Some voices claim that Ruta Graveolens was the model for the “cross” of the French playing cards – not the shamrock, as often assumed.
Probably because rue was omnipresent in well-stocked kitchen and herb gardens – until the 18th century – and then somehow fell into oblivion.
Once you smell its beguiling fragrance and catch sight of its wonderful silvery-green foliage, it certainly will become part of your own garden – at least that was the case with me.
In the Roman Empire, rue was a popular kitchen herb; not only did it help digest (mostly horribly heavy) Roman food, but it was considered a reliable remedy against bad breath. Gourmet “Apicius” mentions this herb 101 times in his cookbook.
The Abbot of Reichenau (Walahfrid) wrote about Ruta Graveolens in 724 in his book of poems “Hortulus“:
This shady grove adorns dark-colored rue
Green bushes. Its leaves are small, and so it scatters like umbrellas
Short their shadows only, lets penetrate the blowing of the wind
And the rays of Apollo down to the lowest stems.
If one only touches it lightly, it spreads strong scents.
It has a powerful effect, with multiple healing powers,
It is said that it is especially effective against hidden poisons,
Cleanses the body of juices that corrupt it.
In the 9th century Charlemagne determined in his “Capitulare de Villis” what should be grown in an herb garden: rue was definately amongst them.
This herb was found in the renowned St. Gall monastery garden and in many medieval monastery gardens as well as in well-stocked peasant gardens.
It was considered a wonderful remedy for ear- and headaches (Paracelsus); an infusion of rue was used to refresh tired and strained eyes. In today’s homeopathy this effect is still appreciated.
Till the 18th century rue was used in Europe as an herb against witches, the evil eye and even against the devil. Since then, it has disappeared from the gardens and minds of our geographical region – quite the opposite of Latin America.
In South America, there is a living mystical tradition of using Ruta Graveolens for mental cleansing and promoting clairvoyance. This involves ritual ablutions with this fragrant herb.
Names for rue
Grace herb: the herb was used for sprinkling holy water in church
Cross rue: leaf shape which gave its name to the French playing card
Wall rue: overgrown and found everywhere – in every crack of the walls
Dead man’s rue: due to its thujone content it is said to have an abortive effect
Squashed mint & rocky soil
Intensity of scent
Strengthend and earthing
Minimum 95 gr
9 to 10 (alkaline)