Ruta graveolens, commonly known as rue, common rue or herb-of-grace, is a species of ruta grown as an ornamental plant or herb. It is an aromatic half shrub with a loose, bushy growth and with yellowish-green leaves and small yellow flowers. The yellow flowers arrive in June-August; the fruits are capsules with many seeds. The root system has many heavy and deep roots with few side roots. It is native to the Balkan Peninsula; it grows in dry regions and has adjusted the Mediterranean climate.
The name ruta comes from the Greek word yte, which means window (Danish: rude) and graveolens means strong smell.
It is grown throughout the world in gardens, especially for its bluish leaves, and sometimes for its tolerance of hot and dry soil conditions. It is also cultivated as a medicinal herb, as a condiment, and to a lesser extent as an insect repellent. Common rue was always valuated because of its ability to repel pests (like cucumber beetles). The species was earlier used as a medical plant and as a spice herb but today mostly used as a drought tolerant, ornamental plant. Rue has a bitter and sharp taste and is not usable in the kitchen, but the plant is good in making some low small hedges in the herbal garden, since it can withstand cropping.
The common rue (Ruta graveolens) is commonly cultivated in Denmark. Today is is preferred in many homes and gardens because of its strong scent and its ability to repel insects from some crops. Rue grows wild in a few places in Denmark, feral from earlier cultivation as a medical and spice herb.
The Romans cultivated rue and brought it with them when they visited prisoners, because they believed the plant would avert "the Evil Eye". The Chinese used it to counteract negative thoughts or wishes. The Celtic wizards said that rue was a defense against magic and could be used to promote healing. Rue was sacred to the early Jews, Egyptians and Caledonians; they believed it was a gift from the Gods. In the old America rue was used by the Indian societies for spells, and they claimed that they could win the heart of their love forever by placing a branch under the light of the moon, before giving it to their love.
Rue is also a common ingredient in witchcraft and spell making. During the Middle Ages it was a symbol of recognition between witches. The Catholic Church also used a branch of rue to sprinkle holy water on its followers during this time known as the "herb of grace."
Nature: Warm and dry in the third degree.
Optimum: That which is grown near a fig tree.
Usefulness: It sharpens the eyesight and dissipates flatulence.
Dangers: It augments the sperm and dampens the desire for coitus.
Neutralization of the Dangers: With foods that multiply the sperm.
The refined oil of rue is an emmenagogue and was cited by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder and the gynecologist Soranus as a potent abortifacient (inducing abortion).
Harpestræng ab. 1300s: eliminates the desire for women; the juice to take for abscesses in the body; fresh plant to eat for purblind eyes; juice of rue and fennel mixed with chicken bile and honey for an ointment which gives clear eyes; if someone drank the juice of the plant or had eaten it raw they could not be harmed by poison.
1400s: crushed green rue and laurel mixed with earthworms and vinegar upon face against headache; the seeds mixed with pigeon shit and seethed syrup of vinegar and honey for dropsy; wine decoct or the seeds mixed with deer- or goat's horn to take against rhinitis.
Christiern Pedersen, 1533: leaves, walnut cernels and figs to eat as an antidote against the plague; crushed leaves of rue mixed with honey and put upon the navel expel worms; juice mixed with honey or morning dew and the juice from the wine clear the eyesight; crushed rue mixed with dog shit to put upon plague abscesses.
Henrik Smid 1546: the plant resists all venom and poisons; the juice mixed with alum, saltpeter and honey heals "the bulky and shabby head."
1624: Klog mand (healer) (+1624) in southwest Jutland treated fresh wounds with rue, plucked on Midsummer's Night and put into Rhine wine and mixed with horse manure.
1693: in times of the plague has to be smoked with green rue and five other plants and chips from the billy goat's horn; rue and lovage mixed with honey for a patch upon snake bites.
1799: pulverized rue, feverfew and St. John's wort-oil used for an ointment upon the wrist-artery for stroke.
Herb and seed were written into the Pharmacopoeia in 1772.
Livestock: Rue was used for various diseases in cattle, horse and swine.
Superstition: 1300s: The weasel eats rue before fighting a snake, then it will not be hurt by the poison. 1774: Rue was plant close to Sage in order to prevent poisonous animals to be there. Some people believed that the smell from rue dispels the toad.
