Skip to Content

Goat's Rue

Scientific Name(s): Galega officinalis L.
Common Name(s): French lilac, Galega, Goat's rue, Italian fitch, Pestilenzkraut (German), Professor-weed

Clinical Overview

Use

Goat's rue and its derivatives have been used in the management of diabetes mellitus to reduce blood sugar levels. Goat’s rue has also been used for its lactogenic effects to increase milk production. It has tonic, liver protectant, and platelet aggregation inhibitory effects, and has been evaluated for its diuretic and weight loss effects. However, limited clinical trials exist to support these uses.

Dosing

Diabetes: Information is lacking to provide dosing recommendations for goat’s rue in diabetes. Clinical dosing information focuses on metformin, which is derived from goat’s rue.

Galactorrhea: 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of dried herb steeped in 1 cup (240 mL) of water administered twice daily or 1 to 2 mL of tincture administered 3 times daily.

Contraindications

Use caution if administering goat’s rue during surgical procedures due to a potential increased risk of bleeding.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy is lacking. Silymarin in combination with galega enhances milk production in breast-feeding mothers.

Interactions

Hypoglycemic medications: Additive blood glucose–lowering effects may occur if using goat’s rue concomitantly with other hypoglycemic medications such as insulin and sulfonylureas.

Antiplatelet/Anticoagulant medications: Because goat’s rue inhibits platelet aggregation, the risk of bleeding may be increased when given concomitantly with other antiplatelet medications or anticoagulants.

Adverse Reactions

Headache, jitteriness, or weakness may occur. Because of its ability to inhibit platelet aggregation, there may be an increased risk of bleeding and bruising with administration of goat’s rue.

Toxicology

Toxicity has been observed with other guanidine derivatives.

Botany

Goat’s rue is a perennial herb found in temperate grassland regions of Asia and Europe. It also grows wild in damp fields in Britain.1 The plant, which prefers damp, low-lying areas and sandy soil, grows to about 1 m in height. It has compound leaves with lance-shaped ends and fruit consisting of a round, indented pod containing many seeds. The flowers are white, lilac, light blue, or pinkish in color and grow on terminal spikes. The dried aerial parts of the plant are harvested during the summer flowering season and used medicinally. The plant has no scent unless bruised, in which case it emits a disagreeable odor, from which the name "goat's rue" may have originated. It has a bitter and astringent taste and can discolor saliva to a yellowish-green hue.2 Goat's rue should not be confused with common rue (Ruta graveolens).2, 3, 4, 5, 6

History

Goat's rue has been traditionally used as a vermifuge, and for treatment of snakebites and the plague. It is believed to have been used as a diuretic and tonic for typhoid conditions and as a nervous system stimulant.2, 4 Goat's rue has been used as a soak for tired feet and as an herb in cheese making.2 Hill's Universal Herbal (1832) mentions the addition of the dried flowers to boiling water to make an infusion for drinking to induce sweating and reduce fever.2 The plant is widely cultivated as cattle feed.4 Reports of lactogenic effects of the plant exist.7 The name "Galega" is derived from "gala" meaning "milk," and "agein" meaning "production."8

Chemistry

Guanidine derivatives, including galegine (isoamylene-guanidine) and hydroxygalegine, are present in all parts of goat's rue.3, 4 Several older reports confirm the presence of galegine and related compounds.9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 A later study discusses the presence of several guanidine derivatives, including galegine and 4-hydroxygalegine flavones, and flavone glycosides.15 The flavonol triglycosides kaempferol and quercetin have been found in the plant,16 as have norterpenoid and sesquiterpenoid glycosides, including the rare norterpenoid glycoside dearabinosyl pneumonanthoside.17 Vasicine and other quinazoline alkaloids have been confirmed in Galega spp.18 Other constituents, including peganine, various flavonoids, saponins, and tannins, are also present in goat's rue.3, 4, 19, 20

Uses and Pharmacology

Antibacterial effects

Animal and in vitro data

An in vitro study demonstrated that ethanolic (95%) extracts of G. officinalis inhibited the growth of Enterococcus faecalis and Yersinia enterocolitica. The aqueous alcoholic (60%) extract of G. officinalis inhibited Enterobacter aerogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, E. faecalis, Bacillus subtilis, Serratia marcescens, and Y. enterocolitica.1

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the antibacterial effects of goat’s rue.

Diuresis

Due to its potential diuretic effects, goat’s rue might be considered 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. However, none of these claims are clinically documented.4, 5

Animal and in vitro data

Research reveals no animal or in vitro data regarding the use of goat’s rue for diuresis.

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of goat's rue for diuresis.

