Medically reviewed on June 11, 2018
Scientific Name(s): Galega officinalis L. Fam: Fabaceae (beans)
Common Name(s): Goat's rue , French lilac , Italian fitch
Goat's rue derivatives have been associated with reductions in blood sugar levels, but more study is needed. Goat's rue is also a well-known diuretic and increases breast milk production. Other effects include use as a tonic, liver-protectant, and as a platelet aggregation inhibitor.
There are no recent clinical studies of goat's rue herb to provide a basis for dosage recommendations. Classical use of the herb was 2 g in an infusion.
Contraindications have not yet been identified.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
Possible interactions may exist with other hypoglycemic medications. Goat's rue may interfere with absorption of iron and other minerals.
Discontinue use if symptoms such as headache, jitteriness, or weakness occur. The safety of the plant has not been proven in pregnancy or breastfeeding. Goat's rue may interfere with the absorption of iron and other minerals.
In humans, danger of intoxication has been observed with other guanidine derivatives.
Originating in Europe and Asia, goat's rue thrives in temperate regions. The plant prefers damp, low-lying areas and sandy soil. Goat's rue is a perennial herb, growing to > 1 m in height. Its leaves are compound with lance-shaped ends, and the fruit consists of a round, indented pod containing many seeds. The flowers are white, lilac, light blue, or pinkish in color and grow on terminal spikes. These dried, above-ground parts, harvested during the summer flowering season, are the parts of the plant used medicinally. The plant has no scent unless bruised, when it emits a disagreeable odor, perhaps how the name “goat's rue” originated. Goat's rue should not be confused with “rue” ( Ruta graveolens ). 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6
Goat's rue has been employed as a vermifuge, to treat snakebites, and to aid in treating the plague. It was believed to have been used as a diuretic and tonic in typhoid conditions and also as a nervous system stimulant. 2 , 5 , 6 Culpepper suggested goat's rue as a soak for tired feet and for cheese making. 5 Hill's Universal Herbal (1832) mentions the dried flowers of goat's rue being added to boiling water as an infusion and then taken to induce sweating and aid in fevers. 5 The plant is widely cultivated as cattle feed. 2
Guanidine derivatives are present in all parts of goat's rue and include galegine (isoamylene-guanidine) and hydroxygalegine. 1 , 2 Several older reports confirm the presence of galegine and related compounds. 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 A later study discusses the presence of several guanidine derivatives, including galegine and 4-hydroxygalegine flavones, and flavone glycosides. 13 Flavonol triglycosides kaempferol and quercetin derivatives have been found in the plant, 14 as have norterpenoid and sesquiterpenoid glycosides, including a rare dearabinosyl pneumonanthoside. 15 Vasicine and other quinazoline alkaloids have been confirmed in Galega species. 16 Other constituents, including peganine, various flavonoids, saponins, and tannins, are also present in goat's rue. 1 , 2 , 17 , 18
Uses and PharmacologyReductions in blood sugar levels
Galegine in goat's rue has been associated with marked reductions in blood sugar levels. Studies in the 1970s demonstrated galegine and other guanidine derivatives reduced blood sugar levels. 2Animal data
Alcoholic extracts of goat's rue were shown to exhibit hypoglycemic effects in diabetic rabbits. 19 A report found galegin lowered blood sugar by 32% in diabetic rats. 20 Another study investigated a mechanism as to how fractions of the plant exert its hypoglycemic effects. It was concluded that inhibition of transport of glucose across monolayers of human intestinal cells takes place in a dose-dependent manner. 21 Another report compared the hypoglycemic actions of G. officinalis to others. 22 The chromium salt content may also possess antidiabetic effects. 1Clinical data
A review evaluating several alternative therapies for diabetes found all reports encouraging as new possibilities in treatment but advises further examinations in this area before establishment of use. 23 Therefore, goat rue's role may be of some value as supportive treatment or in early stages of adult onset diabetes with a physician's guidance, but it may not be completely justified because of the severity of the disease and the availability of better alternatives. 2 , 3Weight reduction
A reversible, marked weight-reducing effect of Galega was demonstrated in mice, regardless of food intake. Post-mortem examinations revealed a striking absence of body fat related to the plant. 24 , 25Clinical data
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of goat's rue for weight reduction.Diuresis
Goat's rue is also a well-known, useful diuretic. 2 , 3 Also, refer to the Herbal Diuretics monograph in the Appendix. Because of this characteristic, goat's rue may be considered useful for disturbances related to secretion of fluids, such as GI ailments (eg, fermentive dyspepsia, gastrocardiac syndrome, diarrhea). Goat's rue is said to stimulate the adrenal glands and pancreas and to aid in “glandular disturbances.” None of these claims, however, are clinically documented. 3Animal/Clinical data
Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of goat's rue for diuresis.Increased breast milk production
Goat's rue increases breast milk production. 2 Reports of the lactogenic effects of the plant exist. 26 Goat's rue given to cows would increase milk secretion from 35% to 50%. 5 Goat's rue is recommended in veterinary medicine to stimulate milk secretion. 1Clinical data
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of goat's rue for increasing breast milk production.Other uses
There are no recent clinical studies of goat's rue herb to provide a basis for dosage recommendations. Classical use of the herb was 2 g in an infusion. 29
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
Possible interactions may exist with other hypoglycemic medications. 21
Goat's rue may interfere with absorption of iron and other minerals. 30
One text advises discontinuation of goat's rue preparation if symptoms such as headache, jitteriness, or weakness occur. The safety of the plant has not yet been proven in pregnancy or breastfeeding; therefore, caution is warranted with its use during these times. 30
In humans, danger of intoxication has been observed with other guanidine derivatives. Most biguanidine preparations developed in the 1950s have been withdrawn from the market. 1 Use of goat's rue to treat diabetes should only proceed under professional supervision, as there is still uncertainty to its effectiveness. 2 , 3
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