Bushy evergreen perennial growing to 3 ft (1 m). Has leaf-like leathery branches with a terminal spine, greenish-white flowers, and shiny red berries.
Habitat & Cultivation
Butcher’s broom is found throughout much of Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. It is a protected species, growing wild in woodland and on uncultivated ground. Cultivated plants are gathered in autumn when in fruit.
Aerial parts, rhizome.
Butcher’s broom contains saponin glycosides, including ruscogenin and neoruscogenin. These constituents have a structure similar to that of diosgenin, found in wild yam (Dioscorea villosa). They are anti-inflammatory and cause the contraction of blood vessels, especially veins.
History & Folklore
Much used in antiquity, butcher’s broom was described by the 1st century CE Greek physician Dioscorides as having the ability to promote urine flow and menstrual bleeding. The plant’s name comes from its use as a broom in butchers’ shops in Europe up until the 20th century.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Though little used in Anglo-American herbal medicine, butcher’s broom is now a common remedy in Germany for venous problems. It has been shown to have a directly positive effect on varicose veins and hemorrhoids, preventing increased tensing of the veins and helping the return of excess fluid into the veins. Extracts can be taken orally or applied to affected legs.
A growing body of research is demonstrating that butcher’s broom is a valuable medicine for venous disorders. In a clinical trial, patients with varicose veins who applied a butcher’s broom extract to their legs showed a contraction of 1.25 mm in their femoral artery within 2½ hours. A paper published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2000 identifies butcher’s broom as having great potential as a medicine for orthostatic hypotension (a specific form of low blood pressure).
Do not take butcher’s broom if suffering from high blood pressure.