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Ruta graveolens


Ruta graveolens


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Ruda, Jackman’s blue, Herbygrass, Garden Herbygrass


From its woody base, Ruta graveolens usual grows to a height of no more than 1m.  The stems become more herbaceous near the top of the plant.  The leaves of the plant, roughly 7-13cm in length, are pinnately divided into fleshy, oblong, almost spoon-like segments and are usually sea-green in colour.  In the middle of the summer, R. graveolens yields small, yellow flowers which are 1.3cm in diametre and cover the plant uniformly.

Origin / Habitat

R. graveolens is a perennial shrub native to Southern Europe, but it grows wildly throughout the North American continent.  Though it flourishes along the mid-Atlantic seaboard, and on into Ontario and Quebec, R. graveolens is also known to grow in Texas, California, Alabama, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Alberta.  Typically, R. graveolens grows along stream beds and roadsides, and is sometimes classified as a weed.

Chemical Constituents


Quinoline alkaloids

Acridone alkaloids

Furanocoumarins (psoralen, bergapten, xanthotoxin, isopimpinellin, imperatorin)



Alcohols (methyl-ethyl-carbinol, pinene, limenenes(2),(3),(4),(5),(6)

Plant Part Used

Aerial parts and root. (7)

Traditional Use

Though native to Europe, Native Americans found uses for R. graveolens medicinally, primarily by the Cherokee tribe.(7) Often, the leaves have been used as a sedative to ease epilepsy and hysterics.(8) When used as a compound, both internally and externally, R. graveolens has been used to relieve muscle spasm.(7) 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.(7)

R. graveolens has traditionally been used as a vermifuge.(9) Typically, a decoction, or syrup made from boiled leaves has been used to eliminate gastrointestinal worms. Aside from expelling worms, R. graveolens has been used to treat various gastrointestinal discomforts, as well.  Though it can cause stomach discomfort in high doses, R. graveolens has been used, in low does to relieve the pain of colic(9) and various abdominal pain.(7)

A sprig from R. graveolens inserted into the ear has been thought to relieve earache by people of the Diegueno tribe.(7)


Dosages vary by tribe and indication.

Tea: 1–2 teaspoons of dried herb in boiling water 1-3 times per day.

Crude dried herb:  .5-1.0gm dried herb 1-3 times per day.(1)



Various extracts of R. graveolens and/or the active constituents have demonstrated mutagenic activity.  One study examining the mutagenic activity against Salmonella typhimurium strain determined that there were various mechanisms involved including but not limited to the furoquinolines.(10)  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.(11)  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.(12)

The traditional use of R. graveolens as an anti-inflammatory has been verified in animal models.  In adjuvant arthritis in rats, a dose of 20mg/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.(13) R. graveolens also contains some antioxidants.(14) 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.(15),(16)

Antimicrobial activity of various preparations including the essential oil(17) of R. graveolens has been demonstrated in several studies.(18),(19) In one of these studies, a chemical constituent of R. graveolens, rutacridone epoxides, was found to be more effective than ethacridine lactate.(20) Other studies have demonstrated activity against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria, fungi(21) and Trichomonas vaginalis.(22),(18)

Additional pre-clinical studies have examined the antiarythmic properties of R. graveolens;(23) the cytotoxic properties of R. graveolens;(24),(25) its possible action as an MAO inhibitor;(26) as a possible male contraceptive;(27) and as an analgesic.(28)  There have also been investigations into its use as a chemotherapeutic agent, but these findings have not been clinically evaluated.(25),(29),(30)


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Large doses of R. graveolens may cause excessive vomiting and elimination.

