The History And Folklore of Dried Rue

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Dried rue, known scientifically as Ruta graveolens, is a plant that has been cherished for centuries for its medicinal, culinary, and spiritual properties. This hardy herb, native to the Mediterranean region, has woven itself into the fabric of various cultures and traditions. In this article, we will explore the rich history and folklore surrounding dried rue, delving into its ancient uses, mythological significance, and lasting legacy.

A Brief Overview of Dried Rue

Dried rue is a perennial shrub with blue-green leaves and yellow flowers. Once harvested, the leaves are dried to preserve their properties. Known for its bitter taste and strong aroma, dried rue has been used in traditional medicine and as a culinary ingredient.

The Historical Significance of Dried Rue

Ancient Civilizations and Dried Rue

Dried rue has a long history that dates back to ancient civilizations. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all recognized the value of this herb.


In ancient Egypt, rue was used in religious rituals and embalming processes. It was believed to have protective qualities against evil spirits and diseases.


The Greeks referred to rue as “the herb of grace.” It was a symbol of repentance and used in purification rituals. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, documented its medicinal properties, recommending it for various ailments.


The Romans highly valued rue for its medicinal benefits. Pliny the Elder, a Roman author, wrote extensively about the herb in his work “Natural History,” noting its use in treating a range of conditions from digestive issues to insect bites.

The Middle Ages and Dried Rue

During the Middle Ages, dried rue continued to hold a prominent place in herbal medicine and folklore. Monasteries cultivated rue in their gardens, and it became a staple in monastic medicine.

Medicinal Uses

Medieval herbalists prescribed dried rue for everything from headaches to eye strain. It was also used as an antidote for poisons and to ward off the plague.

Folklore and Superstition

Rue was believed to have protective properties against witches and evil spirits. People would hang dried rue in their homes or carry it with them for protection.

Dried Rue in Folklore and Mythology

Mythological Associations

Dried rue is steeped in mythology and associated with various deities and mystical creatures.

Greek Mythology

According to Greek mythology, the goddess Hera used rue to renew her virginity each year. This association with renewal and purity underscored the herb’s significance in Greek culture.

Roman Mythology

The Romans linked rue to the god of healing, Asclepius. They believed that the herb’s medicinal properties were a gift from the gods, further enhancing its mystical reputation.

Folklore Across Cultures

Many cultures have their own unique tales and superstitions involving dried rue.

Italian Folklore

In Italy, rue is known as “herb of grace.” It was believed to protect against the evil eye, and sprigs of dried rue were often worn as amulets.

Mexican Tradition

In Mexican folk medicine, rue is used to dispel negative energy and bring good luck. It is often included in spiritual cleansing rituals known as “limpias.”

Caribbean Practices

In the Caribbean, dried rue is used in various spiritual practices. It is believed to provide protection against negative influences and is often incorporated into ritual baths and incense.

The Medicinal Uses of Dried Rue

Dried rue has been utilized for its medicinal properties for centuries. While modern medicine has evolved, many traditional uses of rue still hold value today.

Traditional Remedies

Digestive Health

Rue has been used to alleviate digestive issues such as bloating and gas. Its bitter properties stimulate digestion and promote the production of gastric juices.


The herb’s anti-inflammatory properties make it useful for treating arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Compresses made from dried rue can help reduce swelling and pain.


Rue’s antimicrobial properties have been employed to treat infections and wounds. It was often used in poultices and ointments to prevent infection.

Modern Applications

While the use of dried rue has declined in mainstream medicine, it remains a valuable herb in alternative and holistic healing practices.


Rue essential oil, derived from the dried leaves, is used in aromatherapy to relieve stress and anxiety.


In homeopathy, rue is used to treat a variety of conditions, including eye strain, varicose veins, and menstrual cramps.

The Culinary Uses of Dried Rue

Dried rue is not only valued for its medicinal properties but also for its role in culinary traditions.

Traditional Dishes

Mediterranean Cuisine

In the Mediterranean region, dried rue is used sparingly as a seasoning in various dishes. Its strong flavor complements meats, stews, and sauces.

Ethiopian Cooking

In Ethiopia, rue is an essential ingredient in the traditional coffee ceremony. Dried rue leaves are added to coffee to impart a unique flavor and aroma.

Modern Culinary Uses

While not as common in modern cuisine, dried rue is still appreciated by chefs who seek to incorporate traditional flavors into their dishes.

Herbal Infusions

Rue can be used to make herbal teas and infusions. When used in moderation, it adds a distinctive taste that pairs well with honey and lemon.

Flavored Oils and Vinegars

Infusing oils and vinegars with dried rue creates flavorful condiments that can be used in salads and marinades.

Growing and Drying Rue

Cultivating Rue

Growing rue is relatively easy, making it a popular herb for home gardens.

Climate and Soil

Rue thrives in well-drained soil and prefers full sun. It is drought-resistant and can withstand a variety of climates.


Rue can be grown from seeds or cuttings. It is a hardy plant that requires minimal care.

Drying and Storing Rue

Once harvested, rue can be dried and stored for later use.

Drying Process

To dry rue, hang the stems upside down in a dark, well-ventilated area. Once the leaves are dry and brittle, they can be removed from the stems and stored in airtight containers.

Storage Tips

Keep dried rue in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Properly stored, dried rue can retain its properties for up to a year.

Final Thoughts

Dried rue, with its rich history and folklore, remains a fascinating and valuable herb. From ancient civilizations to modern times, its medicinal, culinary, and spiritual uses have left an indelible mark on various cultures. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a culinary adventurer, or someone interested in herbal medicine, dried rue offers a unique glimpse into the past and continues to be a source of intrigue and benefit today

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