The butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus), also called “acebillo” or “wild myrtle”, is a small evergreen shrub that develops several rigid and hard branches. In fact, another of its names is “butcher’s broom”, since in ancient times butchers grouped their branches to sweep up their chopping blocks.
The plant comes from Western Europe, although it is also found in North Africa and Asia. Today, its roots are used in the manufacture of supplements, as its active ingredients are associated with several potential health benefits. What does the research say? Find out!
Medical composition of butcher’s broom
Due to its wide use in natural medicine, the butcher’s broom has been the source of numerous investigations. Thus, it has been determined that many of its active biochemical compounds justify its use as a natural remedy. Of course, studies are still ongoing and there is still no solid evidence to consider it a first-line treatment. Still, its drug substances have been identified.
It is important to highlight that the active principles are obtained from the rhizome and the root. Parts like fruits should be excluded as they contain toxic compounds. According to data collected in the scientific journal Molecules, its most prominent compounds of interest are the following:
- Ruscogenin and neo-ruscogenin (steroidal saponins), which have anti-inflammatory and venotonic properties, according to research.
- Flavonoids, such as rutoside and hesperidin, which are attributed a diuretic and anti-oedematous effect.
- Mineral salts, especially potassium.
- Traces of essential oil.
Uses and Benefits of Butcher’s Broom
Due to its particular composition, butcher’s broom is considered as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, venotonic and capillary protector remedy. However, many of its applications come from traditional practice and are not supported by conclusive scientific studies. For now, some research has made promising findings.
1. Anti-inflammatory activity
Chronic inflammatory states are associated with an increased risk of disease. Thus, its control is decisive to avoid the deterioration of health.
In this sense, the butcher’s broom appears to have potential benefits. A survey published in Journal of Pharmacological Sciences noted that ruscogenin, one of the active compounds, decreases inflammation markers.
Similarly, a study in the Archives of Pharmacal Research supports these mechanisms. In particular, it concludes that ruscogenin helps stop the production of an enzyme that causes cartilage degradation in arthritic disorders.
2. Adjuvant against venous disorders
One of the main uses of butcher’s broom has to do with blood circulation. Its abundant flavonoid content is related to vascular benefits. To be more exact, the plant contains substances that stimulate alpha-adrenergic receptors that cause the veins to contract.
In research shared by International Angiology, a supplement of Ruscus aculeatus with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) was found to be helpful in reducing symptoms and edema in patients with chronic venous disorders. Specifically, it reduced leg pain, heaviness and the feeling of bloating.
3. Prevention of hemorrhoids
In traditional medicine, butcher’s broom has been a preventive supplement against hemorrhoids. It is believed to help reduce swelling and stimulate vein contraction. On the other hand, a study in Alternative and Complementary Therapies found that 69% of people who took a butcher’s broom supplement had fewer hemorrhoid symptoms, such as pain and irritation.
4. Other possible benefits of butcher’s broom
A large number of butcher’s broom benefits come from anecdotal data and its uses in natural medicine. This is why their supplements should be used in moderation.
Coinciding with information from the US corporation WebMD, there is insufficient evidence for the following:
- Diabetic retinopathy.
- Low blood pressure when getting up.
- Varicose veins.
- Swelling of the arms due to lymphedema.
- Restless legs syndrome.
- Premenstrual syndrome.
- Retention of liquids.
- Gout or hyperuricemia.
- Kidney stones.
- Lumbar pain.
Possible side effects of butcher’s broom
Butcher’s broom supplements are considered safe for most people when taken orally for up to 3 months. However, in some people it can cause unwanted reactions, such as heartburn, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
In a case report published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, a woman with diabetes developed ketoacidosis after taking this plant. However, it is unknown whether the underlying cause was butcher’s broom or other factors.
Its simultaneous use with medications for blood pressure or kidney disease is not recommended. There is fear for possible interactions. In these cases, the ideal thing is to consult the doctor first. It is also not recommended for children, pregnant and lactating women.
It must be considered that the saponins of this plant act as antinutrients. Therefore, its consumption may reduce the absorption of essential minerals, such as zinc and iron.
Dosage and recommendations
For now, an exact dose for the consumption of butcher’s broom has not been defined. The recommended amount may vary according to age, gender, and medical history, among other factors. For this reason, the dose suggested on the supplement label must be respected.
In general, it is possible to find the following presentations:
- Dry root: 1.5 to 3 grams per day.
- Tablets: up to 200 milligrams, 2 or 3 times a day.
- Tinctures or extracts: 3 to 6 milliliters per day.
Similarly, on the market there are ointments, syrups, ampoules and other products that contain this plant.
What is there to remember?
Butcher’s broom supplements are known for their effects on blood circulation and associated disorders. It is possible to find them in herbal stores or pharmacies, alone or in combination with other plants and substances. Although some studies support its benefits, it should not be ignored that it is not a first-line treatment.
In any of its presentations, the plant should be used sparingly, according to professional or label indications. If there is an underlying disease or if you are taking medications, you should consult your doctor first.