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Physical Methods | Medicinal Methods (Galactagogues)

Goat's Rue

Biological name: Papilionaceae Galega officinalis

Other names: French Lilac

  • Increases production and flow of milk
  • Reduces blood sugar levels
  • Promotes sweating
  • Increases urine output

Infusion: Add 1 cup of boiling water to 1 tsp dried leaves. Infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink 1 cup 2 times per day.

Tincture: 20 to 40 drops (2-4 ml) 2-3 times per day

Goat’s rue, sometimes called Holy Hay, is indigenous to southern Europe and western Asia and was first mentioned by dairy farmer Gillet-Damitte in 1873 in a letter to the French Academy in which he described milk production increases in his cows of between 35-50 percent when given this herb. Drs. Cerisoli and Millbank subsequently confirmed empirical evidence that goat’s rue is indeed a powerful galactogogue.(1) Goat’s rue is also reputed to increase breast tissue, though how it might do so is not well understood.

In addition to its lactogenic properties, goat’s rue comes from the same family as fenugreek and is also considered to have anti-diabetic properties. Goat’s Rue contains galegine, a guanidine compound from which phenformin, the precursor drug to metformin (Glucophage), was derived. Metformin is considered an insulin receptor sensitizer and one anti-aging researcher believes that it may have a beneficial effect on other resistant hormone receptors as well.(2) Because metformin has been found beneficial in many cases of polycystic ovary syndrome, goat’s rue may be an especially appropriate galactogogue herb as it may have properties that address underlying problems.

A 1999 study also reported a weight-loss effect of goat’s rue upon mice (test amount used was 10% of dietary weight) that was associated with the lowering of glucose.(3) Other actions attributed to goat’s rue include being a diuretc, diaphoretic, and emmenagogue.

Despite the positive reports on cattle, goat’s rue is considered somewhat controversial due to documented toxicity in sheep who grazed upon it. The most plausible explanation for this is simply the variability of response in individual animals, though the grazing habits of sheep has also been questioned. A Dutch resource suggests that the toxic components may be concentrated mostly in the roots until after flowering and that timing of grazing or harvesting may affect overall toxic potential.(4) At the least, having goat’s rue as a large proportion of the diet as opposed to a small amount may also make a difference in effects. Goat’s rue remains a popular galactogogue herb for French women and no problems in humans have been reported either anecdotally or in the literature. Herbalists with actual clinical experience with goat’s rue remain comfortable with its use.


(1) Lust, J. The Herb Book. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1974; 191, 394, 172, 89, 93-94, 291, 186. 173.

(2) Dean, W. Neuroendocrine Theory of Aging. Chapter VII: A Key to Retarding the Aging Process: Restoring Hypothalamic and Peripheral Receptor Sensitivity. March 2001. http://www.vrp.com/art/697.asp. Accessed April 24, 2005.

(3) Palit, P., Furman, B., Gray, A. Novel weight-reducing activity of Galega officinalis in mice. J Pharm Pharmacol  1999 Nov; 51(11):1313-9.

(4) De Cleene, M. Giftige Planten Gids. Uitgeversmaatschappij Tirion: Baarn, The Netherlands; p. 108.

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