Peganum Harmala is also known by many names such as Syrian rue, African rue, Harmal shrub, Harmel, Isband, Ozallalk, and Wild rue. This plant is a bushy herbaceous perennial shrub that can grow to a height of 1 meter but is usually around 0.3 meters high. If the soil is dry, the plant roots can reach a depth of 6.1 meters. The leaves are fleshy, spiky-looking, linear, and short-pointed, while the seeds are small and brown. The capsules have three chambers, measuring about 1 to 1.5 cm in diameter, and contain more than 50 seeds. The seeds can cause hallucinations and have stimulant effects when taken by mouth.
Syrian Rue is native to Central Asia and the Mediterranean coasts of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. In the 1920s, the plant was imported into the United States. The plant’s bitter taste allows it to flourish as it is evaded by grazing animals. It has now spread to New Mexico, Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
The plant was known in Dioscorides (ca. 40 to 90 AD), Galen (ca. 129 to 217 AD), and Avicenna (ca. 980 to 1037 AD) as a psychoactive drug. The ancient Greeks utilized powdered seeds to heal recurring fevers and for tapeworm. In Turkey, the dried capsules have been used as a talisman to fight the “evil eye,”. And smoke from burning the dried seeds has been used to treat mental illnesses. In Iran, Iraq, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, the plant has been used as a hallucinogen in ceremonies and has found its way into modern-day recreational use. It has reportedly been used as an abortifacient. In the Middle East, the red dye produced from the seeds has been used for carpets.
How Does It Work?
The Syrian rue seed contains chemicals known as beta-carbonlines. These chemicals cause many various effects on the body, including stimulant effects and hallucinations. However, these constituents also seem to have effects that are similar to certain medicines used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Uses and Benefits
- Syrian Rue is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent.
- Its active ingredient, harmaline, is a central nervous system stimulant. Hence, the herb is used in treating depression.
- Since it has anti-bacterial activity, the smoke of the herb is used to kill algae, bacteria, intestinal parasites, and molds.
- The root of the herb is applied to the head, to eradicate lice.
- The seeds are used in powdered form, to get rid of tapeworms and treat recurring fevers.
- The decoction of the Syrian rue is used for treating laryngitis.
- Its seeds are used in the treatment of skin cancer and subcutaneous cancers.
- The seed extracts are also useful against various tumor cell lines, both in vitro and in vivo. They are also used for fragrance and killing insects.
- The leaf decoction is used in rheumatism.
- The herb serves as a useful medicine in hysterical affections, coughs, croupy affections, colic, and flatulence.
- Syrian rue is used as a devil repellant and protection against evil eyes.
- The plant helps in baldness, period pains, and worms. It also increases the volume of breast milk production.
The right amount of Syrian rue relies on several aspects such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time, there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for Syrian rue (in children/in adults) nor its effectiveness. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.