R. graveolens causes phytophotodermatitis(33) exhibiting skin lesions within 6 hours to two days after use.(34)  Direct contact with the plant has resulted in severe allergic reactions that mimic burns.(35)

R. graveolens has been found in pre-clinical studies to have antiandrogenic effects in male rats, reducing sperm motility and size of testicular ducts.(27)

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.(36)



R. graveolens is an abortifacient and, in some cultures is still used to induce abortion.(31)  Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women, or by those planning on becoming pregnant.  There have been case reports of post-abortion sepsis in a related Ruta species.(32)

Age limitation

Not to be used with children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Read More

  1) Western Herb

  2) South Africa Herbs


  1. Barceloux DG. Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances. NJ: Wiley & Sons; 2008. 582.
  2. International Program on Chemical Safety Website.  Available from: [Accessed on 12 August 2009].
  3. Ekiert H, Czygan FC.Accumulation of biologically active furanocoumarins in agitated cultures of Ruta graveolens L. and Ruta graveolens ssp. divaricata (Tenore) Gams. Pharmazie. Aug2005;60(8).623-626.
  4. Pirouzpanah S, Rashidi MR, Delazar A, Razavieh SV, Hamidi A.Inhibitory effects of Ruta graveolens L. extract on guinea pig liver aldehyde oxidase. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). Jan2006;54(1):9-13.
  5. Orlita A, Sidwa-Gorycka M, Paszkiewicz M, Malinski E, Kumirska J, Siedlecka EM, Łojkowska E, Stepnowski P.Application of chitin and chitosan as elicitors of coumarins and fluoroquinolone alkaloids in Ruta graveolens L. (common rue). Biotechnol Appl Biochem. Oct2008;51(Pt 2):91-96.
  6. Chen CC, Huang YL, Huang FI, Wang CW, Ou JC.Water-soluble glycosides from Ruta graveolens. J Nat Prod. Jul2001;64(7):990-992.
  7. Moerman DE.  Native American Ethnobotany. Portland OR: Timber Press; 2009
  8. Duke JA. The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook: Your Everyday Reference to the Herbs for Healing.  Emmaus, PA: Rodale, Inc; 2000.
  9. Sumner J. American household botany: a history of useful plants, 1620-1900. Portland, OR: Timber Press;  2004.
  10. Paulini H, Eilert U, Schimmer O.Mutagenic compounds in an extract from rutae herba (Ruta graveolens L.). I. Mutagenicity is partially caused by furoquinoline alkaloids. Mutagenesis. Jul1987;2(4):271-273.
  11. Paulini H, Schimmer O.Mutagenicity testing of rutacridone epoxide and rutacridone, alkaloids in Ruta graveolens L., using the Salmonella/microsome assay. Mutagenesis. Jan1989;4(1):45-50.
  12. Preethi KC, Nair CK, Kuttan R.Clastogenic potential of Ruta graveolens extract and a homeopathic preparation in mouse bone marrow cells. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. Oct-Dec2008;9(4):763-769.
  13. Ratheesh M, Shyni GL, Helen A.Methanolic extract of Ruta graveolens L. inhibits inflammation and oxidative stress in adjuvant induced model of arthritis in rats. Inflammopharmacology. Apr 2009;17(2):100-105.
  14. Adam M, Dobiás P, Eisner A, Ventura K.Extraction of antioxidants from plants using ultrasonic methods and their antioxidant capacity. J Sep Sci. Jan2009;32(2):288-294.
  15. Raghav SK, Gupta B, Shrivastava A, Das HR.Inhibition of lipopolysaccharide-inducible nitric oxide synthase and IL-1beta through suppression of NF-kappaB activation by 3-(1'-1'-dimethyl-allyl)-6-hydroxy-7-methoxy-coumarin isolated from Ruta graveolens L. Eur. J Pharmacol. 29Mar2007;560(1):69-80.
