Synonyms - Herb-of-Grace, Herbygrass. Garden Rue is mentioned as peganon [πήγανον], a name still used in Modern Greek as apiganos [απήγανος]. There have been attempts to link that name with Greek pegos [πηγός] “strong” and thus the Indo-European root PEK “strengthen”, but the semantic connection is unclear. Related plant names are French péganium, Hebrew pegam [פיגם], Aramaic pegana and Arabic fayjan [فيجن].
In modern botanical taxonomy, the term Peganum denotes a genus from a remotely related family Zygophyllaceae, order Sapindales. The best known member is Syrian Rue, Peganum harmala, a hallucinogenic plant that is occasionally confused with rue or in particular Aleppo Rue.
Names of rue in many tongues from Western Asia (Turkish sedefotu, Kurdish sudab [سوداب]) through Central Asia (Farsi sadab [سداب]) to Southern India (Telugu sadapa [సదాప]) derive from Middle Persian sudab. Folk etymology has linked the Turkish name to sedef “mother of pearl”, alluding to the bluish hue of the leaves of that plant. Bulgarian sedefche [седефче] is a borrowing from Turkish.
The Latin species name, which rue shares with several other aromatic plants like celery or dill, means “strongly smelling”: Latin gravis “heavy” and olens participle present of olere “smell”.
Part Used - The whole plant.
Description - Rue is a hardy evergreen, somewhat shrubby plant and native of Southern Europe. The stem is woody in the lower part, the leaves are alternate, bluish-green, bi- or tripinnate, emit a powerful, disagreeable odour and have an exceedingly bitter, acrid and nauseous taste. The greenish-yellow flowers are in terminal panicles, blossoming from June to September. In England Rue is one of the oldest garden plants, cultivated for its use medicinally, having, together with other herbs, been introduced by the Romans. The wild form is even more vehement in smell than the garden Rue. The whole plant has a disagreeable and powerful odour. The first flower that opens has usually ten stamens, the others eight only.
Habitat - Originated in Southern Europe but found almost anywhere and considered a noxious weed. The common Rue of our gardens is a native of Southern Europe. Locally applied Rue is a powerful irritant, and one species, Ruta montana, is dangerous to handle even with gloves.
The name Ruta is from the Greek reuo (to set free), because this herb is so efficacious in various diseases. It was much used by the Ancients; Hippocrates specially commended it, and it constituted a chief ingredient of the famous antidote to poison used by Mithridates. The Greeks regarded it as an antimagical herb, because it served to remedy the nervous indigestion they suffered when eating before strangers, which they attributed to witchcraft. In the Middle Ages and later, it was considered - in many parts of Europe - a powerful defence against witches, and was used in many spells. It was also thought to bestow second sight.
Rue has been regarded from the earliest times as successful in warding off contagion and preventing the attacks of fleas and other noxious insects. It was the custom for judges sitting at assizes to have sprigs of Rue placed on the bench of the dock against the pestilential infection brought into court from gaol by the prisoner, and the bouquet still presented in some districts to judges at the assizes was originally a bunch of aromatic herbs, given to him for the purpose of warding off gaol-fever. It is one of the ingredients in the 'Vinegar of the Four Thieves.'
Pharmacology - Rue contains max. 1% of an essential oil, whose main components are 2-hendecanone (2-undecanone, methylnonylketone, up to 60%) and 2-nonanone (methylheptylketone) plus several more ketones and corresponding secondary alcohols. Methyl anthranilate and anethole glycol are also reported; terpenoids are represented mainly by limonene, α-pinene, cuminaldehyde and l,8-cineol. Responsible for the bitter taste is rutin (7 to 8% in the dried leaves), a polyphenolic flavonolone glycoside containing the disaccharid rutinose as sugar component. Rutin is also found in capers, water pepper and orange peel.
Parts Used and Constituents - The whole herb is used, the drug consisting of both the fresh and the dried herb. The tops of the young shoots contain the greatest virtues of any part of the plant. The shoots are gathered before the plant flowers.
The volatile oil is contained in glands distributed over the whole plant and contains caprinic, plagonic, caprylic and oenanthylic acids - also a yellow crystalline body, called rutin. Oil of Rue is distilled from the fresh herb. Water serves to extract the virtues of the plant better than spirits of wine. Decoctions and infusions are usually made from the fresh plant, or the oil may be given in a dose of from 1 to 5 drops. The dried herb - which is a greyish green - has similar taste and odour, but is less powerful. It is used, powdered, for making tea.
Medicinal Action and Uses - Strongly stimulating and antispasmodic - often employed, in form of a warm infusion, as an emmenagogue. In excessive doses, it is an acro-narcotic poison, and on account of its emetic tendencies should not be administered immediately after eating. It forms a useful medicine in hysterical affections, in coughs, croupy affections, colic and flatulence, being a mild stomachic. The oil may be given on sugar, or in hot water.
Externally, Rue is an active irritant, being employed as a rubefacient. If bruised and applied, the leaves will ease the severe pain of sciatica. The expressed juice, in small quantities, was a noted remedy for nervous nightmare, and the fresh leaves applied to the temples are said to relieve headache. Compresses saturated with a strong decoction of the plant, when applied to the chest, have been used beneficially for chronic bronchitis. Rue oil has been used as a natural treatment of hemorrhoids (piles), and varicose veins, and as an abortifacient. It's medicinal uses extent to:
Preparations and Dosages - Powdered herb, 15 to 30 grains. Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
Contraindications - Caution: Rue should not be taken in excess as large doses can cause mild poisoning, pregnant women also should not use it. Juices from the fresh plant may cause dermatitis in sensitive people and the skin to blister. Excess of rue causes vomiting, can interfere with the liver, and can even be fatal. Rue can also interact negatively with blood thinning agents. This plant is bitter enough that overdosing on it is unlikely.
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