scientific name: Ruta graveolens
other common names: Ruda, ruta, garden rue, German rue
growing areas: Native to Europe; widely grown in Latin America
physical description: Rue is a small, erect bush that grows to a height of about 3 feet. The shoots of the plant are pale green and appear covered in oil glands. It produces small yellow flowers, and its fruit contains rutin, the volatile oil that gives it a bitter taste.
traditional uses: In ancient times, rue was considered a major remedy. It is mentioned more than eighty times by Pliny, but its reputation has lessened because it can be toxic. Still, it is reportedly used in a number of cultures as a beverage, and it is used in Costa Rica as an antispasmodic, emmenagogue, abortifacient, emetic, disinfectant, diuretic, and as a? treatment for epilepsy and worms. It is also used to speed labor in childbirth. Rue water is used as an insecticide and flea repellent. As a liniment, it is used on sore muscles.
Hispanics in the United States have reported using rue to treat empacho and mal op. Curanderos use rue as part of their limpias, or ritual spiritual cleansings. It is sometimes worn in amulets.
availability and dosage: It is available through mail order and as a dried herb and liquid extract. Dosages vary.
contraindications: Since rue causes abortions and uterine contractions and can act as an emmenagogue, it should not be used by pregnant women. Breast-feeding women should also not use it.
special precautions: Consult your physician before beginning any use of an ethnobotanical substance for medicinal purposes.
Despite its wide use, rue is one of the more dangerous plants used medicinally. It is known to be an abortifa-cient and to cause skin irritation. It has also been known to cause severe stomach problems and vomiting and, according to Balick, has been reported in some cases to be ' fatal to the mother when used to cause an abortion. Given the various problems associated with it, rue should be avoided.
medical research: Rue has been shown in animal experiments to act as an anticonvulsant, and extracts of it displayed antibacterial and antituberculosis activity in laboratory experiments, according to Balick and Arvigo. In other experiments, chloroform extracts of the root, stem, and leaf of the plant showed significant antifertility activity in rats.