Classif. Nat. Order of Rutaceous. Decandria monogynia L.
Genus RUTA. Calyx four or five parted. Corolla four or five concave petals. Stamens eight or ten. Pistil surrounded by eight or ten melliferous nectaries. One style and stigma. Capsule four or five lobed, four or five celled.
Sp. Ruta graveolens, L. Sufruticose, leaves decompound, folioles oblong obtuse, the terminal obovate: flowers dichotomous, octandrous, the central one decandrous, petals entire.
Description. Root perennial. Stem shrubby at the base, three to four feet high, branched, terete. Leaves alternate, smooth, glaucous, decompound or bipinnated and tripinnated, folioles sessile, unequal, oblong, obtuse, and entire, the last foliole larger obovate. Flowers yellow, in a terminal cynose and dichotome panicle. Petals large, rounded, entire, concave. Stamens equal. Only one central flower, the first unfolded has five petals and ten stamens; all the others have four petals and eight stamens.
History. This shrubby plant is a native of the south of Europe and north Africa; it is cultivated in our gardens, is become naturalized and even spontaneous with us. It blossoms in summer. The whole plant has a strong peculiar smell, almost foetid when bruised, yet there are some persons, chiefly females, who like it.
Properties. A foetid oil, strongly impregnated with the rutaceous smell, which congeals easily, and is almost corrosive, forms the active element of this plant, it is distilled from the whole plant when in blossom or seeds. The leaves and their extract are also used; their taste is acrid, bitterish, very penetrating and ungrateful: yet some persons can eat the leaves as a relish, while others are blistered by mere handling. They are anti-spasmodic, deobstruent, stimulant, heating, rubefacient, and blistering, useful in spasmodic affections, hysteria, hypocondria, obstructions, obstructed secretions: also in rheumatism of the joints, feet, and loins, applied externally. Their effects in gout and hepatitis are more doubtful.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.