Rue, Goat's

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Rue, Goat's

Botanical Name: Galega officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae

Synonyms: Herba ruta caprariae. Italian Fitch.
(German) Pestilenzkraut.
Parts Used: Leaves, flowering tops.

Goat's Rue, known in the old Herbals as Herba rutae caprariae, is a leguminous plant that in former times was much employed on account of its diaphoretic properties in malignant fevers and the plague, hence one of its German popular names of Pestilenzkraut.

'The leaves, gathered just as the plant is going into flower and dried, with the addition of boiling water, make an infusion which being drunk plentifully, excites sweating and is good in fevers.' (Hill's Universal Herbal, 1832.)

It was also used as a remedy for worms and recommended as a cure for the bites of serpents. Parkinson says it is 'good for fattening hens.

This profuse-flowering, hardy perennial herb is a native of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean - Gerard calls it Italian Fitch - and it is widely cultivated in gardens in England.

Description: From the several-headed root, rise erect stems, about 3 feet high, smooth and branched, bearing pinnate leaves with from six to eight pairs of lance-shaped leaflets, 3/4 to 2 inches long, and an odd terminal one. The leaflets are bright green, smooth (or very slightly hairy), on short foot-stalks.

The small lilac, purplish or white flowers are in axillary racemes and produce narrow, almost cylindrical pods.

The plant is without scent, unless bruised, when it emits a disagreeable odour, whence perhaps its name of Goat's Rue.

It has a mucilaginous and somewhat bitter and astringent taste. It colours the saliva yellowish-green, if chewed.

Cultivation: Being pea-like in character, its chief requirements are deep soil and moisture. Given these it will grow strongly each season, producing great masses of flowers, and will grow undisturbed for many years. Autumn planting is best.

Constituents: The constituents of Goat's Rue have not been investigated fully. It contains a bitter principle and tannin and yields not more than 12 per cent of ash.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Diaphoretic, galactagogue. The herb is official in the National Formulary IV attached to the United States Pharmacopoeia; the dried flowering tops are made into a fluid extract with diluted alcohol.

In 1873 Gillet-Damitte, in a communication to the French Academy, stated that this plant when given to cows would increase the secretion of milk from 35 to 50 per cent, since which time, Cerisoli, Millbank and several French physicians have affirmed that Goat's Rue is a powerful galactagogue. The best preparation is stated to be an aqueous extract prepared from the fresh plant. This almost black extract has a pronounced odour and is recommended to be given in doses of from 8 to 15 grains, from three to five times a day. Culpepper says: 'A bath made of it is very refreshing to wash the feet of persons tired with overwalking. In the northern countries they use this herb for making their cheeses instead of Rennet, whence it is called also "CheeseRennet"; the flowers contain an acidity, which may be got by distillation. This plant is seldom used in the shops.' The root of an American species of Goat's Rue (Galega virginiana, Linn.) is said to be diaphoretic and powerfully anthelmintic. It is given in decoction.