Galactorrhea

Goat's rue has been shown to increase milk production in lactating animals and in breast-feeding mothers.4

Animal and in vitro data

Goat's rue increases milk secretion from 35% to 50% in cows.2 Goat's rue is recommended in veterinary medicine to stimulate milk secretion.3

Clinical data

In a clinical study, 100 mothers with preterm infants were randomized to receive a galactogogue containing silymarin-phosphatidylserine and galega at a dosage of 5 g/day or placebo from days 3 to 28 postdelivery. Significantly higher milk production was noted with treatment at 7 days and 30 days compared with placebo (P<0.05). Women receiving the galactogogue produced 200 mL (110 to 380 mL) each day compared with 115 mL (60 to 245 mL) with placebo (P<0.0001). Women receiving the galactogogue produced more milk (6,523±5,298 mL) during the study period compared with those receiving placebo (4,136±4,093 mL, P<0.02). No adverse effects were reported.21

Hypoglycemic effects

Studies in the 1970s demonstrated that galegine and other guanidine derivatives reduce blood sugar levels.4 Metformin, a biguanide used for the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus, is derived from G. officinalis.10

Animal and in vitro data

In a study evaluating effects of rue leaf preparations, alcoholic extracts of goat's rue exhibited hypoglycemic effects in diabetic rabbits.22 Another report found galegine lowered blood sugar 32% in diabetic rats.23 In another study investigating the mechanism by which fractions of the plant exert hypoglycemic effects, inhibition of glucose transport across monolayers of human intestinal cells occurred in a dose-dependent manner.24 In one study, an extract of G. officinalis normalized leukocyte functionality and reduced apoptosis manifestations in streptozotocin-induced diabetes.25 Another report compared the hypoglycemic actions of a dried leaf infusion of G. officinalis with infusions of other plant products.26 The chromium salt content of goat’s rue may also possess antidiabetic effects.3

Clinical data

A review evaluating several alternative therapies for diabetes, including G. officinalis, reported encouraging results regarding new treatment possibilities in diabetes mellitus but noted the need for further research.27 Goat's rue may be of some value as supportive therapy or in early stages of adult-onset diabetes, with guidance from a physician, but use may not be justified based on severity of the disease, adverse effects/interactions, and the availability of better alternatives.4, 5

Weight reduction

Several mechanisms have been postulated regarding G. officinalis’ ability to cause weight loss, based on observations in murine models. Although treatment with G. officinalis was accompanied by a transient decrease in food intake in one study, pair-feeding indicated that the effects on body weight were at least partially independent of changes in food intake. Possible mechanisms include the activation of adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase, enhanced glucose uptake, and inhibition of acetyl-CoA carboxylase. Fatty acid synthesis inhibition and fatty acid oxidation simulation occurs with the inhibition of acetyl-CoA carboxylase.28

Animal and in vitro data

In studies investigating the effects of goat’s rue on weight, a reversible, marked weight-reducing effect was demonstrated in mice, regardless of food intake. Postmortem examinations revealed a striking absence of body fat in mice administered goat’s rue.29, 30 Modifications to galegine, including replacement of the dimethylallyl group by various benzyl substituents, enhanced weight loss ability.31

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of goat's rue for weight loss.

Other uses

Goat's rue has been used as a tonic, liver protectant,5 and platelet aggregation inhibitor.32, 33, 34, 35 It may also possess antioxidant effects, which can vary according to the type of extract.8, 36 G. officinalis extracts were also noted to have variable cytotoxic activity against glioblastoma and lung adenocarcinoma cell lines. An in vitro study demonstrated that an extract of G. officinalis as well as galegine visually changed the color of melanoma cells and reduced the melanin content.37

Dosing

Diabetes

Information is lacking to provide dosing recommendations for goat’s rue in diabetes. Clinical dosing information focuses on metformin, which is derived from goat’s rue.

Galactorrhea

1 teaspoon (5 mL) of dried herb steeped in 1 cup (240 mL) of water administered twice daily.38

1 to 2 mL of tincture administered 3 times daily.38

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy is lacking. In a study of preterm infants, silymarin in combination with galega enhanced milk production in breast-feeding mothers.21

Interactions

Hypoglycemic medications

Additive blood glucose–lowering effects may occur if using goat’s rue concomitantly with other hypoglycemic medications such as insulin and sulfonylureas.24

Antiplatelet/Anticoagulant medications

Because goat’s rue inhibits platelet aggregation, the risk of bleeding may be increased when given concomitantly with other antiplatelet medications or anticoagulants.32, 33, 34

