Goat's Rue and Increasing the Supply of Breast Milk

What Is It, How Is It Used, and Is It Safe?

Galega officinalis (Goat's rue), stems with leaves and purple-pink flowers. Goat's rue, breastfeeding, and making more breast milk.
Goat's rue may help increase the supply of breast milk. Neil Fletcher and Matthew Ward / Getty Images

What Is Goat's Rue?

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 and lower blood sugar levels. It's also used to help breastfeeding women make more breast milk

In Europe, the dried leaves of the goat's rue plant were fed to cows and goats to increase milk production. In the late 1800's goat's rue was brought over to the United States as a food source for livestock.

Unfortunately, the plant was not a successful crop because of its bitter taste and toxic nature. It turned out to be harmful, and even deadly to some of the animals. Today, goat's rue is considered a poisonous weed in the United States.

The Benefits and Uses of Goat's Rue

  • Goat's rue may help some breastfeeding women build up their breast tissue and make more ​breast milk.​
  • Some studies show that goat's rue may help lower blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.​
  • Cancer research studies are now being carried out to see if goat's rue is useful in the fight against cancer. ​
  • It has been used as a diuretic (water pill) to help the body remove water through urine.​
  • 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 breastfeeding mothers to help increase the supply of breast milk.

It is also used to stimulate 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 say it works just as well or even better than fenugreek.

But, it doesn't seem to work for everyone.

How to Use Goat's Rue to Make More Breast Milk

Do NOT use the fresh goat's rue plant. It is considered toxic and dangerous. However, the dried plant used as a tea, or in capsule form is generally considered safe.

As a Tea: 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 breastfeeding herbs to your tea such as alfalfa, blessed thistle, fennel and stinging nettle

Capsules: A typical dose of goat's rue capsules is one capsule 3 or 4 times a day. You should only buy your capsules from a reputable company and follow the dosing directions given to you by your doctor or lactation consultant.

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

The Warnings and Side Effects of Goat's Rue

  • Goat's rue is a plant that's believed to be lethal for some animals. In the fresh form, goat's rue is poisonous and should not be used. It only goes to show that herbal treatments can be dangerous. So, you should always consult with your physician, lactation consultant, or herbal specialist before taking any herbs or supplements, especially if you're 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. If you have an allergy or sensitivity to any of these foods or plants, do not use goat's rue. 
  • Avoid this herb if you tend to have an overabundant breast milk supply. Goat's rue could further increase your milk supply and lead to breastfeeding problems such as breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, and mastitis.

Goat's Rue: The Conclusion

Goat's rue can be a very effective herb for increasing the supply of breast milk. And, when used in moderation, the dried leaves are considered safe. But, if you do decide to use goat's rue, it's always best to discuss it with your doctor and purchase this herb from a reliable source.

Sources:

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

Jacobson, Hilary. (2004). Mother Food. Rosalind Press.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. (2011). Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby.

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

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

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