Ruta graveolens L.

Last updated: 21 April 2016

Scientific Name

Ruta graveolens L.


Ruta hortensis Mill. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Ingu [2]
English Rue, herb of grace, herb of repentance [3]
China Chou cao [4], yün xiang [3]
India Sitab (Hindi); sitaba, somalata (Sanskrit) [3]
Indonesia Godong minggu (Javanese) [3]
Korea Unhjang [3]
Japan Henruda [3]
Saudi Arabia Arudam fejan [3]
Turkey Sedefotou [3]
France Rue, rue de jardins, rue fétide, rue officinale, rue puante, herbe de grâce [3]
Germany Raute, edelraute, gartenraute, weinraute, gnadenkraut [3]
Netherland Ruit [3]
Spain Ruda común [3].

Geographical Distributions

Ruta graveolens is native to southern Europe and northern Africa.  It is now found in temperate and tropical parts of the world including South America and North America where it was introduced from Europe in the 1500’s. [5]

Botanical Description

R. graveolens is a member of the Rutaceae family. It is a perennial shrub that reaches up to 1 meter high. [6][7]

The stems are woody at the base and herbaceous further up. [6][7]

The leaves are pinnate, 5-10 cm long, and aromatic. The leaflets are oblong to spatulate, somewhat fleshy, blue-green and often covered with white powdery substance. The lower leaves have longer stalks than the upper ones. [6][7]

The flowers are small and yellow-green, 1 cm wide, petals toothed and concave in loose clusters at top of plant. [6][7]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

R. graveolens has been reported to contain glycosides, quinoline alkaloids, acridone alkaloids, furanocoumarins including psoralen, bergapten, xanthotoxin, isopimpinellin, imperatorin; tannins, sterols, alcohols including methyl-ethyl-carbinol, pinene, limenenes. [8][9][10][11][12]

Plant Part Used

Roots, aerial parts, leaves [13][14][15][16]

Traditional Use

When used as a compound, both internally and externally, R. graveolens has been used to relieve muscle spasm. Though the usage of concentrated R. graveolens, externally, can result in burn-like blisters, the plant has been used by Native American medical practitioners, as a poultice, in order to treat gangrenous wounds. [17]

The R. graveolens leaves have been used as a sedative to ease epilepsy and hysterics. [18] A decoction, or syrup made from boiled leaves has been used to eliminate gastrointestinal worms. Aside from expelling worms, it has been used to treat various gastrointestinal discomforts. Though it can cause stomach discomfort in high doses, it has been used in low does to relieve the pain of colic and various abdominal pain. [17] [19] Leaf infusions and decoctions have been used in order to promote respiratory health. Alcoholic infusions have been used as well as leaf infusions in order to treat respiratory maladies. [13] Similar alcoholic infusions have been used to ease symptoms of poor cardiac health. [14] In cases of fever and hysterical fever, either a leaf decoction or a decoction of leaves and stem is drunk. [14][15] Fresh leaves can bruised and placed directly on the affected area for earache or toothache. [13]

The fruits can be crushed and applied as poultice for swelling. [14]

Preclinical Data


Mutagenic activity

Various extracts of R. graveolens and/or the active constituents have demonstrated mutagenic activity. One study examining the mutagenic activity against Salmonella typhimurium strain TA98 determined that there were various mechanisms involved including but not limited to the furoquinolines [20]. The additional examination of activity against strains of S. typhimurium demonstrated that the alkaloid rutacridone is metabolized by rat liver enzymes into rutacridone epoxide, which exhibits stronger mutagenic action [21]. The additional animal models have examined both a Ruta extract and a homeopathic preparation and found that administration of both resulted in chromosomal aberrations in bone marrow cells [22].

Anti-inflammatory activity

The traditional use of as an anti-inflammatory has been verified in animal models.  In adjuvant arthritis in rats, a dose of 20 mg/kg demonstrated a reduction in oedema within a three week period and comparable to indomethacin.  This model also demonstrated an increase in measured anti-oxidant status in rats receiving the methanol extract of R. graveolens demonstrated by an increase in activity of Vitamins C and E and reduce glutathione [23]. R. graveolens also contains some antioxidants [24]. Another investigation into the anti-inflammatory properties of R. graveolens found that a methanol extract of the whole plant at 50% concentration was found to inhibit the expression of iNOS and the COX-2 gene in a lipopolysaccharide induced inflammatory cell model [25][26].

Antimicrobial acitivity

Antimicrobial activity of various preparations including the essential oil of R. graveolens has been demonstrated in several studies [27][28][29]. In one of these studies, a chemical constituent of R. graveolens, rutacridone epoxides, was found to be more effective than ethacridine lactate. [30] Other studies have demonstrated activity against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria, fungi and Trichomonas vaginalis [31][32][33].  

