The healing power of rue

Rue is a beautiful plant to look at; it does not look out of place in an ornamental garden. It does well in dry soil. The leaves have a distinct blue-green color and the flowers turn bright yellow. In addition, rue is a culinary herb, although it is used less often than before. It has a slightly bitter taste. Rue is used as a medicinal plant in phytotherapy.
NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing of rue / Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons (PD)


  • Traditional use
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Rue for cramps
  • Other medicinal effects of rue
  • Dose and safety
  • Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Traditional use

In the past, rue was used to induce cramps in the uterus. It was a widely used abortion drug in ancient times. Today it is still used in horses to induce abortion. The Roman historian Pliny the elder already wrote about this plant and its use in abortion. In France it was known as herbe a la fille or ‘beautiful girl’s herb’. It is also a cough remedy; a cough syrup is made to which this herb has been added. It is also used for earache. Like some other bitter plants such as wormwood, rue is good for repelling worms. In the 17th century, rue was a component of vinegar to combat the plague. Other herbs in this vinegar were: sage, thyme, garlic, rosemary and lavender.


In Latin, rue is called Ruta graveolens . Graveolens means ‘smelly’. The plant itself does not smell very bad, but it does taste bitter. But stinking or graveolens can also mean ‘disgusting’ or ‘pernicious’; this may indicate that it indicates moral decay if this herb is used as an abortifacient.

Active substances

The leaves or the entire herb growing above ground are used for phytotherapeutic purposes. It contains the following active substances: essential oil with methyl ketones, methyl nonyl carbinols and free alcohols, esters, phenols, terpene compounds, flavonoids such as rutin and quercetin-3-O-rutinoside, tertiary and quaternary alkaloids including arborinine, skimmianine, graveolin, graveolinine and alpha- fagarine, furocoumarin derivatives in the form of bergapten, xanthotoxin and psoralen.

Rue for cramps

Rue is able to relieve mild cramps. This involves cramps in the digestive tract, respiratory tract and reduced blood flow. In the case of a deconvulsant effect on the blood vessels, there are other medicinal plants such as white horse chestnut, lemon yellow honey clover and buckwheat that have a stronger effect on this. As a phytotherapeutic medicine it is mainly used for:

  • Spastic bronchitis or respiratory inflammation with spasmodic cough,
  • Mild cramps in the stomach and intestines.

Other medicinal effects of rue

Ruta graveolens / Source: Jerzy Opioa, Wikimedia Commons (GFDL)

Rue has various effects that you could use. Here is an overview:

  • Has a calming effect on tension headaches, anxiety and palpitations.
  • Can drive away worms,
  • Has a diaphoretic effect which can be good for flu.
  • Has a stomach-strengthening effect.
  • Promotes menstruation.
  • Makes the skin red or it locally stimulates blood circulation.
  • Rue is an anti-lice agent, although external contact must be avoided, so it is not ideal.

Dose and safety

There are two standard ways to use this medicinal plant.

  • Infusion: two cups of tea per day of 0.5 to 1 gram of the leaf.
  • Powder: 50 mg 5 to 10 times a day.

The herb is not toxic when these dosages are used. Rue essential oil is toxic; this use is not recommended by herbalists. Too high a dosage of rue can lead to: drowsiness, dizziness, thick tongue, salivation, melancholy, gastroenteritis, excessive menstruation and abortion. So it should not be taken during pregnancy. Because rue irritates the kidneys, it should not be given to kidney patients. In some people, touching rue causes contact dermatitis or skin inflammation.

Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Much of the information about the medicinal plant mentioned in this article comes from the book Groot Handboek Medicinal Plants by Geert Verhelst. That is a handbook in phytotherapy. However, it is not suitable for self-healing. Anyone who suffers from something should consult a doctor or herbal therapist for a good diagnosis and choice of the best remedies, tailored to your personal situation. The knowledge and science mentioned here is of a purely informative nature.