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Application of Weinkraut

Scientific Name: Rue

Other Names: Common Rue, Garden Rue, Herb of Grace, Herbygrass, Ruda, Ruta graveolens, Weinkraut

Who is this for?

Note: Fresh rue contains volatile oils that can damage the kidneys or liver. Deaths have been attributed to the use of fresh rue.

Rue is probably best known for its effects on the female reproductive tract. Chemicals in rue may stimulate muscles in the uterus, which, in turn, may initiate menstrual periods, act as contraceptive agents, and promote abortion. It is also thought that rue contains chemicals that may decrease fertility and may also block the implanting of a fertilized egg. Even though rue is a mainstay of midwives in many developing countries, its risks generally outweigh any benefits it might have for contraception or abortion. Deaths have been reported due to uterine hemorrhaging caused by repeated doses of rue. Taking it orally is strongly discouraged.

Rue oil may be applied to the skin. It has been used to relieve arthritis pain and also for treating soft tissue injuries such as bruises and sprains. The strong smell of rue has made it popular in some parts of the world as an effective insect repellent, with either fresh rue leaves or rue oil rubbed onto the skin.

When should I be careful taking it?

Note: Due to the potential toxicity of rue, its use is not recommended.

Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should avoid taking and applying rue because it can cause miscarriage. Additionally, laboratory studies have shown that rue may cause birth defects.

Due to its irritating effect on the gastrointestinal tract, rue should not be taken or used by individuals with bladder, kidney, liver, or stomach conditions.

Precautions

Very little information is available on how rue might affect an infant or a child. Therefore, its use is not recommended during breast-feeding or childhood.

What side effects should I watch for?

Taking rue oil by mouth may result in kidney or liver damage. Isolated reports of deaths attributed to the ingestion of various forms of rue have also been published.

In case reports, various individuals who consumed 100 mL (about 3 liquid ounces) or more of rue oil or 120,000 mg (120 grams or about 4 ounces) or more of fresh rue leaves and stems experienced intense stomach pain and severe vomiting.

Less Severe Side Effects

When handled or applied to the skin, fresh rue may cause blisters or rash.

Either applying rue or taking it by mouth may make unprotected skin much more sensitive than usual to sunlight or artificial light used in sun tanning parlors. If any form of rue is taken or applied, sunscreen should also be used and the amount of time spent in natural or artificial sunlight should be limited.

What interactions should I watch for?

Prescription Drugs

If rue is taken or used at the same time as drugs known as psoralens, which cause the skin to be excessively sensitive to sunlight, the risk of severe sunburn may increase. Psoralens include Oxsoralen (methoxsalen or 8-MOP) and Trisoralen (trioxsalen).

Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals.

Should I take it?

Rue is believed to have originated in southern Europe or northern Africa. It now grows in most parts of the world. It is a small evergreen bush with flat bluish-green leaves and small yellow or greenish flowers that bloom in late summer. For use in medicine and food, its leaves and young stems are gathered before rue flowers bloom. Although rue is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens or flowerbeds, its strong smell usually makes rue unpopular for use close to homes. In some parts of the world, rue is used as an insect repellent for humans and animals. Sometimes, rue plants are also used as natural pesticides, planted among other bushes such as roses or raspberry brambles to keep away insects and small animals. Some evidence suggests it may act as a natural herbicide against some other plants, as well.

Ancient Egyptians and early Greeks believed that rue taken orally could improve eyesight and it was once popular among medieval artists, crafters, and writers who needed good vision to perform close work. The juice of fresh rue has been used to relieve toothaches and earaches. In Chinese medicine, rue is used to eliminate intestinal worms. Even though rue has been used historically for these and a number of other serious conditions, such as acute infections, heart conditions, and mental illnesses, no scientific studies currently support any of these uses.

Rue oil is approved, however, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a flavoring agent. As a relative of the citrus fruits, rue oil has a flavor similar to the bitter oil in orange or lemon rinds. Small amounts of it may be used in cosmetics and foods. Fresh rue leaves are sometimes added to mixed salads, used in making pickles, or put into cooked dishes for a bitter taste. In Italy, rue is used to flavor grappa, a type of brandy.

Dosage and Administration

Single oral doses of over 120,000 mg (120 grams or about 4 ounces) of fresh rue or 10 mL (about 2 teaspoons) of rue oil are reported to have resulted in kidney damage, liver damage, or death. The recommended maximum oral dose per day of dried rue is 1,000 mg (one gram). Fresh rue should not be taken orally).

Generally, dried rue is less likely to cause serious side effects than fresh rue because volatile rue oils are lost as the plant dries. Also called essential oils, volatile oils possess the characteristic smell and taste of the plant. They usually evaporate quickly at room temperature.

For oral use, dried rue is often brewed into a tea using one teaspoon of the dried leaves and stems of the plant and one cup (about 8 ounces) of boiling water. The water is poured over the rue, which is allowed to soak until the liquid becomes cool. The solid particles are strained out before drinking the cooled tea. Only one cup of rue tea should be used per day and rue should not be used longer than a few days at a time.

Summary

In many parts of the world, rue is taken by mouth to induce abortion or to initiate menstrual periods. It may not be particularly effective; however, and it carries the risk of kidney or liver damage. Topically, rue oil may be used to treat arthritis pain, bruises, or sprains. It may also be applied to ward off insects.

Risks

Because it may cause miscarriage, rue should not be used by women who are or who may be pregnant. It should also be avoided by women who are breast-feeding and children who are under 18 years of age. The volatile oils in rue may irritate the gastrointestinal tract, possibly causing or worsening kidney, liver, or stomach conditions.

Side Effects

By mouth, rue may cause nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting. If it comes in contact with the skin, rue may cause blisters or rash. Either orally or topically, rue may make the skin more sensitive to light.

Interactions

When used with drugs that also increase the sensitivity of the skin to sunlight or artificial sun tanning light, rue may increase the chances of sunburn.

Last Revised November 2, 2004

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(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)

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