Goat’s Rue (Galega officinalis)
Uses: Diaphoretic, galactagogue, insulin-lowering, insulin-sensitizing, anti-bacterial, anti-platelet-aggregation, anti-obesity, vermifuge, liver-protectant
Goat’s rue has a long and varied history of use reaching as far as the Middle Ages, where Goat’s Rue treated very serious conditions. Some of these included: diabetes, malignant fevers, the plague, and other infectious disease.
Today, goat’s rue is most well known as a galactagogue, an agent that increases lactation, as shown in it’s scientific name Galega (Gale = milk, ega = to bring on). In some parts of Europe, it was also used to make cheese instead of rennet. There are stories about it’s use in dealing with snake bites, but I would need to do more research on that before I would comment one way or the other. Finally, at least one modern study points to goat’s rue as a viable ally in losing excess body fat.
Goat’s rue is the origin of the common Type II diabetes pharmaceutical, metformin (glucophage). Galega contains galegine, an alkaloid that lowers blood glucose levels and lowers insulin resistance. It is believed that goat’s rue accomplished this by slowing down the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream, allowing for a more even blood glucose reading throughout the day. But, this is only one mechanism of how goat’s rue works, as it does seem to lower blood glucose levels when fasting as well. More research is necessary to understand how this happens.
Proper dosage of goat’s rue for a diabetic will depend on many factors, including: age, health, strength of herbal preparation, and other health conditions. There is not an exact correlation of goat’s rue to metformin to simply substitute one for the other, as they are not entirely the same, even though one is based on the other. Please due not substitute goat’s rue for metformin without consulting with both your doctor and a knowledgable herbalist. Any usage of goat’s rue for diabetes will require close blood glucose monitoring.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
In addition to being the most common pharmaceutical prescribed for Type II diabetes, metformin is also now often prescribed for women with PCOS. The imbalance of hormones found in this disorder is triggered by unstable blood glucose levels throughout the day. Many women find their symptoms diminish when they take metformin.
If you are looking for natural alternatives to address PCOS complaints, then goat’s rue is a great alternative. It can also be easily blended with other herbs that address other PCOS-related complaints, such as Chaste Tree, Nettle, White Peony, Evening Primrose, and many others. PCOS is a complex issue, and treating it requires personalization. Goat’s rue can be part of a very comprehensive, natural PCOS management plan.
This is the most common modern application for goat’s rue. Based on observing cows and goats increase milk production (sometimes of up to 50%) after eating galega, women began to drink goat’s rue tea and taking goat’s rue tincture to increase their own milk supply. Some women have great difficulty nursing due to insufficient glandular tissue, and goat’s rue helps to build that tissue. Goat’s rue can be used alone, or in combination with other galactagogues. There are many reasons for difficulties nursing, but if insufficient glandular tissue is your issue, then goat’s rue is the primary herb you will want to use. Stop use if you get the sensation of feeling too “full”.
When using galactogogues to increase milk supply, you may need to occasionally switch the herb you are using. Whether this is because the body becomes too accustomed to the herb, or whether the reason for the low supply has changed, or some other reason, is not definitively known. Hormones do change throughout the process, and it’s my personal suspicion that the reason lies with these changes.
Much of the breast tissue is adipose (fat) tissue. Assumptions about potential milk supply cannot be made based on breast size alone. Goat’s rue is safe during breastfeeding, but regular use is not advised during pregnancy. Women naturally have extra blood clotting factors beginning in the second trimester to protect against hemorrhage. Goat’s rue, with it’s ability to dissolve a clot, would interfere with this built-in safety mechanism.
A study done in 1999 with mice demonstrated that goat’s rue led to a reduction in body fat in the mice. In human’s, however, the research is lacking. Still, due to it’s ability to lower insulin and to improve the body’s response to insulin, goat’s rue is credited with helping many people lose body fat. This is especially true of women with PCOS, and both men and women taking it in response to diabetes.
Dosage for goat’s rue will vary depending on many factors. The following is a suggestion of a place to start out, and you will have to judge by your own reaction whether your body requires more or less. If you are taking antidiabetic medication, you can still use goat’s rue, but you will have to be extra cautious to avoid excessively low blood glucose levels.
Goat’s rue may be taken either in a tea, tincture. There are pills made from the powdered extract, but I generally find those forms to be less potent and vary widely in quality. If you find a bottle of the powdered extract, follow the directions on the label. If you wish to make your own at home, here are the directions for the tea and tincture. Caution: The fresh plant has been thought to be toxic to sheep. I have found no evidence of a single case of toxicity in cows, goat’s, or in humans. However, just to be extra cautious, only use dried, aerial parts of the plant in your remedies, which have a long, established history of safe use.
- Tea- 1 teaspoon of galega steeped in 8 ounces of hot water for at least 15 minutes, taken 2x daily
- Tincture- 1/2 teaspoon (approximately 15 drops) spread out over 3-4 doses per day. Tincture may be administered in a small amount of water, or directly under the tongue.
Novel weight-reducing activity of Galega officinalis in mice. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10632090
Anti-bacterial activity of Galega officinalis L. (Goat’s Rue)
The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety, 1st edition, 2005, by Simon Y. Mills
A Modern Herbal, by Mrs. Maud Grieves