Antiarrhythmic activity

A study result indicated a potential antiarrhythmic effect of R. graveolens in treating supra ventricular tachyarrhythmia. Both the total plant extract and the alkaloid fraction of R. graveolens had a similar trend of action on nodal conduction time and refractoriness. Increased atrioventricular conduction time (83+/-4 to 108+/-5) msec and functional refractory period (157.6+/-3 to 163.7+/-4 msec) at a maximum concentration of 3.75 x 10(-6) % W/V were observed. [34]

Cytotoxic activity

The cytotoxicity of the drugs assayed was evaluated in vitro by means of the dye test using cells of the Yoshida ascites sarcoma. The petroleum ether extract of R. graveolens showed a quite significant cytotoxic effect. [35][36]

Antiandrogenic activity

The aqueous extracts of R. graveolens might have adverse effects on territorial aggression and sexual behaviour. A pre-clinical study of R. graveolens was done on the reproductive system and fertility using adult male albino rats with special emphasis on the aggressive behaviour and sex behavior. The aqueous extract of R. graveolens solution was fed orally to male albino rats at a dose of 500 mg/kg body weight for 60 days. This dose induced a significant decrease in the weight of reproductive organs (p<0.01) when compared to controls. The sperm motility and density in cauda epidydimides and testicular ducts were significantly decreased (p<0.01). A significant decreased (p<0.001) in spermatogenesis activity is observed in somniferous tubule. Treated rats testicular cell population showed a decrease in number of spermatocytes and spermatids (P<0.001) when compared to controls. Serum hormonal assay indicated a decrease in testosterone and follicular stimulating hormone levels in treated rats. A decrease in number of female rats impregnated by males receiving treatment was observed and demonstrated by a decrease in the implantation sites and viable fetuses number (p<0.01). The ingested extract also suppresses the sexual behaviour in adult male rats expressed by a prolongation of first mount time, increase in intromission latency, decrease in intromissions number, and prolongation of the post-ejaculatory interval. This led to reduction of the ejaculation time and increase of the post ejaculatory intervals. Ingestion of R. graveolens markedly abolished aggressive behaviour parameters in adult male treated rats namely, suppression in lateralization, boxing bouts and ventral presenting postures. [37]

Anti-nociceptive activity

R. graveolens possess an anti-nociceptive effect against both acetic acid-induced writhing and hot plate-induced thermal stimulation. The anti-inflammatory effect of plant was determined by xylene-induced ear oedema in mice and cotton pellet granuloma test in rats. The anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects were dose dependent and can be used for painful and inflammatory conditions. [38]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.


No documentation.

Side effects

R. graveolens has been found in pre-clinical studies to have antiandrogenic effects in male rats, reducing sperm motility and size of testicular ducts. [37]

While animal models have indicated that use of the herb does not compromise nutrition or kidney function, a case report of an older woman who ingested the herb indicated renal failure linked to use of the herb. [39]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

R. graveolens is an abortifacient and is still used to induce abortion in some cultures [40]. Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women or those planning on becoming pregnant. There have been case reports of post-abortion sepsis in a related Ruta species [41]. 

Age limitation

While animal models have indicated that use of the herb does not compromise nutrition or kidney function, a case report of an older woman who ingested the herb indicated renal failure linked to use of the herb. [39]

Adverse reaction

Large doses of R. graveolens may cause excessive vomiting and elimination. R. graveolens causes phytophotodermatitis exhibiting skin lesions within 6 hours to two days after use. Direct contact with the plant has resulted in severe allergic reactions that mimic burns. [42][43][44]

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.

Interaction with drug

No documentation.

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.


No documentation.

Case Report

No documentation.


Dosage Range

No documentation.

Most Common Dosage                                                                          

No documentation Tea: 1 – 2 teaspoons of dried herb in boiling water one to three times per day. [5]

Crude dried herb:  0.5-1.0 g dried herb one to three times per day. [5]


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

Whole plant. [45]


Furocoumarins are pyrimidine bases and nucleic acids in the cells can damage the skin. The injury may vary in severity from a mild redness to blisters, but with little itching. The affected area becomes pigmented and persisting in some cases long after the redness disappears. [5][6][45][46]

Risk management

Gardeners and farmers growing R. graveolens are advised to wear protective clothing when handling this plant as it can cause contact or photo dermatitis. [5][45]

Poisonous clinical findings

Contact with the leaves of R. graveolens can cause localised sunburn. This is due to the presence of furocoumarins that sensitize the skin to long-wave ultraviolet light. The furocoumarins penetrate the skin more readily if it is wet. There is a delay of between 6 to 24 hours before the sunburn appears. This is in the form of pruritic, erythematous, linear macules and acute vesiculobullous dermatitis. These lesions are characterised by linear erythema with sharp demarcation between the lesion and unaffected skin. [45]

The intake of bruised R. graveolens with brandy had resulted in violent symptoms (Dublin Medical Press) appearing within 1 hour. This includes nausea, vomiting, violent pains in and distension of the abdomen, tenesmus and frequent loose bloody stools accompanied with strangury and dysuria. The death took place five days later. [47] Other symptoms include miosis, cholinergic crisis, headache, nausea and hypertension. [46]

The essential oil can cause contact dermatitis and phototoxic reaction and severe hepatic and renal toxicity. Therapeutic doses sometimes cause depression, sleep disorders, fatigue, dizziness and cramps. Juice from fresh leaves can produce painful gastrointestinal irritation, fainting, sleepiness, weak pulse, abortion, swollen tongue and cool skin. [6]


Activated charcoal, supportive therapy. [46]

Line drawing

No documentation


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