Adverse Reactions

Headache, jitteriness, or weakness may occur. Because of its ability to inhibit platelet aggregation, there may be an increased risk of bleeding and bruising with administration of goat’s rue.32, 33, 34

Toxicology

Toxic effects of goat’s rue have been reported, with most data derived from studies in sheep. Dyspnea, anoxia, and foaming nasal discharge were observed in ewes ingesting doses as small as 0.8 g/kg/day. Hydrothorax, lung congestion, foamy exudates in the bronchioles and trachea, epicardial and endocardial petechiation, and pericardial effusion were noted in sheep that died. Microscopic alterations in the lungs were also noted.39, 40 In 3 sheep with poisoning from G. officinalis, an asphyxic syndrome occurred and led to death within hours.41 Galegine is suspected to be the cause of toxicity.8

In a murine model, G. officinalis at doses up to 5 g/kg was not associated with increased mortality or toxic symptoms. In the subchronic arm of the study, cholesterol, creatine phosphokinase, lactate dehydrogenase, and total and conjugated bilirubin levels were increased in some groups of rats. Reductions in calcium, albumin, albumin/globulin ratio, hematocrit, and white blood cell and platelet counts occurred in some rats.42

In humans, toxicity has been observed with other guanidine derivatives. Most biguanidine preparations developed in the 1950s have been withdrawn from the market.3 Goat's rue should be used to treat diabetes only under physician supervision due to uncertainty regarding its safety and effectiveness.4, 5

