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Goat's Rue

Galega officinalis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Fabaceae (Pea)
Also in this family:
Alpine Milk-vetch, Alsike Clover, Birdsfoot, Birdsfoot Clover, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Bithynian Vetch, Bitter Vetch, Black Broom, Black Medick, Bladder Senna, Broad Bean, Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea, Bur Medick, Burrowing Clover, Bush Vetch, Clustered Clover, Common Broom, Common Gorse, Common Laburnum, Common Restharrow, Common Vetch, Crimson Clover, Crown Vetch, Dragon's Teeth, Dwarf Gorse, Dyer's Greenweed, False Acacia, Fine-leaved Vetch, Fodder Vetch, Garden Lupin, Garden Pea, Grass Vetchling, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Greenweed, Hairy Tare, Hairy Vetchling, Hairy-fruited Broom, Haresfoot Clover, Hop Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Hungarian Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Knotted Clover, Large Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil, Lucerne, Marsh Pea, Meadow Vetchling, Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil, Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea, Narrow-leaved Vetch, Nootka Lupin, Norfolk Everlasting Pea, Orange Birdsfoot, Petty Whin, Purple Milk-vetch, Purple Oxytropis, Red Clover, Reversed Clover, Ribbed Melilot, Rough Clover, Russell Lupin, Sainfoin, Scorpion Senna, Scottish Laburnum, Sea Clover, Sea Pea, Sickle Medick, Slender Bird's-foot Trefoil, Slender Tare, Slender Trefoil, Small Melilot, Small Restharrow, Smooth Tare, Spanish Broom, Spanish Gorse, Spiny Restharrow, Spotted Medick, Spring Vetch, Strawberry Clover, Suffocated Clover, Sulphur Clover, Tall Melilot, Toothed Medick, Tree Lupin, Tuberous Pea, Tufted Vetch, Twin-headed Clover, Two-flowered Everlasting Pea, Upright Clover, Upright Vetch, Western Clover, Western Gorse, White Broom, White Clover, White Lupin, White Melilot, Wild Liquorice, Wood Vetch, Yellow Oxytropis, Yellow Vetch, Yellow Vetchling, Zigzag Clover
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, roadsides, scrub, wasteland, woodland.

Variable in colour, 5 petals
Pea-like flowers borne in an upright stalked spike. Flowers can be white, lilac, blue or purple. Individual flowers measure up to 1.5cm across.
Rounded pods containing many seeds, up to 3cm long.
A perennial flower with alternate, long-stalked leaves. Each leaf has a stipule present at the base of its stalk. Each leaf has 3 to 9 pairs of leaflets, plus a terminal leaflet. The untoothed leaflets often have sharp tips.
The crushed leaves of Goat's Rue smells foul.
Other Names:
Common Goat's-rue, French Lilac, Galega, Italian Fitch, Professor-weed.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Galega officinalis, commonly known as Goat's Rue or French lilac, is a perennial plant in the Fabaceae family. It is native to Europe and western Asia, but it has been naturalized in other parts of the world. The plant can reach a height of 1-2 meters and has blue-green leaves and spikes of small, lilac-colored flowers that bloom in the summer.

The plant has a long history of traditional medicinal use, primarily as a treatment for diabetes. It was once used in traditional medicine as a remedy for diabetes as it contains a compound that acts like insulin and helps to reduce blood sugar levels. However, it is not used in modern medicine due to lack of scientific evidence of safety and efficacy.

In addition, Goat's Rue is toxic to livestock and can cause abortions, it has a negative impact on yields and should not be present in pastures or other areas where livestock graze. Because of this, it is often considered a weed species.


Goat's Rue, also known as Galega officinalis, is a herbaceous perennial plant that belongs to the family Fabaceae. This plant is native to Europe, but it has also been naturalized in North America and other regions. Goat's Rue is known for its medicinal properties and has been used for centuries to treat various health conditions.

The plant grows up to six feet tall and has blue or white flowers that bloom from June to September. The leaves of the Goat's Rue are small, narrow, and pointed, and they grow in pairs along the stem. The plant is also known for its distinctive fragrance, which has been described as sweet and pleasant.

Goat's Rue has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks used it to treat snake bites, while the Romans used it to treat fever and inflammation. In traditional Chinese medicine, Goat's Rue is used to treat diabetes, as it is believed to help regulate blood sugar levels.

Modern research has shown that Goat's Rue contains compounds that have a hypoglycemic effect, which means they can lower blood sugar levels. This makes it a useful plant for those with diabetes or other blood sugar imbalances. Goat's Rue is also known for its galactagogue properties, which means it can help increase milk production in nursing mothers.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Goat's Rue is also used in agriculture. The plant is a natural source of the compound galegine, which is a potent insecticide. This makes it useful in controlling pests such as aphids and spider mites.

Despite its many benefits, it's important to note that Goat's Rue can be toxic in large quantities. The plant contains several alkaloids, including galegine, which can cause hypoglycemia and other health problems if ingested in large amounts. For this reason, it's important to use Goat's Rue under the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner or herbalist.

There are several ways to use Goat's Rue medicinally. The dried leaves and flowers can be made into a tea or infusion, which can be drunk to help regulate blood sugar levels, increase milk production in nursing mothers, and soothe digestive issues. The tea can also be used externally as a compress to soothe skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Goat's Rue is also available in supplement form, including capsules, tinctures, and extracts. These forms are often more concentrated than the dried plant, and they can be more convenient to use.

When using Goat's Rue for medicinal purposes, it's important to be aware of potential side effects. The plant can cause digestive upset, including nausea and diarrhea, in some people. It can also cause hypoglycemia, especially when taken in large quantities or in combination with other blood sugar-lowering medications.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid using Goat's Rue, as its safety during these times has not been established.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Goat's Rue has also been used in traditional agriculture as a forage crop for livestock. The plant is high in protein and nutrients, and it is known to improve the quality and quantity of milk produced by cows and goats.

Goat's Rue is also a popular plant in traditional gardens and ornamental landscaping. Its delicate flowers and sweet fragrance make it an attractive addition to gardens and borders. It is also a hardy plant that is easy to grow, making it a popular choice for beginner gardeners.

In addition to its ornamental uses, Goat's Rue has also been studied for its potential anti-cancer properties. Research has shown that compounds found in the plant may have anti-tumor effects, and may be useful in treating certain types of cancer.

Another potential benefit of Goat's Rue is its ability to improve cognitive function. One study found that a compound found in the plant, called galegine, improved memory and cognitive function in mice. While more research is needed in humans, this suggests that Goat's Rue may have potential as a natural cognitive enhancer.

Overall, Goat's Rue is a versatile and valuable plant with many potential benefits. Its medicinal properties make it useful for a variety of health conditions, while its insecticidal properties make it a useful crop in agriculture. Its ornamental uses and potential anti-cancer and cognitive benefits make it a popular choice in traditional gardens and landscaping. However, it's important to use Goat's Rue responsibly and under the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner or herbalist.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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