(πηγάνον; Vulg. ruta) occurs in the A.V. only in Lu 11:42, "But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint, and rue, and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment," etc. In the parallel passage (Mt 23:23) dill (ἄνηθον, translated "anise") is mentioned instead of rue. Both dill and rue were cultivated in the gardens of Eastern countries in ancient times, as they are at the present day. Dioscorides (3, 45) describes two kinds, Ruta montanta and Ruta hortensis; the latter of which he says is the best for the table. They are distinict species, and the first is common in the south of Europe and the north of Africa. The other is usually called Ruta graveolens, and by some R. hortensis, which is found in the south of Europe, and is the kind commonly cultivated in gardens. It is a native of the Mediterranean coasts, and has been found by Hasselquist on Mount Tabor. Several species grow wild in Palestine, but R. graveolens is cultivated (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 478). Josephus speaks of a rue of extraordinary size as growing at Macheerus (War, 7, 6, 3). Rue was highly esteemed as a medicine, even as early as the time of Hippocrates. Pliny says, "Rue is an herbe as medicinaole as the best. That of the garden hath a broader leafe, and brauncheth more than the wild, which is more hotte, vehement, and rigorous in all operations; also that is it sowed usually in Februarie, when the western wind, Favonius, bloweth. Certes we find that in old time rue was in some great account, and especiall reckoning above other hearbs, for I read in auncient histories, That Cornelius Cethegus, at what time as he was chosen Consull with Quintius Flaminius, presently upon the said election, gave a largesse to the people of new wine, aromatized with rue. The fig tree and rue are in a great league and amitie, insomuch as this herb, sow and set it where you will, in no place prospereth better than under that tree; for planted it may be of a slip in spring" (Holland's Pliny, 19, 8). That it was employed as an ingredient in diet, and as a condiment, is abundantly evident from Apicius, as noticed by Celsius, and is not more extraordinary than the fondness of some Eastern nations for assafoetida as a seasoning to food (see Columela, R. Rust. 12, 7, 5). That one kind was cultivated by the Israelites is evident from its being mentioned as one of the articles of which the Pharisees paid their tithes, though they neglected the weightier matters of the law. Rosenmiiller states that in the Talmud (Shebuoth, 9, 1) the rue is indeed mentioned among kitchen herbs (asparagus portulacoe et coriandro); but, at the same time, it is there expressly stated that it is tithe free, it being one of those herbs which are not cultivated in gardens, according to the general rule established in the Talmud. Celsius long previously observed with reference to this fact that in making rue free from tithes they show how far they have left their ancestors' customs; by which, as God's Word assures us, it was tithed (Hierobot. 2, 253). See Beckman, Ad Antiq. Caryst. p. 69 sq.
Rue is a small shrub with a bushy stem, bark gray towards the base, with doubly pinnated leaves of a deep dark green, and yellowish flowers. The whole plant has a peculiar and very powerful odor, and its juice is so acrid that if not diluted it would blister the skin. Notwithstanding this coarseness, it was popular with the ancients, and it is still prized in the East. The Egyptians have a proverb, "The presents of our friends come on leaves of rue," meaning that they derive a pleasant perfume from the goodwill of the sender, and just as verbena and mignonette are grown in our windows, the Turks and Arabs keep pots of rue in their drawing rooms (Burckhardt, Arabic Proverbs, p. 695). Among the Greeks and Romans it was valued not only as tonic and medicinal, but a special efficacy was ascribed to it as a safeguard from serpents (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 20, 13) — a popular belief embodied in the modern Arabic phrase, "More hateful than is the scent of rue to serpents." In the Middle Ages of Europe it acquired a certain sacredness from small bunches of it being used by the priests to sprinkle holy water on the people (Burnett, Useful Plants, vol. 1), and it is called "herb of grace" by Shakespeare (Richard II, 3, 4).