Herb: Syrian Rue

Latin name: Peganum harmala

Family: Zygophyllaceae (Creosote-bush Family)

Medicinal use of Syrian Rue:

Alterative. The fruit and seed are digestive, diuretic, hallucinogenic, narcotic and uterine stimulant. They are taken internally in the treatment of stomach complaints, urinary and sexual disorders, epilepsy, menstrual problems, mental and nervous illnesses. The seed has also been used as an anthelmintic in order to rid the body of tapeworms. This remedy should be used with caution and preferably under the guidance of a qualified practitioner since excessive doses cause vomiting and hallucinations. The seeds contain the substance "harmine" which is being used in research into mental disease, encephalitis and inflammation of the brain. Small quantities stimulate the brain and are said to be therapeutic, but in excess harmine depresses the central nervous system. A crude preparation of the seed is more effective than an extract because of the presence of related indoles. Consumption of the seed in quantity induces a sense of euphoria and releases inhibitions. It has been used in the past as a truth drug. The oil obtained from the seed is said to be aphrodisiac. The oil is also said to have galactogogue, ophthalmic, soporific and vermifuge properties. The seed is used externally in the treatment of haemorrhoids and baldness. The whole plant is said to be abortifacient, aphrodisiac, emmenagogue and galactogogue. A decoction of the leaves is used in the treatment of rheumatism. The root has been used as a parasiticide in order to kill body lice. It is also used internally in the treatment of rheumatism and nervous conditions.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Dry steppes, especially where grazing is heavy, and dry waste places. It is often found in saline soils.

Edible parts of Syrian Rue:

Seed - used as a spice and purifying agent. Some caution is advised because the seed has narcotic properties, inducing a sense of euphoria and releasing inhibitions. An edible oil is obtained from the seed.

Other uses of the herb:

A red dye is obtained from the seed. It is widely used in Western Asia, especially as a colouring for carpets. The ripe seed contains 3.8 - 5.8% of the alkaloids harmine, harmaline, harmalol and peganine. Ineffective as a contact poison, they are active in vapour form where they are effective against algae, in higher concentrations to water animals and lethal to moulds, bacteria and intestinal parasites. The seed is used as an incense.

Propagation of Syrian Rue:

Seed - sow late spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a sunny part of the greenhouse for their first winter. Be careful not to overwater, especially when the plants are dormant. Plant out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Division in late spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry steppes, especially where grazing is heavy, and dry waste places. It is often found in saline soils.

Known hazards of Peganum harmala:

Use with caution. Although the seed is used medicinally and as a condiment, it does contain hallucinogenic and narcotic alkaloids. When taken in excess it causes hallucinations and vomiting.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.