equine health

Questions & Answers

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Goats Rue a Safe or Toxic Horse Herb?
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Goats Rue for Insulin Resistance?

My daughter's pony aged 18 put on a lot of weight, her feed hadn't increased. To be honest, since my daughter went off to varsity Twinkles doesn't get much exercise. I found a marvellous supplement containing Goat's Rue (Galega officinalis). The weight fell off, on the same amount of feed. Twinkles has been on the supplement for the last 3 months. Lately, she has started to lose hair and is extremely lethargic and stiff in her joints.

Can you advise on a supplement that is compatible with her Goat's Rue supplement for her stiff joints, hair loss and lethargy?

Hilary Payne


The symptoms you describe are the classic side effects of the long term use of Goat's Rue. The Goat's Rue supplement is the source of her new health problems.

Take your pony off the supplement immediately, she is starving to death. Exercise is the answer to stimulate her metabolism and control her weight problem. Seek out a young enthusiastic person interested in regular rides and exercise for Twinkles. An advert in your local tack shop or village store will result in plenty of offers. If she then appears to be putting on weight, a Kelp supplement to stimulate metabolism will help.

Goat's Rue - Galega officinalis

Goat's Rue is a perennial herb growing in damp meadows throughout Central Europe to Iran, where it has been associated with lethal poisoning of grazing sheep. Goat's Rue has been used since the Middle Ages for late onset diabetes (weight related). The active ingredient being the alkaloid galegine (=isoamyleneguanidine.) Galegine belongs to the biguanide class of anti-diabetic drugs. The biguanides work by preventing intestinal carbohydrate absorption thus reducing circulating glucose in the blood. This suppresses oxidative glucose metabolism. The stored glycogen (sugar) in the liver is used up. Once the stored glycogen in the liver is depleted, the body is starved of blood sugar, side effects will be noticeable such as ketonuria and severe lactic acidosis. Symptoms result such as coma, drowsiness, immobility, foul breath.

Background of Biguanides

In the 1930's, Synthalin a chemical version of Goat's Rue was the first biguanide drug much applauded as the drug for diabetes. Once the side effects became publicised, the drug was banned. Until recent years, the FDA blocked the use of biguanides for diabetes. After much lobbying, a biguanide class drug - Metoformin (Glucophage) was approved for use by the FDA. There is much controversy over the safe use of this drug in America.


Weiss R F (MD) - Herbal Medicine

Bruneton J - Toxic Plants Dangerous to Humans and Animals

Gresham A C J and Booth K - Poisoning of Sheep by Goats Rue Vet REC 129: 197-198, 1991

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