Goat’s Rue

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Galega officinalis-Goat’s Rue

Family: Papilionaceae or Leguminosae

Other names: French Lilac, G. bicolor, G. persica, G. tricolor, Herb-of-Grace, Herb of Grace, Herbygrass, Garden Rue, Mother of Herbs, Rewe

Habitat: Grows wild in Europe, naturalized in Britain. Scrub, woods, marshy fields and roadsides.

hazardsmallA few reports exist, none of them in Britain, of toxicity to mammals, though the plant is often fed to cows and goats in order to increase their milk yield.

Goat’s rue was once important in the treatment of plague, fevers and infectious diseases. It is still used in modern herbalism, though mainly for its effect in promoting milk-flow in lactating mothers (it has been shown to increase the flow of milk in cows and goats by 35 – 50%) and for its positive effect on the digestive system. The plant contains galegine, an alkaloid that strongly reduces blood sugar levels which make it useful in the treatment of diabetes. The leaves and flowering tops are diaphoretic, diuretic, galactogogue and hypoglycaemic. It has also been used in the treatment of fevers. It is taken internally to treat insufficient lactation, late-onset diabetes, pancreatitis and digestive problems, especially chronic constipation caused by a lack of digestive enzyme.  Some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity.

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Description of Goat’s Rue:

Galega officinalis, Goat’s Rue is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 0.8 m (2ft 7in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone 4. It is in flower from Jun to July, and the seeds ripen in August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.It can fix Nitrogen. 

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Cultivation of Goat’s Rue:

Succeeds in most soils but repays generous treatment. Prefers full sun and a deep moist soil but it also succeeds in light shade. Grows well even in poor soils. Plants are very tolerant of neglect and can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn. A long-lived plant, it can be invasive in good growing conditions. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Propagation of Goat’s Rue:

Seed – pre-soak for 12 hours in warm water and then sow the seed in spring or autumn in a cold frame. Spring-sown seed can be slow to germinate, a period of cold stratification may improve the germination time. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. If you have sufficient seed, then it is possible to sow outdoors in situ in mid to late spring. Division in spring or autumn. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Collection of Goat’s Rue: The stalks with the leaves and flowers are gathered at the time of flowering, which is between July and August. Dry in the shade.

Culinary uses of Goat’s Rue:

Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses: Curdling agent.

Leaves – cooked. Used like spinach. Some caution is advised due to reports of possible toxicity. The herb is used as a substitute for rennet in curdling plant milks etc.

Galega_Officinalis_Goat's_RueMedicinal uses of Goat’s Rue:

Actions: Hypoglycaemic, galactogogue, diuretic, diaphoretic.

Part Used: Dried aerial parts.

Indications: Goat’s Rue is one of many herbal remedies with the action of reducing blood sugar levels. Its use is thus potentially indicated in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. This must not replace insulin therapy, however, and should occur only under professional supervision. It is also an effective galactagogue, stimulating both the production and flow of milk, and has been shown to increase milk output by up to 50% in some cases. It may also stimulate the development of the mammary glands.

Preparations & Dosage of Goat’s Rue:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried leaves and let infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk twice a day.

Tincture: take 1-2ml of the tincture three times a day.

Other uses of Goat’s Rue:

Cosmetic,  Green manure.

A fast-growing plant, it makes a good green manure crop, enriching the soil with organic matter and also fixing atmospheric nitrogen. The plant is used cosmetically in hand and foot bathes.

Esoteric uses of Goat’s Rue:

Magickal uses include healing, health, mental powers, freedom and protection against the evil eye. Use as an asperger to cast salt water for purification of the circle or removing negativity from the home. Hang the dried herb indoors to help yourself see and understand your mistakes. Burn to banish negativity or bad habits. Add to incenses and poppets to prevent illness or speed recovery. Add to baths to break hexes and curses that may have been placed against you.

[Warning – Rue should not be handled by women who are pregnant.] 

The Chemistry:


  • Galegine (=isoamyleneguanidine), its 4-hydroxyderivative and peganine
  • Flavonoids
  • Saponins