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Butcher's broom

Butcher's broom
© Sertürner Bildarchiv

Botanical name

Ruscus - Ruscus aculeatus L.

Family

Asparagus plants (Asparagaceae)

Useful information about the plant

The prickly butcher's broom is native in the Mediterranean and North Africa up to Asia and is also found on the Atlantic coast of France and England. It grows like an evergreen, a drought-loving shrub in thickets and on dry, rocky slopes. The organs that look like leaves to us widen in leaf like laterals (phylloclades) from 1.5 to 2.5cm long. They photosynthesize with their green colour (chlorophyll). The leaves themselves are inconspicuous scales, which fall off easily and so they do not come into appearance. There are several small white flowers in the middle of the leaf-like lateral shoots (phylloclades). If these then ripen in the middle of the "leaves" into red berries, the branches of the butcher´s broom are very decorative. Therefore, they are used in late autumn for flower arrangements on graves or for Christmas and they stay well into the winter. The phylloclades are leathery hard and taper into a sharp point at the end, where you can easily hurt yourself. In English, the plant is called "butcher's broom" because in Italy the butchers use to clear their chopping blocks with brooms made out of butcher's broom.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

The dried underground parts are used, consisting of the rhizomes with attached roots. They are dug up in late summer. The commercial drug comes from the Mediterranean countries.

Ingredients of the drug

Butcher's broom rhizome contains steroid saponins, the aglycone extracted from it is sold under the name of "ruscogenins". In addition, it contains phytosterols and triterpenes are included.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of butcher's broom rhizome (Rusci rhizoma) is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.).

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

For supportive therapy in chronic venous insufficiency with complaints such as pain and heaviness in the legs, night cramps, itching and swelling. Supportive treatment of symptoms of haemorrhoids such as itching, burning sensation (Commission E, ESCOP). The HMPC has classified butcher's broom rhizome as a traditional herbal medicinal product (see "traditional use").

Traditional use

Based on many years of experience, butcher's broom rhizome can be used for relieving discomfort and heaviness in the legs associated with mild venous circulatory disorders and it can be used with haemorrhoids to relieve the itching and burning sensation.

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products

Dried extracts in capsules and tablets.

Dosage

Prepared drugs: To ensure the effect, butcher's broom rhizome should be taken in the form of the prepared drug with a defined potency (quantified extract), the dosage is stated on the leaflet. A tea of butcher's broom rhizome does not provide the effective dose for the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency.

Advice

There are no studies on the safety of its use during pregnancy and breast-feeding. The clinical picture is not relevant to children and adolescents.

Side effects

Taking butcher's broom rhizome may cause stomach discomfort and nausea.

Interactions

None known

References

Drug monographs

HMPC, Commission E, ESCOP

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 581
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 169
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 279
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (butcher's broom rhizome, no. 1847)

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