This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Ruta Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Ruta hor-tensis latifolia C. B. Ruta graveolens Linn. Rue: a small shrubby plant, with thick bluish green leaves divided into numerous roundish segments: on the tops of the branches come forth yellowish tetrapetalous sometimes pen-tapetalous) flowers, followed each by a capsule, which is divided into four partitions full of small blackish rough seeds. It is cultivated in gardens, flowers in June, and holds its leaves all the winter. The markets are frequently supplied with a narrow-leaved sort, which is cultivated in preference to the other, on account of its appearing variegated during the winter with white streaks.
This herb has a strong unpleasant smell, and a penetrating pungent bitterish taste: much handled, it is apt to inflame and exulcerate the skin. It is recommended as a powerful stimu-lant, aperient, antiseptic, and as possessing some degree of an antispasmodic power; in crudities and indigestion, for preserving against contagious diseases and the ill effects of corrupted air, in uterine obstructions and hysteric complaints, and externally in discutient and antiseptic fomentations. Among the common people, the leaves are sometimes taken with treacle, on an empty stomach, as an anthelmintic. A conserve, made by beating the fresh leaves with thrice their weight of fine sugar, is the most commodious form for the exhibition of the herb in substance.
The virtues of rue are extracted both by water and rectified spirit, most perfectly by the latter: the watery infusions are of a greenish yellow or brownish; the spirituous, made from the fresh leaves, of a deep green, from the dry of a dark yellowish brown colour: the leaves themselves, in drying, change their bluish green colour to a yellow. On infpiffating the spirituous tincture, very little of its flavour rises with the menstruum; nearly all the active parts of the rue remaining concentrated in the extract, which impresses on the palate a very warm, subtile, durable pungency, and is in smell rather less unpleasant than the herb in substance. In distillation with water, an essen-tial oil separates; in colour yellowish or brown-ish, in taste moderately acrid, and of a very penetrating smell rather more unpleasant than that of the herb: a very considerable part of the virtue of the rue remains behind; the decoction, infpiffated, yielding, a moderately warm, pungent, bitterish extract. The active matter of this plant appears therefore to be chiefly of the more fixt kind: the essential oil itself is not very volatile, or at least is so strongly locked up by the other principles, as not to be readily elevated in distillation. The seeds and their capsules appear to contain more oil than the leaves: from twelve pounds of the leaves, gathered before the plant had flowered, only about three drams were obtained; whereas the same quantity of the herb with the seeds almost ripe yielded above an ounce.
Extractum rutae Ph. Lond. & Ed.