Rue herb or Ruta graveolens is an aromatic hardy evergreen shrub belonging to the family Rutaceae. It is known by several names, the Herb of Grace, German Rue, Garden Rue, Mother of the Herbs, Herbygrass, Hreow, Bashoush, Rude, and Rewe. A native of the Macaronesia, Mediterranean region, and southwest Asia, Rue leaves and stems have anti-spasmodic properties, and help in treating gastro-intestinal ailments. Some of the eco-conscious consumers might know this to be very useful as an insect and flea repellent around the house and garden. In Mediterranean countries, Rue herb is used in cheeses, salads, and egg dishes. Rue herb is often used in spells of protection against witchcraft and bad luck. Used as tinctures, teas and in capsules, the herb owes its potency to the presence of caprinic, caprylic, plagonic, oenanthylic acids and rutin (flavonoids).
During the middle age, Rue herb was hung in doorways and windows to wade off evil spirits. Early physicians used it as an excellent protection against plague and pestilence. It got the name "Herb of Grace" as early Christians used it in exorcisms and before performing Mass. It is said that Prophet Mohammed blessed his disciples with this herb. This herb was grown around Roman temples dedicated to Mars, Diana and Aradia. Rue herb was used for purifying objects fabricated from iron before consecrating them. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Rue herb was often nicknamed as “Witchbane”; individuals carried the Rue bunch to protect themselves from witches. Ancient Italians made amulets referred to as cimaruta from tin or silver which resembled the branches of rue plant. The tip of every branch was embellished with a fertility symbol: horn, phalli, crescent moon, solar disk, fish, key, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A cimaruta was meant to safeguard the wearer from the evil forces. Italian Renaissance painters like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci frequently consumed rue and cress sandwiches to enhance their eyesight. In the year1625, the Neapolitan physician, Piperno used the Rue herb for treating epilepsy and vertigo. In 1653, Nicholas Culpepper, the great English herbalist, prescribed the Rue herb for joint inflammation. The strong, musky odor of the Rue herb was used by the European settlers in North America to repel insects and fleas.
Rue plant measures between 20–60 cm. The bluish-green leaves are bipinnate or tripinnate, with a feathery surface. Rue herb yields yellow flowers borne in cymes with 4–5 petals. Each flower is one cm in diameter. The bitter fruit is 4–5 lobed capsules, containing varied seeds which are terribly bitter. According to Apicius, several ancient Roman recipes used Rue Herb for seasoning. In Italy, rue leaves are used to make grappa alla ruta (alcoholic beverage).
The Rue herb can be grown in your garden to repel other pests,fleas, Japanese beetle and cats. It was used as an antiplague herb in the olden days as it repels fleas. Rather than using toxic chemicals in your garden and house, use Rue herb and other complementing herbs that can help with repelling insects and are environmentally safe both for your palnts and family. It also helps from those annoying aphids which attack the vegetable plants. Besides lady bugs, Rue herb is another great way to deter the aphids. Rue herb has certain allelochemicals that help in preventing the growth of weeds as well. So the next time you are frustrated with all the chemicals, try using some of nature's best remedies such as Rue, basil, Thyme, sage to protect yourself from insects.
Excess consumption of Rue herb can cause liver degeneration and kidney irritation. Individuals suffering from heart, kidney or liver ailments should avoid this herb. Rue should be completely avoided by pregnant women as it can induce premature expulsion of the fetus (an abortifacient agent).
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