Rue (Ruta graveolens)
Ruta graveolens, an evergreen subshrub in the Citrus family, is native to southern Europe but can be found in other regions around the world (Wessner, Hofmann, & Ring, 1999). While Rue’s blue-green leaves have a bitter taste and a pungent odor, its flowers, stems, and leaves have long been used for their medicinal properties (Eickhorst, DeLeo, & Csaposs, 2007; Hale, Meepagala, Oliva, Aliotta, & Duke, 2004). Ruta graveolens has been used as an anti-inflammatory to treat cramps, external ulcers, rheumatism, eczema, and systemic infections; as an antidote for scorpion and snake venom; as an insect repellent; and as an herbal decoction for warding off evil spirits (Gawkrodger & Savin, 1983; Heskel, Amon, Storrs, & White, 1983; Sallal, 1996; Wessner et al., 1999).
Warning: Ruta graveolens is known to cause reddening, burning, itching and photodermatisis (sun poisoning rash) when rubbed on skin that has been exposed to sunlight (Gawkrodger & Savin, 1983).
Rembert Dodoen’s A Nievve Herball, written in 1578, provides historical information on the use of Rue. This excerpt states that mixing R. graveolens with certain foods provides protection “against the bitings of vipers and serpentes,” and its juice protects “against the bitings and stingings of Scorpions, Bees, Waspes, Hornettes and madde [dogs].”
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Eickhorst, K., DeLeo, V., & Csaposs, J. (2007). Rue the herb: Ruta graveolens–associated phytophototoxicity. Dermatitis, 18(1), 52-55. doi:10.2310/6620.2007.06033
Gawkrodger, D. J., & Savin, J. A. (1983). Phytophotodermatitis due to common rue (Ruta graveolens). Contact Dermatitis, 9(3), 224. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1983.tb04364.x
Hale, A. L., Meepagala, K. M., Oliva, A., Aliotta, G., & Duke, S. O. (2004). Phytotoxins from the leaves of Ruta graveolens. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52(11), 3345-3349. doi:10.1021/jf0497298
Heskel, N. S., Amon, R. B., Storrs, F. J., & White, C. R., Jr. (1983). Phytophotodermatitis due to Ruta graveolens. Contact Dermatitis, 9(4), 278-280. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1983.tb04390.x
Sallal, A., Alkofahi A. (1996). Inhibition of the hemolytic activities of snake and scorpion venoms in vitro with plant extacts. Biomed Lett, 53, 211-215.
Wessner, D., Hofmann, H., & Ring, J. (1999). Phytophotodermatitis due to Ruta graveolens applied as protection against evil spells. Contact Dermatitis, 41(4), 232. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1999.tb06145.x