We have been busy potting on of baby seedlings over the last weeks. One little beauty I enjoyed potting on was Ruta graveolens – Rue. It was commonly known as the Herb of Grace and is woven into the histories of many early civilizations including the Aztec cultures and the ancient Greeks.
The well-known Greek physician Dioscorides described Rue as a contraceptive agent. Other cultures refer to Rue an anaphrodisiac
and in the Unani system of medicine Rue, known as Sudab, is categorized as an abortifacient.
These classifications of Rue are owing to the plants effect on the reproductive system of both women and men. Research shows that Rue can disrupt implantation of the egg in the uterus. Considered an emmenagogue, it is a traditional remedy for bringing on menses. It does this by stimulating the uterine muscles which is why it is contraindicated in pregnancy. In the past Rue has indeed been used by women after intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
The study of phytochemicals from a range of plant species to determine contraceptive efficacy is higher in China and India where herbal medicine is still the preferred system of medicine. Although historical documentation from Europe has been found to suggest Rue was used by men before intercourse as a male contraceptive. Research on Rue shows it can reduce sperm motility and spermatogenesis. In male rats this effect has been shown to wear off over a period. It’s important to note that where Rue is termed an anaphrodisiac this does not mean it reduces libido.
Ruta graveolens should only be used internally under the supervision of a professional herbalist. Amongst its notable active constituents are acridone and quinoline alkaloids plus the flavonoids rutin and quercetin – pertaining to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
I recently read Rue was used in kohl preparations! Making your own kohl makeup for the eyes is very rewarding. In Ayurvedic medicine, using anjan (kajal/kohl) is as much a treatment and protection for the eyes as it is an enhancer of beauty. I may write more on making your own eye kohl another time. Traditionally Rue was also used as a tea or eyewash to alleviate the pain of eye strain so one can see the connection to Rue kohl as a benefit to the eyes.
Rue is a very effective rubefacient. Pictured is a Ruta infused oil made last season to be used in lotions and balms for painful joints affected by arthritis, rheumatism or gout. You could also use fresh plant material externally for arthritic issues as a herbal compress. Just be careful, it is highly aromatic containing many volatile oils. I have no problem handling the herb but for some people excessive handling can cause a reaction on the skin.
We’ll continue potting on these baby Rue plants getting them ready for their new homes. Here is Rue available from our nursery.