Ruta is today primarily a homeopathic remedy made from the plant Ruta graveolens. This plant is also called rue, herb of grace, herb of repentance, bitter herb, or rue bitterwort. It grows to a height of about 3 ft (1 m) and has fleshy leaves and yellowish flowers. Ruta is native to southern Europe, but it is cultivated worldwide. The plant has a strong, unpleasant odor.
Chemical compounds found in ruta include rutin, a flavonoid; alkaloids, including graveoline and rutacridine; lignans in the root; and furocoumarins, which are compounds that are toxic to both animals and humans. Symptoms of ruta poisoning in humans include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, exhaustion, and convulsions. Animals that eat ruta while grazing develop tremors, frequent urination, difficulty breathing, loss of coordination, and inability to stand up.
Homeopathic medicine operates on the principle that "like heals like." This means that a disease can be cured by treating it with products that produce the same symptoms as the disease. These products follow another homeopathic law, the Law of Infinitesimals. In opposition to traditional medicine, the Law of Infinitesimals states that the lower a dose of curative, the more effective it is. To achieve a very low dose, the curative is diluted many, many times until only a tiny amount remains in a huge amount of the diluting liquid.
In homeopathic medicine, ruta is used as a first-aid remedy. It is used to treat strains and sprains, injuries of the cartilage and tendons around the joints, injuries to tissues lying over the bone, injuries of the periosteum, and sciatica. Ruta is often used for pain and stiffness in the hands, wrists, feet, and legs.
Ruta is also a remedy for eyestrain. It is primarily used when the eyes feel hot, red, or are burning after periods of close work such as reading or sewing. Ruta is also used to treat headache that results from eyestrain.
In homeopathic dentistry, ruta is used to relieve pain. It is also used to treat infection of the tooth socket after a tooth is pulled. Other homeopathic uses for ruta include treatment of plantar warts on the feet, blood and mucus in stools, pain in the rectum, rectal prolapse, and general weakness and depression.
In homeopathic medicine, the fact that certain symptoms get better or worse under different conditions is used as a diagnostic tool to indicate what remedy will be most effective. Symptoms that benefit from treatment with ruta get worse with heavy use of the eyes; in cold, damp weather; with rest or lying down; and by stooping or crouching. Symptoms improve with movement.
Homeopathy also ascribes certain personality types to certain remedies. People with the ruta personality are said to be depressed, chronically dissatisfied, quarrelsome, and apt to contradict others. They may be anxious and lack a sense of personal satisfaction. They exhibit restlessness, but still feel unmotivated and despairing.
In addition to homeopathic use, ruta has been used by folk herbalists for centuries. The ancient Greeks used it for coughs. In the Middle Ages, this herb was used as a charm against witchcraft. It was also used as an abortifacient and an emmenagogue, or preparation to bring on a woman's menstrual period. Michelangelo (1475-1564) and artists of his time believed ruta improved eyesight. Because of its intense odor, ruta was used to ward off plague, repel flies, kill fleas, and prevent the spread of typhus. It has also been used to treat mushroom poisoning, snake bites, poisonous insect stings, epilepsy, and internal parasites.
Ruta is prepared from the whole plant, picked before it flowers, and is then dried. For homeopathic remedies, the dried plant material is finely ground then prepared by extensive dilutions. There are two homeopathic dilution scales: the decimal (x) scale with a dilution of 1:10 and the centesimal (c) scale with a dilution of 1:100. Once the mixture is diluted, shaken, strained, then rediluted many times to reach the desired degree of potency, the final mixture is added to lactose (a type of sugar) tablets or pellets. These are then stored away from light. Ruta is available commercially in tablets in many different strengths. Dosage depends on the symptoms being treated.
Homeopathic and orthodox medical practitioners agree that by the time the initial remedy solution is diluted to strengths used in homeopathic healing, it is likely that very few molecules of the original remedy remain. Homeopaths, however, believe that these remedies continue to work through an effect called "potentization" that has not yet been explained by mainstream scientists.
Pregnant women should not use ruta because it stimulates contraction of the uterus and can cause miscarriage. Many people get contact dermatitis (skin rashes) from handling fresh ruta. People should wear gloves when harvesting this plant to prevent this rash.
When taken in the recommended dilute form, no side effects have been reported, except for individual aggravations that can occur with homeopathic remedies. Concentrated quantities of ruta can cause miscarriage.
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Bernardo, L. C., M. B. de Oliveira, C. R. da Silva, et al. "Biological Effects of Rutin on the Survival of Escherichia coli AB1157 and on the Electrophoretic Mobility of Plasmid PUC 9.1 DNA." Cellular and Molecular Biology 48 (July 2002): 517-520.
el Agraa, S. E., S. M. el Badwi, and S. E. Adam. "Preliminary Observations on Experimental Ruta graveolens Toxicosis in Nubian Goats." Tropical Animal Health and Production 34 (July 2002): 271-281.
Foundation for Homeopathic Education and Research. 21 Kittredge St., Berkeley, CA 94704. (510) 649-8930.
International Foundation for Homeopathy. P. O. Box 7, Edmonds, WA 98020. (206) 776-4147.
National Center for Homeopathy. 801 N. Fairfax St., Suite 306, Alexandria, VA 22314. (703) 548-7790.
Rebecca J. Frey, PhD