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Syrian Rue-

Peganum Harmala

Traditional uses

In Turkey, dried capsules from this plant are strung and hung in homes or vehicles to protect against "the evil eye".[citation needed]. It is widely used for protection against Djinn in Morocco (see Légey "Essai de Folklore marocain", 1926).


In Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, dried capsules mixed with other ingredients are placed onto red hot charcoal, where they explode with little popping noises, releasing a fragrant smoke that is wafted around the head of those afflicted by or exposed to the gaze of strangers. As this is done, an ancient prayer is recited.[citation needed] This prayer is said by Jews (more specifically, Bukharian Jews and originally coming from ancient Iran and no specific religion) and Muslims as well as by Zoroastrians. This Persian practice dates to pre-Islamic, Zoroastrian times.[citation needed] In Iran, this ritual is sometimes performed in traditional restaurants, where customers are exposed to the eyes of strangers.[citation needed] It is also used in India in the region of Kashmir, where the seeds are ignited in charcoal fire pots to ward off evil on occasions like marriages.[citation needed]

Harmal may have been used as an entheogen in the Middle East in ancient times, and is used as an entheogen in modern Western cultures. It is occasionally used as an analogue of Banisteriopsis caapi to create an ad hoc of a South American religious sacrament known as Ayahuasca,[citation needed] when traditional methods are unavailable. However harmal has distinct aspects fromcaapi and a unique entheogenic signature. Some scholars identify harmal with the entheogenic haoma of pre-Zoroastrian Persian religions.[8]


A red dye, "Turkey red", from the seeds (but usually obtained from madder) is often used in western Asia to dye carpets. It is also used to dye wool. When the seeds are extracted with water, a yellow fluorescent dye is obtained.[9] If they are extracted with alcohol, a red dye is obtained.[9] The stems, roots and seeds can be used to make inks, stains and tattoos.[10]

Medicinal uses

Peganum harmala is used as an analgesic and antiinflammatory agent.[11]

In Yemen, it was used to treat depression,[12] and it has been established in the laboratory that harmaline, an active ingredient in P. harmala, is a central nervous system stimulant and a "reversible inhibitor of MAO-A (RIMA),"[13] a category ofantidepressant.

Smoke from the seeds kills algae, bacteria, intestinal parasites and molds.[14]Peganum harmala has "antibacterial activity,"[15] including antibacterial activity against drug-resistant bacteria.[16]

The "root is applied to kill lice" and when burned, the seeds kill insects.[17] It also inhibits the reproduction of the Tribolium castaneum beetle.[18]

It is also used as an anthelmintic (to expel parasitic worms).[17] Reportedly, theancient Greeks used the powdered seeds to get rid of tapeworms and to treat recurring fevers (possibly malaria).[19]

Peganum harmala is an abortifacient,[20] and, in large quantities, it can reducespermatogenesis and male fertility in rats.[21]

It is given in a decoction for laryngitis.[17]


Harmine, a compound present in Peganum
harmala, fluoresces under ultraviolet light

It is fairly effective against protozoa, including malaria. There is evidence that it may be effective against drug-resistant protozoa.[16]

One of the compounds found in P. harmala, vasicine (peganine), has been found to be safe and effective against Leishmania donovani, a protozoan parasite that can cause potentially fatal visceral leishmaniasis.[22] "Peganine hydrochloride dihydrate, besides being safe, was found to induceapoptosis in both the stages of L. donovani via loss of mitochondrial transmembrane potential."[22]

Another alkaloid, harmine, found in P. harmala, has appreciable efficacy in destroying intracellular parasites in the vesicular forms. As it is not hepatotoxic or nephrotoxic in nature, it may be considered for clinical application in humans.[23]

One study showed it to have a lifesaving effect on cattle infected with the protozoal East Coast fever,[24] which can be 100% fatal and killed 1.1 million cattle in Africa in 1992.


"The beta-carboline alkaloids present in medicinal plants, such as Peganum harmala and Eurycoma longifolia, have recently drawn attention due to their antitumor activities. Further mechanistic studies indicate that beta-carboline derivatives inhibit DNAtopoisomerases and interfere with DNA synthesis."[25]

Peganum harmala has antioxidant and antimutagenic properties.[26] Both the plant and the extract harmine exhibit cytotoxicity with regards to HL60 and K562 leukemia cell lines.[27] Ground seeds have been used occasionally to treat skin cancer and subcutaneous cancers traditionally in Morocco.[28] Seed extracts also show effectiveness against various tumor cell lines, both in vitro and in vivo.[28]


Harmaline, one of the alkaloids
of Peganum harmala


The active alkaloids of harmal seeds are the MAOI-A (monoamine oxidase inhibitor A) compounds:

The coatings of the seeds are said to contain large amounts of harmine.[3]
Total harmala alkaloids were at least 5.9% of dried weight, in one study.[29]

The stems of the plant contain about 0.36% alkaloids, the leaves about 0.52%,[32] and the roots up to 2.5%.[33]

Harmine and harmaline are reversible inhibitors of MAO-A (RIMA).[13]

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