Goat’s Rue (Galega officinalis)
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Galega officinalis, commonly known as goat’s rue, French lilac, Italian fitch or professor-weed, is an herbaceous plant in the Faboideae subfamily. It is native to the Middle East, but it has been naturalised in Europe, western Asia, and western Pakistan. The plant has been extensively cultivated as a forage crop, an ornamental, a bee plant and as green manure. Its name derives from gale (milk) and ega (to bring on), as Galega has been used as a galactologue in small domestic animals (hence the name “Goat’s rue”). Galega bicolor is a synonym. It is a hardy perennial that blooms in the summer months.
Galega is used as a food plant by the larva of Coleophora vicinella, a species of moth.
In 1891, goat’s rue was introduced to Cache County, Utah, for use as a forage crop. It escaped cultivation and is now a weed and agricultural pest, though it is still confined to that county. As a result it has been placed on the Federal Noxious Weed List in the United States. It was collected in Colorado, Connecticut and New York prior to the 1930’s, and in Maine and Pennsylvania in the 1960’s, but no more collections have been made in these areas since and the populations are presumed to have died out. It has also been found in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and New Zealand.
Galega officinalis has been known since the Middle Ages for relieving the symptoms of diabetes mellitus. Upon analysis, it turned out to contain guanidine, a substance that decreases blood sugar by decreasing insulin resistance.
Chemical derivatives from the biguanide class of medication include metformin (Glucophage, commonly prescribed for diabetics) and the older, withdrawn agent phenformin.
Witters LA. The blooming of the French lilac. J Clin Invest 2001;108:1105–1107. DOI 10.1172/JCI200114178.