  16. Raghav SK, Gupta B, Agrawal C, Goswami K, Das HR.Anti-inflammatory effect of Ruta graveolens L. in murine macrophage cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 8Mar2006;104(1-2):234-239.
  17. Nogueira JC, Diniz Mde F, Lima EO.In vitro antimicrobial activity of plants in Acute Otitis Externa. Braz J Otorhinolaryngol. Jan-Feb2008;74(1):118-124.
  18. Ojala T, Remes S, Haansuu P, Vuorela H, Hiltunen R, Haahtela K, Vuorela P.Antimicrobial activity of some coumarin containing herbal plants growing in Finland. J Ethnopharmacol. Nov2000;73(1-2):299-305.
  19. Alzoreky NS, Nakahara K.Antibacterial activity of extracts from some edible plants commonly consumed in Asia. Int J Food Microbiol. 15Feb2003;80(3):223-230.
  20. Wolters B, Eilert U.Antimicrobial Substances in Callus Cultures of Ruta graveolens*. Planta Med. Oct 1981;43(10):166-174.
  21. Oliva A, Meepagala KM, Wedge DE, Harries D, Hale AL, Aliotta G, Duke SO.Natural fungicides from Ruta graveolens L. leaves, including a new quinolone alkaloid. J Agric Food Chem. 12Feb2003;51(4):890-896.
  22. Al-Heali FM, Rahemo Z.The combined effect of two aqueous extracts on the growth of Trichomonas vaginalis, in vitro. Turkiye Parazitol Derg. 2006;30(4):272-274.
  23. Khori V, Nayebpour M, Semnani S, Golalipour MJ, Marjani A.Prolongation of AV nodal refractoriness by Ruta graveolens in isolated rat hearts. Potential role as an anti-arrhythmic agent. Saudi Med J. Mar2008;29(3):357-363.
  24. Trovato A, Monforte MT, Rossitto A, Forestieri AM.In vitro cytotoxic effect of some medicinal plants containing flavonoids. Boll Chim Farm.;13Apr1996.(4):263-266.
  25. Réthy B, Zupkó I, Minorics R, Hohmann J, Ocsovszki I, Falkay G.Investigation of cytotoxic activity on human cancer cell lines of arborinine and furanoacridones isolated from Ruta graveolens. Planta Med. Jan2007;73(1):41-48.
  26. Stafford GI, Pedersen ME, van Staden J, Jäger AK.Review on plants with CNS-effects used in traditional South African medicine against mental diseases. J Ethnopharmacol. 28Oct2008;119(3):513-537.
  27. Khouri NA, El-Akawi Z.Antiandrogenic activity of Ruta graveolens L in male Albino rats with emphasis on sexual and aggressive behavior. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. Dec2005;26(6):823-829.
  28. Atta AH, Alkofahi A.Anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of some Jordanian medicinal plant extracts. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar1998;60(2):117-124.
  29. Pathak S, Multani AS, Banerji P, Banerji P.Ruta 6 selectively induces cell death in brain cancer cells but proliferation in normal peripheral blood lymphocytes: A novel treatment for human brain cancer. Int J Oncol. Oct2003;23(4):975-982.
  30. Preethi KC, Kuttan G, Kuttan R.Anti-tumour activity of Ruta graveolens extract. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. Jul-Sep2006;7(3):439-443.
  31. Ciganda C, Laborde A Herbal infusions used for induced abortion. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 2003;41(3):235-239.
  32. Goncolo S, Correia C, Couto, J. Contact and photo contact dermatitis from Ruta Chalepensis. Con Derm.(2).1989: 200.
  33. Eickhorst K, DeLeo V, Csaposs J.Rue the herb: Ruta graveolens--associated phytophototoxicity. Dermatitis. Mar2007;18(1):52-55.
  34. Gawkrodger D, Savin J. Phytophotodermatitis due to Common Rue (R. graveolens).  Con Derm. 1995; 22;63.
  35. Furniss D, Adams T.Herb of grace: an unusual cause of phytophotodermatitis mimicking burn injury. J Burn Care Res. Sep-Oct2007;28(5):767-769.
  36. Seak CJ, Lin CC.Ruta graveolens intoxication. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2007;45(2):173-175.


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