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Rue (Ruta graveolens L.)


pharmaceuticalHerba Rutae
Amharicጤነ አዳም
Taena Adam (Ruta chalepensis)
Arabicفيجن, سذاب
فَيْجَن, سَذَاب
Fayjan, Sadab
Aramaicܦܓܢ, ܣܕܒ, ܒܫܫ
Peggan, Sadab, Basshash
AzeriƏtirli sədo
Әтирли сәдо
BasqueBortusai, Boskoitz, Erruda, Moskatxa
臭草 [chau chóu], 荊芥七 [gìng gaai chāt], 小香草 [síu hēung chóu], 芸香 [wàhn hēung], 臭艾 [chau ngaai]
Chau chou, Ging gaai chat, Siu heung chou, Wahn heung
臭草 [chòu cǎo], 荊芥七 [jīng jiè qī], 小香草 [xiǎo xiāng cǎo], 芸香 [yún xiāng], 臭艾 [chòu ài]
Chou cao, Chow-cho, Jing jie qi, Xiao xiang cao, Yun xiang, Chou ai
Copticⲕⲁⲛⲟⲡ, ⲕⲉϥⲣⲓⲟⲥ, ⲙ̅ⲧ̅ⲟ̅ⲧ̅ϥ̅
Kanop, Kefrios, Emtotf
CroatianRuta, Rutvica
CzechRouta, Routa vonná
EnglishGarden rue, Herb of Grace
EstonianRuud, Aedruud
FinnishRuuta, Tuoksuruuta
FrenchRue odorante, Herbe de grâce, Péganium
GaelicRugh, Rù, Ruigh
T’igani, Tigani
GermanRaute, Weinraute, Gartenraute, Weinkraut
Greek (Old)Πήγανον, Ῥυτή
Peganon, Rhyte
Hebrewפיגם, רוטה
רוּטָה, פֵּיגָם
Pegam, Ruta
Satari, Sitab
HungarianRuta, Kerti ruta
Japaneseルー, ヘンルーダ
Henruda, Ru
Korean, 루타
Ru, Ruta
LatinBaca rutæ, Ruta
LatvianSmaržīgā rūta
LithuanianŽalioji rūta
MalayDaun aroda
Arootha, Nagathali, Satap
MalteseFejġel (R. chalepensis)
Maruya, Ruta
PolishRuta zwyczajna
RomanianRută, Rută de grădină, VirnanțVirnanţ
RussianРута душистая
Ruta dushistaya
SanskritSadapaha, Suvarchala
SerbianРута, Седеф, Рутвица
Ruta, Sedef, Rutvica
SlovakRuta voňavá
SlovenianVinska rutica
Tamilஅரூத, அருவதா
Aruda (??), Aruvada
Teluguసదాప, సదాపచెట్టు, సదాపాకు
Aruda, Sadapa, Sadapachettu, Sadapaku
Thaiอีหรุด, รู
Irut, Ru
TurkishSedef otu, Sazab, Sezab
UkrainianРута запашна, Садова рута
Ruta zapashna, Sadova ruta
Sadab, Sudah
VietnameseCửu lý hương
Cuu ly huong
Yiddishרוטע, װײַנרוטע
Rute, Vaynrute
Ruta graveolens: Garden rue unripe fruits
Ripening fruits of rue
Ruta graveolens: Rue leaf
Rue leaf
Ruta graveolens: Dried rue capsules
Dried rue fruits
Used plant part

Fresh leaves; if not available, dried leaves are a poor substitute. The fruits of rue are rarely used in the kitchen.

Plant family

Rutaceae (citrus family).

Sensory quality

Rue’s fragrance is strong, character­istically aromatic and sweet; it cannot be compared with any other spice. The taste is rather bitter, even more so when dried. Rue fruits (ber­ries) taste similar, but stronger and some­what hot.

Main constitu­ents

Rue contains max. 1% of an es­sential oil, whose main com­po­nents are 2-hen­decanone (2-un­decanone, methyl­nonyl­ketone, up to 60%) and 2-nonanone (methyl­heptyl­ketone) plus several more ketones and cor­responding secon­dary alcohols. Methyl anthranilate and anethole glycol are also reported; terpenoids are re­presented mainly by limonene, α-pinene, cumin­aldehyde and l,8-cineol.

Responsible for the bitter taste is rutin (7 to 8% in the dried leaves), a poly­phenolic flavono­lone glycoside con­taining the di­saccharid rutinose as sugar component. Rutin is also found in capers, water pepper and orange peel.

Ruta graveolens: Close-up to rue flowers
Close-up to rue flowers
Ruta graveolens: Rue (flower)
Rue flowers

The origin of rue probably lies in the Medi­terra­nean or Western Asia.


Most Western European languages have similar names for rue: English and French rue, Dutch ruit and German Raute all go back to Latin ruta, which itself was borrowed from Greek rhyte [ῥυτή]. The ultimate origin of the word is not known.

Quite interestingly, several names of rue have chance homo­nyms: English rue may also mean remorse, French rue almost always means street and German Raute is the mathematical term for rhomb, equilateral parallelogram. Moreover, the German noun Rute whip is also unrelated.

