Goat’s Rue (Galega officinalis) is part of the legume family and is a perennial flowering herb. It originated in the Middle East and then began being grown in Europe and Asia. The bushy plant grows in grasslands and wetlands with a long, deep taproot, flowering in the summertime. When the seed pod becomes ripe, it bursts open and scatters its seeds. In the United States, it is considered an invasive weed.
Goat’s rue is often called galega, but its other names include:
- Professor weed
- Common milkpea
- French lilac
- Italian fitch
Historically, Goat’s rue has been given as a remedy for many conditions. It has been used to treat digestive problems including indigestion and chronic constipation caused by not enough digestive enzymes as well as bring relief for bee stings and snake bites. It was used to treat the plague and preparation of it was used to induce sweating when trying to get a fever to break. A footbath preparation was said to relieve sore feet.
Its Latin name comes from “gale” meaning “milk” and “ega” meaning “to bring” coining it the bringer of milk.(1) The Greek word “gala” means “milk” and “aigos” means “goats”. In the 19th century, goat's rue benefits were found to increase the milk supply of goats, sheep, and cows that grazed on it.(2) Some plants in the genus galega were found to be toxic to sheep when it was introduced to fields in the United States. It seems this is due to the large quantity they were grazing on since there is research confirming the positive effect goat’s rue has for increasing milk supply by 16.9% without toxic effects.(3)
Goat’s rue is special in the group of herbs for supporting lactation and milk supply. It has a compound called genistein (isoflavone phytoestrogen) which has been shown to help increase breast tissue and milk storage. This is a beneficial effect for parents who did not experience changes in their breast/chest size during pregnancy. People who have insufficient glandular tissue (IGT) or hypoplasia often have success taking goat’s rue to grow more tissue and increase their milk supply. It can also be used by parents who have had breast surgeries as well as those who want to breast/chestfeed their adopted baby.(4)
Goat’s rue is in texts as early as the 1600’s as a way to lower blood sugar. In the 1920s, the compound galegine began to be studied more and led to making the synthetic medication Metformin. Insulin does more than processes glucose. Our milk-making glands are highly sensitive to insulin. For someone who is insulin resistant, they are more likely to experience a delay in their milk increasing during the first few days after birth, sometimes combined with a lower milk supply. Goat’s rue can keep blood glucose levels lower helping with increased insulin sensitivity.(6)
Goat’s rue boosts milk supply by increasing prolactin which is a hormone responsible for making milk. As milk is removed by your baby or pumping, prolactin is released and the glands fill with more milk. In a randomized, double-blind study, a group of 50 mothers in a control group took a placebo and another group of 50 mothers took a supplement containing Milk thistle and Goat’s rue. The study was aiming to find if the supplement had an impact on milk supply during the first month of life for mothers of preterm infants. From day 7-30 of the study, the mothers in the group taking the milk thistle and goat’s rue supplement had significantly higher milk production. The study showed that the group taking the herbal supplement maintained their milk supply throughout the first month of their babies' life compared to only ⅓ of the control group being able to maintain their supply during that time.(5)
Some people notice an increase in milk supply within 2-3 days of taking Goat’s rue, but it can take up to 2 weeks for its full benefits. It is toxic used in its fresh state so should only be used dried. Because it can lower blood sugar, it should be used with caution for people who are diabetic or have hypoglycemia. It is part of the Pea family so if you are allergic to other foods in that family like peanuts, soybeans, and alfalfa, talk to your health care provider before taking it.
Goat’s rue has been used as a diuretic and can help rid the body of excess water by promoting the production of urine. This is helpful after you have given birth and are retaining a lot of fluids. Water retention can cause discomfort and make it more challenging for your baby to latch if it is causing swelling in your breast tissue. That can put pressure on the milk ducts and make it harder for milk to flow.
Goat’s rue is in the same family as Fenugreek, but fenugreek can cause stomach upset and digestive issues for some people. Goat’s rue can be used instead and doesn’t have the same side effect of an upset stomach. Many people feel it works even better for them than Fenugreek.
Goat’s rue is an ingredient in Legendairy Milk’s Liquid Gold, Cash Cow, and Lechita. Each of the supplements contains a different blend of herbs for supporting milk supply. With the addition of Goat’s rue, they can help increase milk supply during your breast/chestfeeding journey.
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