Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis)

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Arginine, avanese (Italian), bitters, Bockskraut (German), capraggine (Italian), Caucasian goat’s rue, cheese rennet, Fabaceae (family), false indigo, flavonoids, Fleckenkraut (German), French honeysuckle, French lilac, galactagogue, galega (Portuguese – Brazil, Dutch, Spanish), galéga officinal (French), Gallega officinalis, Galega officinalis herba, Galega officinalis L., galegine, galuteolin, Geissklee (German), Geissraute (German), geitvikke (Norwegian), getruta (Swedish), gewöhnliche Geissraute (German), glycosides, goat’s rue, goats rue, goat’s rue herb, goatsrue, guanidine, guanidine acetic acid, guanidinon-acetic acid, harilik kitsehernes (Estonian), Herba Rutae caprariae, Italian fitch, jestřabina lékařská (Czech), kecskeruta (Hungarian), læge-stregbælg (Danish), metformin, oriental goat’s rue, Papilionaceae (family), peganine, Pestilenzkraut (German), Pockenraute (German), professor-weed, Rhizobium galegae, Rhizobium galegae bv. officinalis, rue de chèvre (French), rutwica lekarska (Polish), saponins, Spanish sainfoin, stregbælg (Danish), Suchtkraut (German), tannins, Ziegenraute (German).

Background

  • Galega officinalis, commonly known as goat’s rue, French lilac, Italian fitch, or professor-weed, is a bitter and strong-smelling herb that grows in the Middle East, southern Europe, and western Asia.

  • Although now considered a weed, goat’s rue was introduced into the United States in 1891 as forage for livestock.

  • Goat’s rue has been traditionally used to increase breast milk production and treat diabetes. Goat’s rue may also help control blood sugar and promote weight loss.

  • Although not well studied in humans, goat’s rue may interact with medicines taken to reduce blood sugar or reduce the risk of bleeding.

  • Galegine, a Galega extract, led to the development of the only approved biguanide antidiabetic drug, metformin.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Adrenal gland stimulation, air pollution protection, antibacterial, antihelminthic, antiplatelet effects, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antivenom, blood purification, bubonic plague, cholera, CNS stimulant, connective tissue disorder (purification), diabetes, diabetic foot pain (foot soak), diaphoretic, diarrhea, diuretic, dysuria, enlarged glands, food additive, galactagogue (lactation stimulant), gastrointestinal conditions, hepatoprotection, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels), intestinal parasites, lymphatic disorder, pancreatic disorders, plaque, Roehmheld’s syndrome, skin conditions, snakebites, typhoid, weight loss.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • For many conditions, 20-200 milligrams of goat’s rue has been given by mouth three times daily. One-cup portions of an herbal infusion of goat’s rue have been given by mouth twice daily. An herbal tincture of 1-2 milliliters of goat’s rue has been given three times daily. Infused herbs must be strained and cooled. No specific length of time has been reported.

  • To increase milk supply, one teaspoonful of dried goat’s rue leaves, added to a cup of boiling water and left to infuse for 10-15 minutes, has been given by mouth two times daily. For tincture, 20-40 drops (2-4 milliliters) have been given 2-3 times daily.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for goat’s rue in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in people with a known allergy or sensitivity to Galega officinalis, its parts, or members of the Fabaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • In general, there is currently a lack of available data on the side effects of goat’s rue.

  • Although not well studied in humans, goat’s rue may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

  • Although not well studied in humans, goat’s rue may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.

  • Use cautiously in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to a lack of safety information.

  • Use cautiously in people using iron supplements, as goat’s rue may interfere with the uptake of iron.

  • Nausea or vomiting may occur if goat’s rue tinctures are taken by individuals using metronidazole or disulfiram.

  • Avoid in people who are allergic to Galega officinalis, its parts, or members of the Fabaceae family.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is currently a lack of scientific evidence on the use of goat’s rue during pregnancy or lactation.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Although not well studied in humans, goat’s rue may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

  • Although not well studied in humans, goat’s rue may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).

  • Many tinctures contain high levels of alcohol and may cause nausea or vomiting when taken with metronidazole (Flagyl®) or disulfiram (Antabuse®).

  • Goat’s rue may also interact with antibiotics, iron salts, and weight loss medication.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Although not well studied in humans, goat’s rue may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.

  • Goat’s rue may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.

  • Goat’s rue may also interact with herbs and supplements that have antibiotic or weight loss activity. Furthermore, goat’s rue may prevent iron uptake from iron-containing foods.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Atanasov AT, Chorbanov BP, and Dimitrov BD. Anti-aggregation activity of crude water extract of Galega officinalis L. fractionated on Sephadex G-25 and Sepharose 4B. Folia Med.(Plovdiv.) 2002;44(1-2):45-49. View Abstract
  2. Atanasov AT and Spasov V. Inhibiting and disaggregating effect of gel-filtered Galega officinalis L. herbal extract on platelet aggregation. J.Ethnopharmacol. 2000;69(3):235-240. View Abstract
  3. Atanasov AT and Tchorbanov B. Anti-platelet fraction from Galega officinalis L. inhibits platelet aggregation. J.Med.Food 2002;5(4):229-234. View Abstract
  4. Atanasov AT and Tchorbanov BJ. Antiplatelet aggregation activity of a fraction isolated from Galega officinalis L. J Herbs Spices Medicinal Plant 2002;10(2):63-71.
  5. Bailey CJ and Day C. Metformin: its botanical background. Pract Diab Int 2004;21(3):115-117.
  6. Barger G and White FD. Galuteolin, a New Glucoside from Galega Officinalis. Biochem.J 1923;17(6):836-838. View Abstract
  7. Cavaliere C. Glucophage: Diabetic drug based on traditional herb celebrates 50 years of use. HerbalGram 2008;76:44-49.
  8. Champavier Y, Allais DP, Chulia AJ, and Kaouadji M. Acetylated and non-acetylated flavonol triglycosides from Galega officinalis. Chem.Pharm Bull.(Tokyo) 2000;48(2):281-282. View Abstract
  9. Hadden DR. Goat’s rue – French lilac – Italian fitch – Spanish sainfoin: gallega officinalis and metformin: the Edinburgh connection. J R.Coll.Physicians Edinb. 2005;35(3):258-260. View Abstract
  10. Keeler RF, Baker DC, and Evans JO. Individual animal susceptibility and its relationship to induced adaptation or tolerance in sheep to Galega officinalis L. Vet.Hum.Toxicol. 1988;30(5):420-423. View Abstract
  11. Lemus I, Garcia R, Delvillar E, and Knop G. Hypoglycaemic activity of four plants used in Chilean popular medicine. Phytother.Res. 1999;13(2):91-94. View Abstract
  12. Mooney MH, Fogarty S, Stevenson C, Gallagher AM, Palit P, Hawley SA, Hardie DG, Coxon GD, Waigh RD, Tate RJ, Harvey AL, and Furman BL. Mechanisms underlying the metabolic actions of galegine that contribute to weight loss in mice. Br.J Pharmacol. 2008;153(8):1669-1677. View Abstract
  13. Neef H, Augustijns P, Declercq P, Declerck PJ, and Laekeman G. Inhibitory effects of Galega officinalis on glucose transport across monolayers of human intestinal epithelial cells. Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Letters 1996;6:86-89.
  14. Palit P, Furman BL, and Gray AI. Novel weight-reducing activity of Galega officinalis in mice. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1999;51(11):1313-1319. View Abstract
  15. Petricic J and Kalodera Z. Galegin in the goat’s rue herb: toxicity, antidiabetic activity and content determination. Acta Pharm Jugosl 1982;32:219-223.

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.