[Sca-cooks] Question about rue....

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 24 13:44:08 PST 2008

Jadwiga wrote:
>Actually, one major issue is that oil of rue is in fact a known and
>documented 19th century abortifacent that appears to have worked, where
>oil of sage, though considered dangerous due to high levels of thujone,
>doesn't have the documented history as an abortifacent.
>(Also, some period doctors considered sage to be beneficial to maintaining
>a pregnancy.)

I can only report that the article said that sage was a "known abortifacient". I don't know the necessary dose.

Also, i think it likely that SCA cooks are not planning to use oil of rue in their dishes, only a small amount of rue herb. As far as i can tell, a pregnant woman would have to ingest oil of rue, which is highly concentrated, or a very large dose of rue leaves or tea brewed from leaves, a far greater quantity than would be used in one or two dishes. I know people involved in Roman re-creation, not in the SCA, who use rue in their Apician dishes. In fact, one sent me some dried rue so i could taste it (i live in an urban apartment with no deck or balcony to grow bushy plants). They report no problems *so far*.

Of course, i am not a doctor, nor do i play one in the SCA. But i have a strong feeling based on my research and personal experience that there is overreaction to the occasional use of rue. I would never recommend using it in every dish in a feast. In that case there might be the possibility of reaching a potentially dangerous dose for pregnant women. But given rue's strong bitter flavor, and the fact that outside of Roman cuisine it is only infrequently used, for example, in a rather limited number of Arabic-language recipes, i would expect that its rare use would not pose a genuine health hazard, unless someone was very sensitive, just as some people are very sensitive to cloves or cumin.

I can understand wanting to use caution in the SCA. But as far as i can tell, we are not carefully researching most of the other ingredients we use, and some also are potential health risks when used *in large quantities*, which we are not using, just as we would not use large quantities of rue.

As a side note, contact dermatitis is not universal, although i'm not sure what percentage of the population responds that way (more do not than do), and comes from handling the fresh leaves. Once cooked, rue no longer has that effect.
Urtatim (that's urr-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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