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A home herbal remedy, rue oil is used for various gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and other body system ailments. Known for its strong, bitter aroma, rue is a toxic yet effective insect repellent. The essential oil, also used in recipes and cosmetics, has a rich history of folklore and superstitious use.
Rue oil, also known as ruta graveolens, garden rue, or herbygrass, is used in perfume oils and other cosmetics. Herbal vinegars, alcohols, and other flavorings are sometimes made from rue. Rue oil is considered an appropriate complement to other herbs, such as wormwood, myrrh, fennel, chamomile, vervain, penny royal, thyme, and bay.
As a medicine, rue oil is used to treat glaucoma, gout, itchy skin, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, warts, and various wounds. Contusions, fainting spells, dry socket, headaches, convulsions, compression wounds, high blood pressure, toothaches, foot pain, anxiety, epilepsy, and stiffness can also be relieved with rue. Over 100 chemicals, including alkaloids and flavanoids, are found within the woody herb.
Other products that may list rue oil as an ingredient include bath oils, air fresheners, soaps, and incense. Light rings, potpourri, and laundry soap can also be made from rue oil. Spas may utilize the herbal remedy in their services, such as in hair treatments or facial steams.
Traditionally the rue herb was used to cure or prevent poisonings, ward off the plague, aid in abortions, and treat digestive and nervous problems. A symbol of repentance, grace, and memory, it was also thought to protect against evil, witches, and other medieval fears. Since it was believed that rue protected against diseases that criminals carried, it was often scattered within courts of law in Great Britain. Some people used the herb as a recreational drug during this period.
The oil itself should never be taken internally, as it is poisonous. A health care professional should be consulted prior to use. Gloves should be worn when handling the oil at all times. Overdose can cause burning, sun sensitivity, skin irritation, poisoning, or death. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid the oil entirely.
Native to Europe, the perennial rue evergreen shrub has tough, woody branches. The plant features small leaves that are blue-green in color, and during the summer it grows yellow four-petaled flowers. After the flowers bloom, four-lobed capsules featuring the herb develop. Rue can also thrive in other temperate, tropical areas, though it is known to grow on old walls, limestone, and dry hills.