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Medicinal Herb: Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Biological Name:
(Ruta graveolens)


Other Names:
Rue, Common rue, garden rue, German rue, herb-of-grace, countryman’s treacle, herbygrass
Aruta, Garden Rue, Somalata, Sadab

Rue (Ruta graveolens)


Rue is an aromatic perennial plant native to southern Europe and northern Africa and commonly cultivated in Europe and the U.S., sometimes escaping to grow wild locally. The branched, pale green, glabrous stem bears alternate, pinnately compound, somewhat fleshy leaves with oblong to spatulate leaflets. Small yellow or yellow-green flowers appear from June to August.

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 nauseating taste.

The greenish-yellow flowers are in terminal panicles, blossoming from June to September. In England R. graveolens is one of our oldest garden plants, cultivated for its use medicinally, having, together with other herbs, been introduced by the Romans, but it is not found in a wild state except rarely on the hills of Lancashire and Yorkshire. This 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.

Active Compounds:

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, g-fagarine, graveoline, graveolinine, kokusaginine, rutacridine.
Lignans, in the root; savinin and helioxanthin.

Scientific Evidence:

Antibacterial/Antifungal activity

More than 15 compounds in rue have been identified as having in vitro antibacterial and antifungal activity. The acridone alkaloids are the most potent antimicrobial compounds; the coumarins inhibit growth only at high doses. The essential oil and flavonoids tested did not show activity. One report suggests that extracts of R. graveolens demonstrated inhibitory effects against gram positive organisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Listeria monocytogenes, and Bacillus subtilis.

Other researchers have found that a number of components of rue interfere directly with DNA replication, thereby preventing the propagation of some viruses.

The leaf of R. graveolents is said to alleviate cancer of the mouth, as well as tumors and warts. In Chinese medicine, rue is used as a vermifuge and for insect bites.

Experimentation in H. pylori-infected gastric epithelial cells with 24 medicinal plants indigenous to Pakistan was conducted to evaluate their effect on secretion of interleukin (IL)-8 and generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in order to assess anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective effects. Although no significant direct cytotoxic effects on the gastric cells or bactericidal effects on H. pylori were found, leaf extract of rue was observed to have moderate and strong inhibitory activity on IL-8 at 50 and 100 mcg/mL, respectively, in H. pylori-infected gastric cells[1]. 

Traditional Applications in Herbal Medicine:

Abortificient, anthelmintic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, emmenagogue, irritant, stimulant, stomachic

It is an effective medicine in the treatment of coughs, croup, colic and flatulence. The oil may be given on sugar, or in hot water.

Externally, R. graveolens 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.

If a leaf or two be chewed, a refreshing aromatic flavour will pervade the mouth and any nervous headache, giddiness, hysterical spasm, or palpitation will be quickly relieved.


The main uses for R. graveolens are to relieve gouty and rheumatic pains and to treat nervous heart problems, such as palpitations In women going through menopause. The infusion is also said to be useful in eliminating worms.

In European folk medicine, rue serves to relieve gas pains and colic, improve appetite and digestion, and promote the onset of menstruation. Ruta graveolens can also be made into an ointment for external use against gout, rheumatism, and sciatica.

Jethro Kloss recommends the herb for painful menstruation, stomach trouble, cramps in the bowels, nervousness, hysteria, spasms, convulsions, pain in the head, confusion, dizziness, colic and convulsions in children, sciatica, pain in the joints and gout. It is also believed to resist poison.

The herb, on distillation, yields a volatile oil that has many medicinal applications. The internal administration of the oil causes abortion in pregnant women.

Combinations: For use in the regulation of periods it will combine well with False Unicorn Root and Life Root.
Fresh leaf juice mixed with brandy is useful for paralysis.


  1. https://www.drugs.com/npp/rue.html
  2. Nahar, L., El-Seedi, H. R., Khalifa, S., Mohammadhosseini, M., & Sarker, S. D. (2021). Ruta Essential Oils: Composition and Bioactivities. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 26(16), 4766. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26164766

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Page last updated: 26th June 2020

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