Herb: Goat's Rue

Latin name: Galega officinalis

Synonyms: Galega bicolor, Galega persica, Galega tricolor

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Goat's Rue:

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 enzymes. The plant is harvested as it is just coming into flower and is dried for later use. Some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)

to July

Habitat of the herb:

Scrub, woods, marshy fields and roadsides.

Edible parts of Goat's Rue:

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.

Other uses of the herb:

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.

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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Scrub, woods, marshy fields and roadsides.

Known hazards of Galega officinalis:

A 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.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.