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Traditional use

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

In Iran, and some countries in the Arab world such as, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan , dried capsules mixed with other ingredients are placed onto red hot charcoal, where they explode with little popping noises in a way similar to American popcorn. When they burst a fragrant smoke is released. This smoke is wafted around the head of those afflicted by or exposed to the gaze of strangers while a specific prayer is recited. This tradition is still followed by members of many religions, including Christians, Muslims, and some Jews. In several versions of the prayer accompanying the ritual, the name of an ancient Zoroastrian Persian king, called Naqshaband, is used. He is said to have first learned the prayer from five protective female spirits, called Yazds.

Syrian rue

Peganum harmala seeds as sold in Iran and Middle Eastern foods grocery store

In Yemen, the Jewish custom of old was to bleach wheaten flour on Passover, in order to produce a clean and white unleavened bread. This was done by spreading whole wheat kernels upon a floor, and then spreading stratified layers of African rue (Peganum harmala) leaves upon the wheat kernels; a layer of wheat followed by a layer of Wild rue, which process was repeated until all wheat had been covered over with the astringent leaves of this plant. The wheat was left in this state for a few days, until the outer kernels of the wheat were bleached by the astringent vapors emitted by the Wild rue. Afterwards, the wheat was taken up and sifted, to rid them of the residue of leaves. They were then ground into flour, which left a clean and white batch of flour.

Peganum harmala has been used to treat pain and to treat skin inflammations, including skin cancers.

Peganum harmala has been used as an emmenagogue and abortifacient agent.

The “root is applied to kill lice” and when burned, the seeds kill insects and inhibit the reproduction of the Tribolium castaneum beetle.

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

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.[20] If they are extracted with alcohol, a red dye is obtained.The stems, roots and seeds can be used to make inks, stains and tattoos.

Some scholars identify harmal with the entheogenic haoma of pre-Zoroastrian Persian religions.

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