This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics - Vegetable Kingdom", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica And Therapeutics: Vegetable Kingdom.
Active Ingredients. - Rue contains a bitter, neutral, crystalline •principle called rutine, C25H18O15, not known to possess any physiological activity, and an ethereal oil, which appears to be the source of the virtues of the plant. This ethereal oil is of a light-yellow color (turning brown on keeping), has a bitter acrid taste, and a very disagreeable odor: sp. gr. 0.911. It consists of two substances, of which one has for some time past been recognized as a hydro-carbon of the turpentine-camphor type; and the other is an oxygen-containing oil, which until lately was not understood. The researches of Gorup-Besanez and Grimm, and of Giesecke, which have proved that it is methylcaprinol, or methylpelargonylketon, C10H19(CH3)O; which substance, which boils at about 440° F., is colorless if looked at from the side, but shows a violet-blue fluorescence when looked down upon; it has a specific gravity of .8268, and crystallizes at 42.8° F.1
Physiological Action. - Rue is a powerful irrritant narcotic. Orfila injected 15 minims into the venous system of a dog; in two minutes there followed vomiting, vertigo, and semi-paralysis of the hind-limbs; the animal, however, recovered. With human beings, the effect of an overdose on the general nervous system is to produce great prostration, combined with restlessness and excitement, confusion of ideas, and dimness of vision; besides which, there is violent vomiting or retching, with hiccough. Rue has also, from very ancient times, been reputed to possess the power of exciting the uterus; on this account it was formerly much used as an abortifacient by rustics and by irregular practitioners. In England the common people and the "herb-doctors " now more frequently use savin for this purpose, but in Hindostan the women still put faith in rue.
Another phenomenon which has been noted as the result of an overdose of rue is weakness and slowness of the pulse. Probably the alleged weakness referred merely to the small size of the pulse, for the true condition is most likely that of high arterial tension.
This view is justified by the experiments of Dr. Helie,2 which show that rue acts specifically on the uterine walls, and simultaneously slows the pulse very considerably. It seems to me that this slowing is due to increased arterial resistance from stimulation of the muscular coats of the small vessels.
Therapeutic Action. - Rue has somewhat unaccountably fallen into disuse and discredit with the majority of the regular profession in this country; and, in Germany, Nothnagel speaks of it as a quite superfluous drug, to be classed with thyme, origanum, and some half-dozen other remedies of the like efficacy. This is certainly very unjust; probably even the exaggerated ancient ideas of the value of rue were nearer the truth. The essential oil, which is undoubtedly the active element, has long been reputed as antispasmodic, stimulant, emmenagogue, and anthelmintic. In the last of these capacities it need not be mentioned here, since there are plenty of much more trustworthy anthelmintics.
1 Giesecke (N. Jahrbuch der Pharm., xxxiv. 366, quoted in Husemann, Pflanzen-Btoffe).
2 Med.-Chir. Review, lviii., p. 604.
In Flatulent Colic, more especially when occurring in children, oil of rue is an exceedingly useful remedy; it may be either given by the mouth, or administered as an enema, which Dr. A. T. Thompson recommends for infants.
Infantile Convulsions, of the kind which depend on flatulence of some part of the alimentary canal, can be most beneficially treated with oil of rue, in enema.
Hysteria, especially in the form which is associated with amenor-rhoea, is sometimes apparently much benefited by rue; but of course in this disease all medicinal treatment must be combined with moral discipline.
As an Emmenagogue, rue for centuries enjoyed a very high reputation, though at present the tendency is to treat it as worthless, or not to be relied upon. It is, of course, always difficult to know whether a remedy which has power to act on the uterine muscular system - as rue confessedly has - is also a true stimulant of the ovarian secretion, if we may so call the discharge of ova from the Graafian vesicles. No doubt, in a considerable proportion of cases, where the menstrual flow is restored under the influence of remedies, this is only effected in a much more indirect manner. But among the class of true emmenagogues, those which tend to produce the menstrual flow without reference to improvement of the general health, the quality of the blood, etc., rue will probably be found to occupy a very genuine position. M. Beau says that it holds the same position towards savin that ipecacuanha holds towards tartar emetic. M. Alibert regards it as useful in hysterical dysmenorrhcea; and it seems likely that the cases in which it is most useful are those examples of amenorrhoea and dysmenorrhoea, in which muriate of ammonia has been found to do good service.
In Epilepsy, rue has been vaunted as a specific, its reputation having been originally founded by Galen, who directed rue-leaves to be sprinkled in the beds of those who suffer from priapism and erotic dreams. Murray and others have claimed for it the power of curing epilepsy; but the utmost that can be allowed as even probable is, that in cases where the malady is wholly or partly dependent on seminal weakness, small doses of rue, by their action on the sexual organs, may limit the amount of nocturnal discharge, and thus mitigate the nervous prostration so favor-orable to a continuance of the fits.
The Eyesight. - M. Elgajaki says that the excessive use of rue produces dimness of vision; but he also alleges that by taking it in moderate doses the eyesight becomes improved. I have myself certainly seen good effects follow the continued use of minim doses, night and morning, in dimness of vision dependent, apparently, upon a functional amaurotic condition.
The bruised leaves of rue laid upon the forehead arrest epistaxis by their revulsive action. The oil, mixed with honey, and placed on warts, is said to have the power of destroying them.
Preparations and Dose. - Ruta, gr. x. - xxx. (.65 - 2.); Oleum Rutre, m ij. - vj. (.12 - .35).