Can rue essential oil be taken in pregnancy?

The use of rue essential oil in pregnancy is hotly debated on the web and among essential oil users. But what is the bottom line? Is it dangerous? Is it safe? Can it used in small amounts, or should be it avoided entirely?

I reviewed evidence related to the issue:

  1. Rue the plant (not the oil) is used as an abortifacient in South America because this plant contains high concentration of pilocarpine. Pilocarpine is a cholinergic agent that may act as a uterine stimulant. Importantly, pilocarpine is not distilled extensively into the oil therefore the potential risk during pregnancy is reduced.
  2. The FDA considers rue safe for human consumption and has suggested additional teratogenicity studies before determining if rue oil carries a risk in pregnant women.
  3. There are isolated, obscure reports from the 1930s of rue as a uterine stimulant; however, how this applies to modern pregnancy is unknown.
    Image result for rue plant
  4. In massive oral doses (>3 mL/kg or 210 mL in an average adult), there have been reports of harm to both mom and baby, as well as some anecdotal reports of spontaneous abortion in humans. At more reasonable doses (<820 mg/kg), there have been no studies that I found to demonstrate any maternotoxic, embryotoxic, or teratogenic effects.
  5. Animal data may not directly apply to humans because drops of oil were directly dropped onto an exposed animal uterus.

When asked “Can I use rue oil in pregnancy?”

My answer is, “I don’t know, can you? I know what I would do, and you have to do what is best for you.”  Everyone can make the best decision for themselves. There is no one correct way to use essential oils. That is what makes them so special; we choose how we want to use them according to our own judgment and intuition. I encourage you to consult the product label and with a health care professional skilled in the use of essential oils if you are unsure how to use a product.


Want to read more on this subject? I cover it thoroughly in my book, Essentials: 75 Answers to Common Questions About Essential Oils and Supplements.

There is also a video on safety of essential oils during pregnancy inside . Go on! Check it out yourself!