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Goat's Rue and Increasing the Supply of Breast Milk

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Updated June 10, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Goat's Rue

By H. Zell/ Wikimedia

Goat's rue (Galega officinalis) is a plant native to Europe and the Middle East. It has been used in herbal medicine to treat tuberculosis, lower blood sugar and improve the milk supply of nursing mothers. In Europe, the dried leaves were fed to cows and goats to increase milk production. It was brought over to the United States in the late 1800's to provide a food source for livestock. Unfortunately, the plant was not a successful crop due to it's bitter taste and toxicity. It turned out to be harmful and even lethal to some of the animals. Today, goat's rue is considered a noxious weed in the United States.

Benefits and Uses of Goat's Rue

  • It is believed to help nursing mothers build up breast tissue and make more breast milk.

  • Some studies show that goat's rue may help lower blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

  • It is believed to be useful in cancer research. Studies are now being carried out.

  • It has been used as a diuretic.

  • Goat's rue has been shown to have anti-bacterial properties.

Goat's Rue and Breastfeeding

Popular in European countries, goat's rue is considered a galactagogue often recommended to nursing mothers to help increase the supply of breast milk. It is also used to induce the growth of breast tissue, so it may be helpful for women who wish to breastfeed after breast surgery and those who plan to breastfeed an adopted child.

Goat's rue belongs to the same plant family as fenugreek. Some women report that it works just as well or even better than fenugreek, however, it does not appear to work for everyone.

How to Use Goat's Rue

Consult your doctor or lactaction consultant before taking goat's rue.

Do not use the fresh goat's rue plant, it is considered toxic. The dried plant used as a tea, or in capsule form is generally considered safe.

As a Tea: (Compare Prices) Use 1 teaspoon of dried leaves in 8 ounces (1 cup) of water. Infuse for 10 minutes. Drink one cup up to three times a day. You can also add other herbs such as alfalfa, blessed thistle, fennel and stinging nettle to your tea to further support lactation.

Capsules: (Compare Prices) A typical dose would be 1 capsule 3 or 4 times a day. Purchase your capsules from a reputable company and follow the dosing directions given to you by your doctor or lactation consultant.

 

Goat's rue can also be found as an ingredient in some commercially available teas and capsules made specifically for breastfeeding mothers.

Warnings and Side Effects

Goat's rue is a plant that is believed to be lethal for some animals. Do not use goat's rue in the fresh form since it can be toxic. Herbal treatments can be dangerous, always consult wth your physician, lactation consultant or herbal specialist before taking any herb or supplement, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Do not use goat's rue if you have diabetes or hypoglycemia unless you are under the direct care of your doctor. Goat's rue can lower your blood sugar to dangerous levels or interfere with your medication.

Allergic reactions can occur. Goat's rue is a member of the pea family of plants which also includes peanuts, soybean, alfalfa and fenugreek.

Avoid this herb if you tend to have an overabundant milk supply. Goat's rue could further increase your supply and lead to engorgement, plugged ducts and mastitis.

In Conclusion

Goat's rue is believed to be a very effective herb for increasing the supply of breast milk. When used in moderation, the dried leaves are considered safe. If you do decide to use goat's rue, be sure to discuss it with your doctor and purchase this herb from a reliable source.

Sources:

Humphrey, Sheila. The Nursing Mother's Herbal. Fairview Press. Minneapolis. 2003.

Jacobson, Hilary. Mother Food. Rosalind Press. 2004

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition. Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

Pundarikakshudu K, Patel JK, Bodar MS, Deans SG. Anti-bacterial Activity of Galega officinalis L. (Goats Rue). Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2001 Sep;77(1):111-2: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11483386

Stritch, Larry. Goats Rue. US Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers. 2010. Accessed July 26, 2012: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/tephrosia_virginiana.shtml

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