Ruta graveolens: Flowering garden rue
Flowering rue

Ruta graveolens: Flowering rue shrub
Flowering rue

In the New Testa­ment (see pome­granate about biblical herbs and spices), rue is men­tioned as peganon [πήγανον], a name still used in Modern Greek as apiganos [απήγανος]. There have been attempts to link that name with Greek pegos [πηγός] strong and thus to a Proto-Indo–Euro­pean root PEH₂Ḱ strengthen (cf. fix), but the semantic connection is unclear at best. Related plant names are French péganium, Hebrew pegam [פיגם], Aramaic pegana [ܦܓܢܐ], and Arabic al-fayjan [الفيجن], perhaps also Georgian t’igani [ტეგანი].

In modern botanical taxonomy, the term Peganum denotes a genus from a remotely related family Zygophyllaceae, order Sapindales. The best known member is Syrian Rue, Peganum harmala, a hallucinogenic plant that is occasionally confused with rue or in particular Aleppo Rue (see also southern­wood for another plant sometimes confused with rue).

Names of rue in many tongues from Western Asia (Turkish sedefotu, Kurdish sudab [سوداب]) through Central Asia (Farsi sadab [سداب]) to Southern India (Telugu sadapa [సదాప]) derive from Middle Persian sudab. Folk etymology has linked the Turkish name to sedef mother of pearl, alluding to the bluish hue of the leaves of that plant. Bulgarian sedefche [седефче] is a borrowing from Turkish.

The Latin species name, which rue shares with several other aromatic plants like celery or dill, means strongly smelling: Latin gravis heavy and olens participle present of olere smell.

Selected Links

Ilkas und Ullis Kochecke: Weinraute ( via Pflanzen des Capitulare de Villis: Weinraute ( Methylnonylketon Poisonous Plants of North Carolina: Rue Recipe and Discussion: Moretum (Roman cheese and herb paste) ( Poem by Vergilius Moretum, English Translation ( Bibliotheca Augustana: Moretum ( The Banquet of Jupiter, including moretum recipe ( via

Ruta graveolens: Garden rue, flowering plant
Garden rue, flowering plant
Ruta graveolens: Rue in flower
Rue in flower
Rue belongs to those culinary herbs whose usage in the kitchen is checked by their inherent bitterness; see also zedoary on this topic. Rue was a very common spice in ancient Rome (see silphion on ancient Roman cuisine), often being used for country-style food like moretum, a spicy paste of fresh garlic, hard cheese and herbs (coriander, celery, rue); never­theless, its name was often used meto­nymically for bitter­ness, especially in poetry. During the last 2000 years, this ambivalent position gave way to an almost universal rejection in our days.

Apart from occasional use in Italy, rue’s popularity is greatest in Ethiopia. Fresh rue leaves are sometimes used as a coffee flavourant (remember that coffee is probably native to Ethiopia!), and rue is also sometimes mentioned as a components in the national spice mix, berbere [በርበሬ] (see long pepper). Ethiopian cuisine is unique in using not only rue leaves, but also the dried fruits (rue berries) with their more intensive, slightly pungent flavour that is well preserved on drying.

To cook with rue is usually considered old-fashioned, which is probably because half a century ago, rue was significantly more popular than today so that it is seen a leftover from past times; second, older people frequently develop a positive attitude towards bitter taste and tend to use bitter herbs and spices more liberally. And yet, rue is definitely worth a try; meat, eggs and cheese all can profit from this nearly unknown spice, provided care is taken not to overdose. The bitter taste is reduced by acids; thus, a leaf or rue may be used to flavour pickled vegetables, make a salad more interesting or add a very personal touch to home-made herbal vinegar (see dill).

Because of its general affinity to acidic food, rue goes well with spicy Italian tomato sauces containing olives and capers (together with marjoram, basil and lovage).

Ruta chalepensis: Southern European Rue, Aleppo rue
Fringed rue, Ruta chalepensis, from the Mediterranean
Ruta chalepensis: Aleppo Rue
Aleppo rue, Ruta chalepensis

If a cook wants rue flavour without bitter­ness, he might make use of the fact that rue leaves excrete the essential oil much more quickly than the bitter rutin (very similar to tea leaves). Thus, the fresh leaves may be soaked in a slightly boiling sauce or other liquid for a short time (typically, one minute) and dis­carded after­wards. By this a pro­cedure, a maxi­mum of fla­vour at a mini­mum of bitter­ness is achie­ved. See also pars­ley on the topics of herb bun­dles (bou­quet garni).

Like many other bitter spices (e. g., ze­doary), rue is popular for fla­vouring liquors. Be­sides stimu­lating the appetite, bitter liquors have some tonic, stomachic and even bile-stimulating properties, all of which are advan­tageous after a rich feast. One of the most common liquors containing rue is grappa con ruta, an Italian draff brandy flavoured with a small branch of rue per bottle. For this, the related Fringed Rue (Aleppo rue, R. chalepensis) is usually preferred.

Rue must not be confused with southern­wood, another bitter herb with a stronger, more lemon-like fra­grance. Both plants are today of small im­portance culi­narily, and both are con­sidered poten­tially poisonous, although their toxicity may be neglected in amounts suitable for cooking (their bitter taste will, for the most part, make accidental poisoning impossible).

Extreme overdoses of the pure essential oil of rue have even been reported to cause abortus, and the plant was even called herbe à la belle fille Herb of fair maidens in French due to its abortive action. Furthermore, severe poisonings have resulted from uncontrolled medical use of the root. Some North American sources treat rue as a deadly poison, which I find quite ridiculously exaggerated (unless the plant develops a different spectrum of secondary metabolites in Europe and in America).

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