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These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Ruta graveolens | Rue

Botanical Overview of Rue

  • Scientific Name: Ruta graveolens

  • Common Names: Rue, Common Rue, Herb-of-Grace, Garden Rue

  • Family: Rutaceae

  • Description: Rue is a woody, perennial herb that can grow to about 60-90 cm in height. It has a strong, aromatic scent, and its bluish-green leaves are deeply divided and covered with translucent oil glands that give them a dotted appearance. The small, yellow flowers form in clusters and bloom from late spring to mid-summer. The plant produces small, green fruit capsules containing several seeds. Rue’s distinctive foliage and bitter taste make it a notable addition to gardens both for its ornamental value and historical significance.

ruta graveolens botanical illustration

Properties of Rue

  • Chemical Constituents: Contains alkaloids, flavonoids, essential oils (such as rutin and graveoline), coumarins, and furocoumarins. These compounds contribute to Rue’s medicinal properties and its strong, sometimes pungent aroma.

  • Edibility: Rue is generally not consumed in large quantities due to its bitterness and potential toxicity. Small amounts can be used as a seasoning in culinary dishes, particularly in Mediterranean cuisine, where it might be added to sauces or meat dishes. However, it must be used sparingly to avoid adverse effects.

Distribution and Habitat of Rue

  • Native Range: Southern Europe and North Africa.

  • Preferred Habitat: Rue thrives in dry, well-drained soil and prefers full sun to partial shade. It is commonly found in rocky or sandy environments, such as hillsides and cliffs, and can also adapt to garden settings with similar conditions. Rue is tolerant of poor soils and drought, making it a hardy plant in a variety of environments. It is often grown as a border plant or in herb gardens due to its attractive foliage and historical uses.

Medicinal Properties and Uses of Rue

  • Traditional Uses: Historically, Rue was valued for its medicinal properties and used to treat a variety of ailments. It was commonly employed as a digestive aid, to relieve gas and colic, and as a stimulant for the nervous system. Rue’s antispasmodic properties made it useful for alleviating muscle and menstrual cramps. It was also used as a remedy for headaches, anxiety, and hysteria. Externally, Rue was applied as a poultice or infusion to treat wounds, skin conditions, and insect bites due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

  • Modern Applications: In modern herbal medicine, Rue is used with caution due to its potential toxicity. It is primarily used in diluted forms for its antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and emmenagogue (promoting menstrual flow) effects. Rue can be included in preparations to support digestion, alleviate muscle spasms, and reduce inflammation. It is also explored for its potential in treating varicose veins and hemorrhoids due to its vascular toning properties. Despite its benefits, Rue should be used under professional guidance, especially because it can cause skin irritation and is contraindicated in pregnancy.

Magical Correspondences and Uses in Magical Practice of Rue

  • Element: Fire

  • Planet: Mars

  • Magical Properties: Protection, purification, healing, and exorcism.

  • Uses: Rue has a long history of use in magical practices, primarily for protection and purification. It is often included in amulets or sachets to ward off evil spirits, curses, and negative energies. The plant is also used in rituals to cleanse spaces and people, often burned as incense or scattered around the home. Rue’s strong association with Mars aligns it with strength, courage, and defense, making it a powerful ally in spells for personal empowerment and overcoming obstacles. Its bitter taste and sharp aroma are believed to repel malevolent forces and provide a protective barrier. Rue can also be used in healing spells and rituals, especially those aimed at recovery from illness or emotional distress. The plant’s purifying qualities extend to its use in baths and anointing oils to cleanse and protect the body and spirit.

Folklore, Legends, and Mythology of Rue

  • Historical Context: Rue has been revered in various cultures for its protective and medicinal qualities. In ancient Greece and Rome, it was used to ward off plague and pestilence and was often planted near homes to keep away evil.

  • Folklore: Rue is often referred to as the “Herb-of-Grace” due to its use in holy water and other religious rituals. It was believed to protect against witchcraft and the evil eye, and people would carry sprigs of Rue or wear it as a talisman for protection. In the Middle Ages, it was thought that Rue could counteract poisons and was used as an antidote for various toxins. The plant was also associated with vision and clarity; artists and craftsmen used Rue to sharpen their eyesight and enhance their skills.

  • Mythology: Rue features in many myths and legends. In Roman mythology, it was dedicated to the gods and used in sacred rites. The plant is also linked to the Greek hero Prometheus, who was said to have used Rue to gain resistance to the poison he encountered. Rue’s connection to Mars and its fiery attributes reflect its use in rites of purification and strength. The plant’s ability to flourish in harsh conditions symbolizes resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Historical Literary Sources

  • "Culpeper’s Complete Herbal" by Nicholas Culpeper (1653): Describes Rue’s medicinal and protective properties, emphasizing its use in treating ailments and warding off evil.

  • "De Materia Medica" by Dioscorides (1st century AD): An ancient text detailing the uses of Rue in treating a wide range of health issues and its significance in Greek and Roman medicine.

  • "A Modern Herbal" by Maud Grieve (1931): Explores the traditional and modern uses of Rue, highlighting its role in both medicine and folklore.


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