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| What is it?
Rue is a shrub like plant that was originally imported from the Mediterranean region; lemons, oranges and tangerines belong to the same family of plants. In herbal medicine, when needed we use the leaves of this hardy, perennial with its strong, distinctive and somewhat disagreeable aroma and its exceedingly bitter, acrid taste.
RUE (plus swallowtail butterfly egg)
How has it been used?
Thomas Bartram says 'Rue is for the suppression of menses from cold or shock and to promote menstrual flow after months of absence'.
Rudolph Weiss says that Rue is an effective emmenagogue (agent to bring on menstruation) nonetheless it should only be prescribed for short term use and he recommends that it be generally combined with a laxative for the best effects.
Simon Mills writes 'Rue is for bronchial and croupy conditions and for amenorrhoea (absence of the period) when pregnancy has been positively excluded.'
Maude Grieves writes 'If a leaf or two be chewed, a refreshing aromatic flavour will pervade the mouth and any nervous headache, giddiness, hysterical spasm, or palpitation will be quickly relieved'.
Folklore on Rue
The name Ruta is from the Greek reuo (to set free) because this herb was so revered in ancient times. The Greeks regarded it as an antimagical herb because it served to remedy the indigestion they suffered when eating before strangers, which they attributed to witchcraft.
Hippocrates especially commended it and in constituted a chief ingredient of the famous antidote to poison used by Mithridates.
The Romans claimed that eating it granted the gift of second sight or psychic vision and Pliny wrote that painters and carvers ate Rue to improve their eyesight. Musket balls soaked in Rue were said to always hit their target.
Rue was used in rituals involving curses and the popular expression 'you will rue the day' originated in the folk belief that it was a plant of misfortune but it was also said to be a protection against the evil spells of witches and Rue was once used by the Roman Catholic Church in the ritual of exorcism!
Traditionally Rue was said, like Rosemary, to be a powerful antidote to the bubonic plague. When in 1760 a rumour spread through London that plague had broken out in St Thomas's Hospital and before the doctors could issue a denial the cost of Rue at Covent Garden doubled in price.
Gerard wrote 'if a man be anointed with the juice of Rue, the poison of wolf's bane, mushrooms, or toadstools, the biting of serpents, stinging of scorpions, spiders, bees, hornets and wasps will not hurt him.'
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Science on Rue Leaf
~ Rue contains a furoquinoline alkaloid called skimmianine that has been shown to cause a direct stimulant effect to uterine tissue. In the correct dose this may help to bring on the menses but used irresponsibly it can lead to violent gastro-intestinal pains and vomiting.
Safety of Rue Leaf
Rue is highly toxic if taken in quantities over a safe therapeutic dose and it must be avoided in women that could become pregnant as a number of animal experiments have shown that various types of Rue extract cause abortion. Likewise there are quite a few reports in the medical literature of women who have taken Rue in order to induce an abortion that have been badly poisoned as a consequence.
The essential oil of Rue is a powerful local irritant that can cause redness, swelling and even blistering of the skin, handle with much care!
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Rue is clearly both a powerful and potentially dangerous herb but that does not mean it should not be used so long as it is treated with great care. I have found that small and safe doses of Rue have helped a great many women who were getting menstrual problems of a nature which involved having periods that would not complete, for example bleeding for up to a week, then having a short break and then bleeding again. Likewise the careful use of Rue has been seen to help women who have missed a number of periods, something that sometimes seems to happen particularly after a long or strong use of contraceptive pills and something that I have observed happening to more than a few women for up to 2 years after having had the depo provera injection!
To achieve a rapid result with Rue I would be more likely to use a tincture than a tea. We make our own Rue tincture from dried organic herb so it's not possible to convey what would be a safe dose using a different method of extraction let alone what kind of starting material another product may have used but for what it's worth I find that doses of no more than 4 mls of Rue tincture within a single day where the formula that contains the Rue is taken in divided doses have been efficacious. For example this might mean taking just 1ml or 20 drops of Rue tincture by itself or with other herbs up to 4 times daily to make a total of 4 mls in the day.
My greater experience with Rue has been to use it in the dried form as a tea along with other healing herbs. Here one may use very small amounts (perhaps no more than a gram in a day) with no worry whatsoever about the chance of adverse effects but rather some confidence that it will surely convey a steady positive influence on a womb that is needing its tonic support.
Rue can combine particularly well with Lady's mantle for a weakened uterus, with Shepherd's purse for heavy periods and with Cramp Bark for painful periods.
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Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Rue is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another -- why is this?
The reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are more hot or cool and at the same time more dry or damp; more info about this here.
There is an old wisdom in treating the person first and the condition second and in this light Rue can particularly offer its benefits when an activation is needed in the 'cycle of healing' - something that is discussed here and shown in a chart here.
Excerpt from Felter & Lloyd's Kings Dispensatory from 1898
Rue is emmenagogue, ecbolic, anthelmintic, and antispasmodic. In large doses it seems to be a narcotico-acrid poison. It is asserted to cause abortion, and such effect is accompanied with inflammation of the stomach and bowels, with cerebral disturbance. Among the symptoms are retching and vomiting, violent pain in the stomach, headache, cerebral oppression and fullness, heat flushes, uncertain locomotion, somnolence, prostration, pulse feeble, at first rapid, then slow, coldness and twitching of the extremities, and frequent desire to pass urine, which is strongly impregnated with the peculiar odour of rue.
Its action is chiefly directed upon the uterus, and is capable of exciting menorrhagia, inflammation, and miscarriage. It has been successfully used in flatulent colic, hysteria, some nervous complaints, epilepsy, and as an excellent vermifuge. Rue is a stimulant to the genito-urinary tract, and, in small doses, might prove a remedy in atonic conditions of these parts. Owing to its affinity for the nervous system, it relieves irritation and pain when administered in small amounts.
Please understand that I cannot personally advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in my clinic but ideas
on how you might find a good herbalist in your area are here.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!
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