What is Rue Oil?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

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 is sometimes used in the creation of incense.
Rue oil is sometimes used in the creation of incense.

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.

Rue oil has been used to treat itchy skin.
Rue oil has been used to treat itchy skin.

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.

Some people apply rue oil to varicose veins.
Some people apply rue oil to varicose veins.

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.

Rue oil can compliment herbs such as vervain.
Rue oil can compliment herbs such as vervain.

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.

Rue oil can be used as a herbal remedy for a toothache.
Rue oil can be used as a herbal remedy for a toothache.

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.

Rue oil can be used for as an herbal remedy or many medical conditions.
Rue oil can be used for as an herbal remedy or many medical conditions.

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.

Rue oil may be helpful for the treatment of warts.
Rue oil may be helpful for the treatment of warts.
The oil of rue plants can be used as a bug repellent.
The oil of rue plants can be used as a bug repellent.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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Discussion Comments

tanner182

@Almita - As a parent, yes -- you should avoid rue oil. It can cause abortion in pregnant women and is extremely toxic. The amount in cleaning fluids is very small, so just wear cleaning gloves and you'll be fine.

I was looking up essential oil information and it was a surprise to read about rue oil. A website I found listed rue oil uses -- in perfumes, aromatherapy, cleaning supplies and so on.

The one thing that bothered me the most was that it listed rue oil being used in flavoring things and right below it in the paragraph -- it listed how rue oil should never be taken internally. Then why is it in flavoring?

I think half of everybody's health problems come from what we put in our food. We literally are putting poisons in our food, just because we think it's safe in small amounts. If every company did that with different types of toxins -- exactly how many do we eat everyday?

I think you are absolutely right -- rue oil should be avoided unless you have something it can cure. It has saved a lot of lives.

Almita

Okay, I find it a little creepy that rue oil is used in so many cleaners. It kills fungi and lots of types of bacteria -- and it's in things we use everyday.

I found information on this oil while looking up aromatherapy and message oils. As a parent, I don't think that it's such a good idea to breath rue oil in aroma therapy -- even in the smallest amount!

Spraying it around the house when cleaning is just as bad. Why in the world is it considered such a wonderful thing if it's so toxic and dangerous?

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