in female rats and hamsters.

J Ethnopharmacol 1991 Aug;34 (1): 49-59 Kong YC Lau CP Wat KH Ng KH But PP Cheng KF Waterman PG Anti-fertility principle of Ruta graveolens.

Planta Med 1989 Apr;55 (2): 176-8 Minker E Bartha C Koltai M Rozsa Z Szendrei K Reisch J Effect of secondary substances isolated from the Ruta graveolens L. on the coronary smooth muscle.

Acta Pharm Hung 1980 Jan;50 (1): 7-11 Nieschulz O Schneider G [Pharmacological findings on alkaloids from Ruta graveolens L]

Naturwissenschaften 1965 Jul;52 (13): 394-5 (Published in German) Wehr K [Criminal abortion using ruta roots (Ruta graveolens L.)]

Beitr Gerichtl Med 1974;32:126-31 (Published in German)