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Updated on December 10, 2015

The Herb Rue

Here I'll be telling you all about rue, its uses, appearance, myths, in fact, anything I can find about it, mixed in with some personal experiences.

The Latin name for rue is Ruta graveolens.

There are some really weird uses for this plant! Be careful with rue, it can cause skin problems. For details, keep reading.


Herbals Books of Interest

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn's Sourcebook Series) (Cunningham's Encyclopedia Series)
Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn's Sourcebook Series) (Cunningham's Encyclopedia Series)

Everything you'll ever want to know about the magical use of rue and other herbs. This book is one of the best!

Rue flower.
Rue flower. | Source

Why I Like Rue

Many people dislike rue, but I really like it. Mostly, people don't like the smell of it, finding it very strong and acerbic, however, I love it. Once of the pleasures of walking in the garden is brushing against the rue bushes and making the scent stronger.

Cats are supposed to dislike rue, and it has been used as a cat repellant. It didn't work with my previous cat, because one of her favourite spots to lie in the sun was partially under the rue bush. She was a strange cat anyway.

Another thing I love about rue is the colour of the leaves, a sort of blue-green - it's very unusual, but also very striking. The colour of the leaves makes rue a good contrast plant in the garden.

Although I used to have several rue plants scattered around the garden, one thing I never used it for is as a herb - perhaps because it is now out of favour with herbal medicine, but also because of some other effects it can have.

By Kurt Stüber [1] [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Kurt Stüber [1] [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Growing Rue

Rue is an easy plant to grow, and tolerates a variety of conditions. It often flourishes in the poorest part of the garden. It was often grown in medieval herb gardens, with rosemary and thyme.

It is quite hardy, and comes from the Mediterranian area, so can take quite a lot of heat. It seems to prefer a semi-shaded position, however, and also likes quite a dry soil.

Rue can be grown easily from either seeds or cuttings. If you're propagating it by cutting, some root hormone dust or honey on the end of the stem can be helpful. My rue seeds itself occasionally, so I have a continual rue population. It's not that prolific though.

Rue in my garden.
Rue in my garden. | Source

Rue Can Cause Allergies

One weekend a while ago, my partner kindly did some gardening for me, part of which involved tying back the rue, which had become top heavy with flowers. Unfortunately, he came out in a rash which looked like very bad sunburn - an allergic reaction.

Just over a week later, it was still red and itchy, and peeled badly, again like sunburn. We used a cortisone cream on it, which seemed to help a little, and also lavender oil, but it really took quite a few weeks to heal.

The guilty party is the small yellow flowered bush, to the left of the tree in the picture above.

Next time he does any work near the rue, he'll be wearing armour! Or at least very long thick gloves....... It will probably be much easier if I do any work involving rue, as it doesn't seem to bother me at all.

Just be careful if you're working with herbs in your garden - some of them can really give you an allergic reaction.


More On The Allergy

After my partner developed a terrible red burn-like rash on his arms, while trimming my rue bushes back, it took about six weeks to heal, and you could still see the marks for a while after that..

Because he is often to be found in the garden, helping me out, I've had to make the decision as to whether or not to keep the rue. He knows I like it, so told me to keep it, but of course, it has to go, as he's much more important to me than a couple of rue plants. I will miss them though,as I really like their aroma when I brush by them.

Warnings About Rue

Since my partner developed an allergy to rue, I've been doing a little research about it. There are quite a few times when rue is contra-indicated. Please don't treat yourself with rue; leave it to a qualified practitioner.

If you know you have an allergy to this plant, avoid it like the plague.

Do not eat rue, as it may be poisonous. It can cause vomiting, and stomach upsets.

Pregnant women should never use rue. It can interfer with blood flow, and may, in extreme cases, cause a miscarriage.

If you have an allergy to rue, and have touched it, stay out of the sun, as it may well exacerbate the rash you get.

A Cat Flea


Rue As An Insect Repellant

It's said that rue makes a great insect and flea repellant around the house, and I must admit that would be very useful if you have dogs and cats inside the home. A rue plant in the house would be great, if you like the aroma of the leaves.

Rue planted around the garden is said to reduce insect infestations. This sounds really good to me, and I'm considering planting a couple of rue bushes in the vegetable patch, although some say that care should be taken planting rue close to edible plants, as it's said to be toxic when ingested in large quantities.

Rue Poll

Have you ever had any problems with Rue?

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Herbs in Pots: A Practical Guide to Container Gardening Indoors and Out
Herbs in Pots: A Practical Guide to Container Gardening Indoors and Out

Haven't got much space? Grow your herbs in containers.


The Evil Eye

The Evil Eye
The Evil Eye | Source

Rue In Witchcraft

Its magical qualities:

  • Gender : Masculine
  • Ruling : Planet Mars
  • Powers : Healing, Mental Powers, Exorcism, Love
  • Deities : Diana, Aradia

Magical Uses

If you place rue leaves on the forehead, it will relieve headaches.

