Rue herb which is also known as the ‘Herb of Grace’ or by its botanical name – Ruta graveolens has been cultivated and used for many centuries for its medicinal uses. The herb is a member of the Rutaceae family and the word Ruta comes from the Greek meaning ‘to set free’. That should give you a few clues to the uses of the rue herb.
Essentially it helps set the body free from a variety of diseases and poisons. The plant was used by the ancient Romans and Greeks and has an extremely colorful history of use besides its medicinal benefits that we will look at later in the article.
What is Rue Herb?
Rue herb is thought to be a native of the Mediterranean countries and parts of northern Africa before it spread up into other parts of Europe. The evergreen shrub quickly established itself as a favorite through much of the continent before making its way further afield. Thanks to Spanish and British colonialism, the rue herb made its way into various countries around the globe including India, the West Indies, the United States and Mexico.
These days, it thrives in much of North America where it has become a naturalized plant. The rue herb which stands around two feet in height produces small, yellow flowers on top of green stems. It has a rich history of medicinal use and is still a popular remedy to this day. Despite its very bitter taste, it is still a popular culinary ingredient in kitchens around the world.
Historical Use of Rue Herb
The use of rue herb dates back many centuries. It is actually one of the first garden plants that was cultivated for medicinal use. In very early times it was believed to be effective in warding off attacks from harmful insects like fleas and contagion. It was used as one of the main ingredients in an ancient preparation known as the ‘vinegar of the four thieves’.
One of its other common names, the ‘Herb of Grace’ is derived from the fact that in times gone by, a brush made of rue was used by Priests to sprinkle holy water prior to High Mass.
Although this is a deviation from the normal medicinal uses that we look at, I think it is nonetheless interesting. The ancient Greeks used the herb to protect against evil spells. Later on during the middle ages, the herb was regarded as a very powerful defense against evil and was used in spells to protect against witches and was believed to bestow a second sight. Even now, rue is used to ward off the evil influence of spirits in some Wiccan ceremonies.
In times gone by, rue was also believed to improve both eyesight and creativity making it a popular herb among the artists of the day. Highly respected artists such as leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo apparently ate the leaves of the herbs to improve their own artistic abilities.
Writings dating back to the 16th and 17th century tell us that rue was used by women to stimulate menstruation. They also explain that the herb was taken with wine and used as an antidote to disease, venom and other toxic substances.
The Health Benefits of Rue Herb
While rue herb is unlikely to keep the witches away from the door, it does posses a variety of therapeutic compounds which lend credence to its traditional medicinal uses. Rue herb contains volatile oils, alkaloids, flavomoids, lignans and hydroxycoumarins.
The herb can boast a variety of medicinal properties including antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal and emmenagogue activities.
1) For the Skin
Like many other herbal remedies, rue is an outstanding treatment for the skin. The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties found in the herb make it an excellent tonic for the skin in general.
These properties are why rue herb oil is often used as a treatment in facial steams while its rich antioxidant potential makes it the perfect antidote for premature signs of aging such as wrinkles and other blemishes.
2) Fungal infections
As well as helping your skin to simply look and feel great, rue herb can also help combat more serious skin issues in particular skin infections caused by fungus. Many common fungal conditions including athlete’s foot and nail fungus can be effectively and safely treated by using the herb.
It is possible to apply rue herb directly to the skin in order to deal with a fungal infection. It can help clear up the infection itself and provide rapid relief from irritation.
3) For the Heart
Rue has long been regarded as a circulatory tonic. One of the traditional uses of the herb was to strengthen the capillaries and to keep high blood pressure in check. It is also believed to improve general blood flow and ensure proper circulation to the heart.
Not only is rue a potential ally in reducing the risk of heart disease but its ability to dilate the blood vesels means that it could help treat other conditions such as varicose veins.
4) Calm the Nerves
Because the herb has calming properties, rue like many other herbs has long been used to soothe the nerves and relieve the effects of tension and anxiety. Anxiety disorders appear to be on the rise in the modern world and finding an alternative to the strong pharmaceutical medications so often prescribed is something of a priority.
There is absolutely no guarantee that rue will have the desired effect on you but years of traditional use and many plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that it might. Herbalists through the years have used the herb to help remedy dizziness, nervous headaches, anxiety and general tension. Teas made from the herb are also used to ensure a good night of sleep.
5) To Stimulate Menstruation
Rue is just one of a number of herbs with emmenagogue properties that are known to help stimulate menstruation and improve the regularity of a woman’s cycle. Because rue works as a natural emmenagogue, women who are pregnant or hoping to conceive should avoid taking it. Other herbs with similar effects include Mugwort, Black cahosh, Tansy and Angelica.
6) For Arthritis
Rue has good anti-inflammatory properties which may help relieve internal and external inflammation. It is especially well regarded for its ability to treat joint pain and conditions like rheumatism and arthritis.
7) To keep the Bugs Away
Rue has traditionally been used to ward off nasty invaders like flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches. I cannot tell you with confidence that it works but it certainly would not hurt to give it a go. We are infested with flies and mosquitoes at certain times of the year while cockroaches are proving to be a constant thorn in our sides.
Not only are these insects a terrible nuisance but they all bring with them the risk of disease. Rue can be used in the form of incense sticks or added to vaporizers and sprays to keep your home free of invasion.
How to Make Rue Herb Tea
Rue herb is often taken in the form of a tea and is very easy to prepare. Simply take a teaspoon full of the dried or powdered form of the herb and put it in a cup of boiling water. Allow the herbs to steep for at least ten minutes before straining the herbs out. Add a natural sweetener like honey to taste.
You are not recommended to drink more than 4 ounces each day.
Potential Side Effects
- Rue is not among the most recommended of herbs and for good reason. It is toxic in all of its forms although it is believed to be safe in appropriately small doses.
- It can however cause a number of side effects including rashes, mood changes, stomach upset, dizziness and sleep problems.
- Even more serious effects are possible when higher doses are taken including kidney damage, liver damage and spasms.
- Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding must not use rue either orally or topically. It has emmenagogue properties that can induce bleeding and abortion.
- Children must not use rue herb.
- People with preexisting liver or kidney illnesses should avoid the herb.
- If in any sort of doubt, consult your doctor before using rue herb.