Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Ruta graveolens

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source of the following extracts: Bruno Vonarburg, Homöotanik - Farbiger Arzneipflanzenführer der klassischen Homöopathie, Band 2, 1999, Haug:

Mithridates of Pontus (111 - 60 BC) is said to have been the first to discover the healing properties of this remedy . The medicinal recipe called "Mithridat" [named after him] contained Ruta amongst 54 other constituents as an antidote against various poisons.

Tabernaemontanus,  a medieval scholar in herbal medicine, wrote in 1588: "Der Bergrautensamen wird nützlich vermischt mit Artzneyen, die wider das Gifft einzunehmen bereitet werden, Antidota genandt". [It is useful to mix ruta seeds with medicines, which are made to be taken against poisons, called antidotes].

In ancient times Ruta graveolens was used to alleviate snake bites, mushroom poisoning and hornetstings. This plant was commonly used for toxic ailments until the late medieval times. In the thirteenth century the medical school of Salerno pronounced: "Salvia cum Ruta faciunt pocuta tuta" - sage with ruta make the cup safe. This advice relates to the practice of the poison-cup, which in former times was used to get rid of unpopular political oponents.

Ruta was also used to eliminate the toxic effects of alcohol. Especially in southern European countries, it was customary to add Ruta to home made brandy, which is the reason why this plant has the popular name "Weinraute". This custom is still practised in the case of Italian Grappa.

Ruta was long used to improve eyesight. Tabernaemontanus recommended eye baths with this plant: "Sie benimmt das Finstere und Dunkelheit der Augen, läutert und klärt das Gesicht, weshalb sie billig von den Bildschnitzerns, Formschneidern und Malern gebraucht wird, um ihr Gesicht zu erhalten" [It removes dimness and darkness of eyes, purifies and clears the vision, which is the reason why it is commonly used by wood carvers, tailors and painters, to sustain their vision.]

Ruta emanates a strong odour. Tabernaemontanus emphasises this: "Bergrauten vertreiben durch ihren starkten Geruch alle vergifftete Thiere, Schlangen, Natern und andere Ungeziefer aus den Gärten, da sie hingepflantzet oder gestreuet wird." [Ruta banishes due to it's strong odour all poisonous animals, snakes, vipers and other vermin out of gardens, where it is cultivated or spread.]

According to the experience of these old masters, Ruta is repugnant for snakes, marten, rats and cats, so they avoid any contact.

In medieval times many people carried a bunch of Ruta under their clothes, not only to suppress the bad smell of the gutter, but in order to ward off flees and lice acquirered from beggars on the street.

Ruta was first mentionend as "Ruta" by Cicero, whereas Dioskurides, Galenos and Theophrastus [Paracelsus] called this plant "Peganon".

Charlemagne recommended cultivation of Ruta as one of twenty popular healing herbs for monasteries and farmsteads. Due to this order, Benedictine monks brought Ruta from Southern Europe across the alps to middle Europe, where the plant spread quickly.

Paracelsus recommended the plant for it's lactation inducing effects.
Hildegard von Bingen recommended it for visual impairment.
Pfarrer Kneipp used this plant for vertigo, congestion of the head and epilepsy.

Traditional herbal use of Ruta is well known as eye-baths, to improve visual acuity. Herbal use includes eye trouble due to over strain (work on PCs), conjunctivitis, burning sensation in the eyes, rheumatic pain of the eye, as well as prophylactic for retinal haemorrhage.

Compresses with Ruta are helpful for Dupuytren's contracture, ganglions around the wrist, tenosynovitis, periosteal pain and inflammation, deposits in the periosteum, tendons and joint capsules as well as strained tendons, bone injuries and chilblains.
It was much used by the Ancients; Hippocrates specially commended it, and it constituted a chief ingredient of the famous antidote to poison used by Mithridates. The Greeks regarded it as an antimagical herb, because it served to remedy the nervous It was much used by the Ancients; Hippocrates specially commended it, and it constituted a chief ingredient of the famous antidote to poison used by Mithridates. The Greeks regarded it as an antimagical herb, because it served to remedy the nervous indigestion they suffered when eating before strangers, which they attributed to witchcraft. In the Middle Ages and later, it was considered - in many parts of Europe - a powerful defence against witches, and was used in many spells. It was also thought to bestow second sight.

Piperno, a Neapolitan physician, in 1625, commended Rue as a specific against epilepsy and vertigo, and for the former malady, at one time, some of this herb used to be suspended round the neck of the sufferer.

Pliny, John Evelyn tells us, reported Rue to be of such effect for the preservation of sight that the  painters of his time used to devour a great quantity of it, and the herb is still eaten by the Italians in their salads. It was supposed to make the sight both sharp and clear, especially when the vision had become dim through over-exertion of the eyes. It was with 'Euphrasy and Rue' that Adam's sight was purged by Milton's Angel.

At one time the holy water was sprinkled from brushes made of Rue at the ceremony usually preceding the Sunday celebration of High Mass, for which reason it is supposed it was named the Herb of Repentance and the Herb of Grace. 'There's rue for you and here's some for me; we may call it herb of grace o' Sundays.'

Gerard tells us: 'the garden Rue, which is better than the wild Rue for physic's use, grows most profitably, as Dioscorides said, under a fig tree.' But this is, probably, only a reference, originally, to the fact that it prefers a sheltered position.

Country-people boil its leaves with treacle, thus making a conserve of them. These leaves are
curative of croup in poultry. It has also been employed in the diseases of cattle.

Shakespeare refers again to Rue in : Richard III
'Here did she drop a tear; here in this place
I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace;
Rue, even for ruth, shall shortly here be seen,
In the remembrance of a weeping queen.'

The following is a quotation from Drayton:
'Then sprinkles she the juice of , rue
With nine drops of the midnight dew
From lunarie distilling.'

The latter was the Moonwort (Lunaria), often called 'honesty' - a common garden flower, with cross-shaped purple blossoms, and round, clear silvery-looking seed-vessels. Chaucer also calls it Lunarie.

Rue-water sprinkled in the house 'kills all the fleas,' says an old book
Gerard says:
'If a man be anointed with the juice of rue, the poison of wolf's bane, mushrooms, or todestooles, the biting of serpents, stinging of scorpions, spiders, bees, hornets and wasps will not hurt him.'

The juice was used against earache.

Rue has been regarded from the earliest times as successful in warding off contagion and preventing the attacks of fleas and other noxious insects. It was the custom for judges sitting at assizes to have sprigs of Rue placed on the bench of the dock against the pestilential infection brought into court from gaol by the prisoner, and the bouquet still presented in some districts to judges at the assizes was originally a bunch of aromatic herbs, given to him for the purpose of warding off gaol-fever.
It is one of the ingredients in the 'Vinegar of the Four Thieves.'

Culpepper recommends it for sciatica and pains in the joints, if the latter be 'anointed' with it,
as also for 'the shaking fits of agues, to take a draught before the fit comes.' He also tells us

'the juice thereof warmed in a pomegranate shell or rind, and dropped into the ears,
helps the pains of them. The juice of it and fennel, with a little honey, and the gall of a
cock put thereunto, helps the dimness of the eyesight.'

In Saxony Rue has given its name to an Order. A chaplet of Rue, borne bendwise on bars of
the Coat Armour of the Dukedom of Saxony, was granted by Frederick Barbarossa to the
first Duke of Saxony, in 1181. In 1902 the King of Saxony conferred the Order of the
Rautenkrone (Crown of Rue) on our present King, then Prince of Wales. Since the latter half
of the seventeenth century, sprigs of Rue have been interlaced in the Collar of our Order of
the Thistle.