GOAT’S RUE GALEGA OFFICINALIS
Goat’s rue is native to the middle east but like many herbs, it was introduced to this country in the 16c as an important herbal remedy and became naturalised within a few decades, particularly around railway embankments. As a member of the Fabaceae or pea family it enjoys similarities to its distant cousin lathyrus odoratus and is also known as French lilac, but does not carry the same glorious fragrance notes. Rather some find that bruising leaves of this delicate little plant emits a noxious odour. A synthesized constituent forms the basis of metformin which is used to treat type 2 diabetes, but we are more interested in its historic use as an herb to aid breastfeeding. The botanical name galega officinalis stems from ‘gala’ meaning milk and ‘ago’ meaning to bring on. It was traditionally used as a galactagogue to encourage milk flow in nursing mothers and Bartrum (2015) refers to an hot water Infusion with fenugreek seeds and flowering goat’s rue to stimulate milk flow.
Goat’s rue may look delicate and enjoy a positive herbal tradition but it is also is badged as a Class A Federal Noxious Weed in many US states and so we heed the notes on toxicity that sit alongside. Goat’s rue was used to expel stomach worms in animals and records suggest the importance of dosage to avoid fatality rather than to achieve cure. With nurturing very much in the forefront of the conversation, we developed two bullet proof products and suggest using the undeniably soothing goat’s rue flower for its decorative capacity – preferably in amongst highly fragrant sweet peas.
A poultice specifically for discomfort in the breast with groundsel (senecio vulgaris) and calendula flowers (calendula officinalis) which can also be adapted for use in any area of mild inflammation. John Parkinson calls for ‘fresh herbe boyled and made into a poultis, and applied to the breasts of women that are swollen with paine and heate…’ We developed this to include some fresh calendula petals to sooth and reduce inflammation.
James Green (2000) advocates the use of two white cotton socks filled with the required herbal materials in order to have one warmed and in place whilst the other is warming up. This along with a towel placed to insulate the heat will provide the continuous application of soothing heat for optimal benefit. In this case, chop up a handful of fresh groundsel and a couple of calendula flowerheads or chop up dried material in a food processor. Add them into the sock and tie the top. Place one sock into hot water and squeeze gently to activate the herbs. Apply a thin layer of oil to the skin first and they apply the poultice carefully and cover with a towel. Keep there until it has cooled down at which point the second poultice should be ready to take over.
To complement the external poultice, we developed a nourishing cold overnight infusion with nettle (urtica dioica), fennel seeds (foeniculum vulgare), fresh red clover (trifolium pratense) and finished off with wild raspberry syrup (rubus idaeus) and a slice of orange.
1 tsp fennel seeds for digestive health and stimulating milk flow
2tsps dried nettle leaves for vitamins and mineral content
1 tsp red clover flower, fresh if possible for the abundance of vitamins, minerals, soothing qualities and delicate taste
Wild raspberry syrup to add a nutritional punch and plenty of flavour
Start off by combining the mix in a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Add to a teapot and pour over freshly boiled water. Leave to cool and then either place the teapot in the fridge overnight or transfer into a 1ltr kilner jar. This can be enjoyed throughout the next day with a squeeze/slice of orange and a dash of raspberry syrup.
WILD RASPBERRY SYRUP
Harvest 400g of wild raspberries from a spot nearby if possible – wash a pick over
Place in a saucepan and add 400ml water
Boil gently for 20 mins or until the fruit has lost most of its colour
Remove the fruit without pressing and add about 200g sugar, bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes – stirring constantly
Decant into a sterilized bottle and keep in the fridge.
Bartrum, T, 2015. Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London, Robinson.
Green, J, 2000. The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook. 1st ed., Berkley, Crossing Press.
The above post appeared in The Nurture Issue of Herbology News