Butcher's Broom

Scientific names: Ruscus aculeatus

Common names: Butcher's broom also is known as box holly, knee holly, pettigree, sweet broom, and Jew's myrtle.

Efficacy rating:

ÒÒÒ...Positive clinical trials

Safety rating:

...No safety concerns despite wide use.

What is Butcher's Broom?

Butcher's broom is a low-growing common evergreen shrub. It is widely distributed, from Iran to the Mediterranean and the southern United States. The plant develops edible shoots that are similar to asparagus in form. Butcher's broom has tough, erect, striated stems with false thorny leaves. The name of this plant should not be confused with broom (Cytisus scoparius) or Spanish broom (Spartium junceum).

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

R. aculeatus was given its common name, butcher's broom, because its stiff twigs were bound together and used by butchers in Europe to keep their cutting boards clean. The plant has a long history of use. More than 2000 years ago, it was noted as a laxative, diuretic, and a phlebotherapeutic (beneficial to veins) agent. Extracts, decoctions, and poultices have been used throughout the ages, but the medicinal use of this plant did not become common until the last century. Early investigations during the 1950s indicated that extracts of butcher's broom could induce vasoconstriction and therefore might have use in the treatment of circulatory diseases. The increasing popularity of natural and herbal remedies in Europe in the 1970s reaffirmed its position in modern medicine. Novel uses for this plant have included its use as an anti-inflammatory agent and to prevent atherosclerosis.

Venous conditions

A variety of compounds have been isolated from butcher's broom. The 2 primary active saponin compounds are ruscogenin and neoruscogenin. Butcher's broom is the active component in several produce formulations and topical treatments for venous diseases and venous insufficiency, such as varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Limited results showing some promise from clinical trials are available. The German Commission E approves oral use for supportive therapy for discomforts of chronic venous insufficiency and complaints of hemorrhoids. Butcher's broom also may be useful for orthostatic hypotension, although data is limited.

Other uses

Novel modern uses for this plant have included its use as an anti-inflammatory agent and to prevent atherosclerosis. The discovery of new pharmacological activity of butcher's broom, particularly as a cytotoxic agent, demonstrate the need for continued research on butcher's broom.

Butcher's broom has been used in many forms as a laxative, diuretic, treatment for circulatory disease, and cytotoxic agent, although limited results from clinical trials are available.

What is the recommended dosage?

Butcher's broom has been used in clinical trials for chronic venous insufficiency standardized to 7 to 11 mg of ruscogenin. Hesperidin methyl chalcone also has been used as a marker for standardization in the product Cyclo 3 Fort. Extracts have been dosed at 16 mg daily for chronic phlebopathy, while a topical cream formulation was used to apply 64 to 96 mg of extract daily.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/nursing

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

No adverse reactions have been reported.

Toxicities

Not known to be toxic.

References

  1. Butcher's Broom. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2006. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 16, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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