In Denmark it is advised not to use rue as a spice or culinary herb, since it has given liver damage on laboratory rats. It is also advised to avoid sun light and to wash the skin thoroughly with soap water if the juice from the plant has touched the skin.
Rue has a culinary use, but since it is bitter and gastric discomfort may be experienced by some individuals, it is used sparingly. Although used more extensively in former times, it is not an herb that is typically found in modern cuisine. Today it is largely unknown to the general public and most chefs, and unavailable in grocery stores. It is a component of berbere, the characteristic Ethiopian spice mixture, and as such is encountered in Ethiopian cuisine.
It has a variety of other culinary uses:
It was used extensively in ancient Near Eastern and Roman cuisine (according to Ibn Savyar-al-Warraq and Apicius).
Rue is used as a traditional flavouring in Greece and other Mediterranean countries.
In Istria (a region in Croatia), and in Northern Italy, it is used to give a special flavour to Grappa/Raki and most of the time a little branch of the plant can be found in the bottle. This is called grappa alla ruta.
Seeds can be used for porridge.
The bitter leaf can be added to eggs, cheese, fish, or mixed with damson plums and wine to produce a meat sauce.
In Italy in Friuli Venezia-Giulia, the young branches of the plant are dipped in a batter, deep-fried in oil, and consumed with salt or sugar. They are also used on their own to aromatise a specific type of omelette.
Used in world beers as flavouring ingredient.
Rue is also grown as an ornamental, both as a low hedge and so the leaves can be used in nosegays.
Most cats dislike the smell of it, and it can, therefore, be used as a deterrent to them. Caterpillars of some subspecies of the butterfly Papilio Machaon feed on rue, as well as other plants. The caterpillars of Papilio xuthus also feed readily on it.
In South India, rue is recommended for home gardens to repel snakes (however the effectiveness is unknown).
|burnt skin from rue.|
Rue extracts are mutagenic and hepatotoxic. Large doses can cause violent gastric pain, vomiting, systemic complications, and death. Exposure to common rue, or herbal preparations derived from it, can cause severe phytophotodermatitis which results in burn-like blisters on the skin.
The bitter taste of its leaves led to rue being associated with the (etymologically unrelated) verb rue "to regret". Rue is well known for its symbolic meaning of regret and it has sometimes been called "herb-of-grace" in literary works. It is one of the flowers distributed by the mad Ophelia in William Shakespeare's Hamlet (IV.5):
- "There's fennel for you, and columbines:
- there's rue for you; and here's some for me:
- we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays:
- "Here did she fall a tear, here in this place
- I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace."
- "For you there's rosemary and rue; these keep
- Seeming and savour all the winter long."
- "Then purg'd with euphrasy and rue
- The visual nerve, for he had much to see."
Rue is mentioned in the Bible, Luke 11.42: "But woe unto you, Pharisees! For ye the mint and rue and all manner of herbs".
In mythology, the basilisk, whose breath could cause plants to wilt and stones to crack, had no effect on rue. Weasels who were bitten by the basilisk would retreat and eat rue in order to recover and return to fight.
Rue is considered a national herb of Lithuania and it is the most frequently referred herb in Lithuanian folk songs, as an attribute of young girls, associated with virginity and maidenhood. It was common in traditional Lithuanian weddings for only virgins to wear a rue (ruta) at their wedding, a symbol to show their purity.
Likewise, rue is prominent in the Ukrainian folklore, songs and culture. In the Ukrainian folk song "Oi poli ruta, ruta" (O, rue, rue in the field), the girl regrets losing her virginity, reproaching the lover for "breaking the green hazel tree". "Una Matica de Ruda" is a traditional Sephardic wedding song.
Chervona Ruta—a song, written by Volodymyr Ivasyuk, a popular Ukrainian poet and composer. Pop singer Sofia Rotaru performed the song in 1971. More recently Rotaru performed in a rap arrangement.
|Banner of Saxony with rue./wikipedia|
Brøndegaard, Dansk Etnobotanik, Folk og Flora ,bd. 2
Anemette Olesen, Danske Klosterurter, Aschehoug 2001,
Wikipedia, dansk og engelsk, 2017.
photo from wikipedia