Worn around the neck it helps healing, and wards off future health problems.

Sniffing fresh rue leaves clears the head in romantic matters, and makes your mind clearer.

Rue can be added to healing incenses and poppets.

Use a sprig of rue to sprinkle salt water through a house to clear it of negativity.

The ancient Greeks believed rue was a protection against the evil eye, and the Romans ate it to preserve themselves from the evil eye.


Odd Bits About Rue

Some butterflies lay their eggs on rue, as it's a good food plant for their varieties. The butterfly in the photo is a red admiral.

Some ancient jewellers made charms of gold and silver in the shape of rue, and these were used for protection.

Pilocarpine is contained in rue, and this is used to induce abortion in horses.

In some Christian church ceremonies, rue was used, because it was associated with regret and bitterness, and rue is a bitter herb. The herb was sometimes called "The herb of grace" because of this.

Rue is sometimes made into an external use ointment for arthritis, rheumatism, neuralgia, and gout.

A Short Video Of Rue

Do You Like Rue? - Tell me why.......

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    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Hello Livia, It's possible it may have been the rue that gave you the burn. If there is any chance that you could be allergic to it, then I'd advise avoiding it in the future. Please note that I have no medical training at all though! :-) Rue can actually exacerbate the power of the sun, and make you burn more than you normally would. Better safe than sorry, and stay away from it in the future. Thanks for visiting.

    • profile image

      Livia 3 years ago


      Recently I got a strange sunburn like z-shaped stain on my forehead which I couldn't explain at all, which was worrying me. By chance I came across your article on the "powers of rue", and as on the previous day to noticing the stain/burn I did touch wild rue I wonder if I have an allergy to it and touched myself on the forehead after checking out the smell of the leaves, thereby giving myself a burn. It was not bad, just looking reddish at first then turning darker before peeling in the middle just like a regular sunburn. I don't remember it itching, burning or bothering me in any way, and the skin wasn't blistered or anything other than just darker before falling. Do you think that contact with rue could explain this? I just want to know so I know what to avoid. :)

      Thank you!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Colin323: It has a very strong scent Colin, and some people can't stand it. I like it a lot. Thanks for visiting.

    • profile image

      Colin323 3 years ago

      I knew nothing about Rue so this was very helpful. I like the sound of it for attracting butterflies, so I will try some in a wild spot at the bottom of my garden. It might be worth trying a potted Rue in the greenhouse too, to deter greenfly. Thanks for this information.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      I don't like it much but thanks for sharing all these info about rue :)

    • profile image

      akpalone 4 years ago

      Good information

    • WeaselPuppy profile image

      WeaselPuppy 4 years ago

      I never liked rue - but that was just because of the smell, and I am allergic. So, rue kind of started the quarrel. Hope your partner's reaction has soothed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      When pruning the Rue just after flowering I noticed a burn like inflammation on my arm. I have always liked the smell and look of the plant and grow it for its herbal qualities. I now treat it with a careful respect as I am now allergic to the plant.

    • maryseena profile image

      maryseena 5 years ago

      Rue is a herb used in Ayurveda ( a natural medicine stream originated in ancient India) with severe caution attached to it. Most medicinal plants which are highly effective in small quantities are extremely toxic in larger quantities! I have used it for treating cough and cold in my children even though I find the smell offensive. I know many people who grow it for medicinal use, but it's the first time I hear about any allergic reaction. Good thing you decided that the plant should go.

    • profile image

      katespade 5 years ago

      If you are not careful with essential oils, you may cause skin problems. This article will tell you which oils to look out for when it comes to skin irritation, sensitization and phototoxicity.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @katespade: Very true, and one has to be very careful with herbs and oils.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @anonymous: Hi Tara, you're right about us all having allergies, or at least , sensitivity to some things. I can't eat tomatoes, would you believe? We have solved the rue problem - I deal with all gardening issues with it, so my friend never gets near it. :-) Thank for visiting

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Seems your friend has an allergy to Rue. We all have allergies to a few things. Homeopathy can help. For example I am allergic to a common ivy, a popular landscape plant. It is very beautiful. The preparation Rhus Tox does remove its symptoms for me. These symptoms are profuse inflammatory response. Sinus, have to blow my nose for 5 minutes & sometimes a rash. The acute mental reaction is crying and depression. All from one little plant. But this plant is everywhere so I just use rhus tox. Your friend can look into the homeopathic remedy for rue. Rue like parsley is super protective. Folklore has thresholds of windows & doors dusted with dried or fresh plant. Combined with Thyme as a truth revealer.

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 8 years ago

      Very interesting page for any gardener. I didn't know anything about rue - maybe this is the kind of herbs/plants we don't find in my European country - but I've learned many things about it.