The leaves of the common rue herb, ruta graveolens or herb of grace is bitter. When the leaves are crushed, the strong aroma isn't very pleasant. But the plant is a natural insect repellent. Planting rue in the garden helps protect other surrounding plants from pests and also from cats and dogs.
The garden rue was used as medicine by the natives of Europe to treat digestive problems, hysteria, nervous problems, bites, stings and poisoning. Many modern herbalists do not recommend ingesting rue herb because they believe all parts of the plants are poisonous. However, small quantities of rue are still used to add flavor to cream cheese, egg, fish and meat dishes and salads especially in Mediterranean foods.
Researchers discovered that rue extract contains compounds that have antibacterial, antifungal and antispasmodic properties and is an abortifacient. Rue has the potential to prevent the spread of some viruses, cancer of the mouth and warts because of its ability to interact directly with DNA replication.
Rue herb extract may be taken internally but with extra caution. It should be diluted and taken in very low doses. Pregnant women shouldn't take rue internally because it is an abortifacient and will stimulate the uterus and the onset of menstruation.
It is helpful for women who experience menstrual delay, suffer menstrual cramp or wish to increase menstrual flow. However, if you plan to get pregnant sometime in the future, it's best to avoid using rue herb to stimulate menstruation. It is safer to take blue cohosh, dong quai, motherwort or yarrow.
Another benefit of eating rue in small quantities is its ability to treat digestive problem especially in relieving intestinal gas or flatulence. It may also expel intestinal worms. Chewing only 1 rue leaf may provide relief from headache, giddiness and heart palpitation.
In homeopathy, rue tincture is used as a remedy for arthritis, neuralgia and rheumatism. Rue oil which is extracted through steam distillation from the leaves should be used as anointing oil or a rub and for external use only. You should not inhale the scent as it is toxic and will hurt the mucus membrane.
You can use rue oil as an ointment or poultice for gout, joint pains, sciatica and sprains but always blend it with carrier oil or neutral oil.
When trimming or pruning rue plant, you must wear rubber gloves and cover your skin. This is because it contains furocoumarins and when it comes in contact with the skin, it will cause irritation and an allergic reaction and form blisters and rashes especially if your skin is exposed to sunlight. It is a good insect repellent but you should not rub the sap on your skin.
If rue is taken in high dosage or large amount, it may cause vomiting and interfere with the functions of the liver.