References

1. Pundarikakshudu K, Patel JK, Bodar MS, Deans SG. Anti-bacterial activity of Galega officinalis L. (goat’s rue). J Ethnopharmacol. 2001;77(1):111-112.11483386
2. Rue, Goat’s. In: Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. 1931. http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/r/ruegoa21.html. Accessed November 17, 2016.
3. Bisset NG, ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals: A Handbook for Practice on a Scientific Basis. Stuttgart, Germany: CRC Press; 1994:220-221.
4. Chevallier A. TheEncyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York, NY: DK Publishing; 1996:212.
5. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:332.
6. Secrets et vertus des plantes médicinales. Paris, France: Sélection du Reader's Digest; 1985.
7. Heiss H. Clinical and experimental contribution on the question of the lactogenic effect of Galega officinalis [in German]. Wien Med Wochenschr. 1968;118(24):546-548.5751861
8. Khodadadi S. Administration of Galega officinalis in experimental and clinical investigations; a narrative review. Ann Res Antioxid. 2016;1(1):e03.
9. Reuter G, Barthel A. Guanidino-acetic acid as a precursor of galegin in Galega officinalis L. [in German]. Pharmazie. 1967;22(5):261.5623941
10. Schäfer J, Stein M. On the variability of substances contained in the goat's rue (Galega officinalis L.) [in German]. Naturwissenschaften. 1967;54(8):205.5585866
11. Barthel A, Reuter G. Biochemistry and physiology of isoprenoid guanidines, especially (4-hydroxy-3-methyl-2-buten-1-yl)guanidine in Galega officinalis. Pharmazie. 1968;23(1):26-33.
12. Desvages G, Olomucki M. Guanidine derivatives of Galega officinalis; galegine and hydroxygalegine [in French]. Bull Soc Chim Fr. 1969;9:3229-3232.
13. Reuter G, Barthel A, Steiniger J. Metabolism of guanidine acetic acid in Galega officinalis L. [in German]. Pharmazie. 1969;24(6):358.5807402
14. Leonard NJ, Playtis AJ. Synthesis of 1-(4-hydroxy-3-methyl-cis-2-butenyl)guanidine, the naturally occurring hydroxygalegine. J Chem Soc Chem Commun. 1972;3:133-134.
15. Rosca M, Tamas M. Studies on Galegae Herba products [in Romanian]. Farmacia (Bucharest). 1988;36(4):217-221.
16. Champavier Y, Allais DP, Chulia AJ, Kaouadji M. Acetylated and non-acetylated flavonol triglycosides from Galega officinalis. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2000;48(2):281-282.
17. Champavier Y, Comte G, Vercauteren J, Allais DP, Chulia AJ. Norterpenoid and sesquiterpenoid glucosides from Juniperus phoenicea and Galega officinalis. Phytochemistry. 1999;50(7):1219-1223.10705519
18. Laakso I, Virkajarvi P, Airaksinen H, Varis E. Determination of vasicine and related alkaloids by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr. 1990;505(2):424-428.
19. Shevchuk OI. Flavonoids in flowers of Galega officinalis [in Ukranian]. Khim Biol. 1967;29(6):544-547.
20. Fukunaga T, Nishiya K, Takeya K, Itokawa H. Studies on the constituents of goat's rue (Galega officinalis L.). Chem Pharm Bull. 1987;35(4):1610-1614.
21. Zecca E, Zuppa AA, D’Antuono A, et al. Efficacy of a galactogogue containing silymarin-phosphatidylserine and galega in mothers of preterm infants: a randomized controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016;70(10):1151-1154.
22. Shukyurov DZ, Guseinov DY, Yuzbashinskaya PA. Effect of preparations from rue leaves on carbohydrate metabolism in a normal state and during alloxan diabetes [in Russian]. Dokl Akad Nauk Az SSR. 1974;30(10):58-60.
23. Petricic J, Kalodera Z. Galegin in the goat's rue herb: its toxicity, antidiabetic activity and content determination. Acta Pharm Jugosl. 1982;32(3):219-223.
24. Neef H, Augustijns P, Declercq P, Declerck PJ, Laekeman G. Inhibitory effects of Galega officinalis on glucose transport across monolayers of human intestinal epithelia cells (Caco-2). Pharm Pharmacol Lett. 1996;6(2):86-89.
25. Khokhla M, Kleveta G, Lupak M, Skybitska M, Chajka Y, Sybirna N. The inhibition of rate leukocyte apoptosis under the condition of experimental diabetes mellitus type 1 by Galega officinalis L. extract. Curr Issues Pharm Med Sci. 2013;26(4):393-397.
26. Lemus I, García R, Delvillar E, Knop G. Hypoglycaemic activity of four plants used in Chilean popular medicine. Phytother Res. 1999;13(2):91-94.10190178
27. Stosic D, Bogavac P, Panov I. Medicinal plant raw materials with antihyperglycemic activity [in Serbo-Croatian]. Arh Farm. 1993;43(1-2):35-41.
28. Mooney MH, Fogarty S, Stevenson C, et al. Mechanisms underlying the metabolic actions of galegine that contribute to weight loss in mice. Br J Pharmacol. 2008;153(8):1669-1677.18297106
29. Palit P, Furman BL, Gray AI. Novel weight reducing activity of ethanol-water extract of Galega officinalis. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1998;50(59):80.
30. Palit P, Furman BL, Gray AI. Novel weight-reducing activity of Galega officinalis in mice. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1999;51(11):1313-131910632090
31. Coxon GD, Furman BL, Harvey AL, et al. Benzylguanidines and other galegine analogues inducing weight loss in mice. J Med Chem. 2009;52(11):3457-3463.19422230
32. Atanasov AT, Spasov V. Inhibiting effect of desalted extract from Galega officinalis L. on platelet aggregation. Folia Med (Plovdiv). 1999;41(1):46-50.10462920
33. Atanasov AT, Spasov V. Inhibiting and disaggregating effect of gel-filtered Galega officinalis L. herbal extract on platelet aggregation. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;69(3):235-240.10722205
34. Atanasov AT, Tchorbanov B. Anti-platelet fraction from Galega officinalis L. inhibits platelet aggregation. J Med Food. 2002;5(4):229-234.12639398
35. Atanasov AT. Anti-platelet fraction isolated from Galega officinalis. Acta Med Bulgarica. 2016;43(2):5-10.
36. Karakas FP, Turker AU, Karakas A, Mshvildadze V. Cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities of four different extracts of Galega officinalis L (Goat’s rue). Trop J Pharmaceu Res. 2016;15(4):751-757.
37. Lee JS, Kim WS, Kim JJ, et al. Identification of anti-melanogenic natural compounds from Galega officinalis and further drug repositioning. J Dermatol Sci. 2012;67(1):61-63.22608214
38. Walker M, ed. Breastfeeding Management for the Clinician: Using the Evidence. 2nd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers; 2011:592.
39. Keeler RF, Baker DC, 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):420-423.3188360
40. Keeler RF, Johnson AE, Stuart LD, Evans JO. Toxicosis from and possible adaptation to Galega officinalis in sheep and the relationship to Verbesina encelioides toxicosis. Vet Hum Toxicol. 1986;28(4):309-315.3750812
41. Puyt JD, Faliu L, Keck G, Gedfrain JC, Pinault L, Tainturier D. Fatal poisoning of sheep by Galega officinalis (French honeysuckle). Vet Hum Toxicol. 1981;23(6):410-412.7336561
42. Rasekh HR, Nazari P, Kamli-Nejad M, Hosseinzadeh L. Acute and subchronic oral toxicity of Galega officinalis in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;116(1):21-26.18055147

Disclaimer

This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

More about goat's rue

Hide