It is no secret that Butcher’s broom was widely used as a medicinal plant in ancient times. Its rich long history as a laxative and diuretic is evident in Western folk medicine where it has been used for thousands of years. Even the respected Dioscorides, a first century AD Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist believed in the ability of this herb to promote urine flow, regulate menstrual bleeding, manage bladder stones, treat jaundice, and relieve headaches.
Aside from being a healing herb, this was also eaten as a vegetable at one point in time since it is similar to asparagus. The seeds of Butcher’s Broom can also be used as a coffee substitute, which is a rich and refreshing drink without caffeine.
The name of this plant was coined, because of its use as a sweeper in butcher shops in Europe right up to the 20th century.
Characteristics of Butchers Broom
Ruscus aculeatus or butcher’s broom, is a low evergreen shrub that is native to Eurasia and some parts of northern Africa. This plant which belongs to the Asparagaceae family usually grows up to 50 to 80 cm (although some can grow up to a meter) and has earned the name “knee holly” as one of its common names. Butcher’s broom is a strange evergreen since its actual leaves are microscopic and the visible large “leaves” are not leaves at all. These leaf-like structures are modified stems on which the flowers and the bright, red, waxy fruits are borne.
Modern Medicinal Value
Aside from its use as a coffee substitute, Butcher’s broom has the following health benefits which include:
- It is anti-inflammatory
Inflammation, which serves as a defense mechanism against infection and injury, is one of the body’s natural responses to promote healing. However, chronic inflammation is bad and dangerous since the body is in a prolonged state of emergency and this can cause lasting damage to the heart, brain, and other organs. Butcher’s broom contains compounds such as ruscogenin that may help suppress inflammation and potentially treat damage caused by this natural body condition.
- It may help treat hemorrhoids and other vascular conditions
Hemorrhoids are veins in the lower rectum that are swollen. These veins may cause discomfort since they have the tendency to bleed. External hemorrhoids may also cause pain. Butcher’s broom can be used as a natural treatment for hemorrhoids since it appears to reduce the swelling and help veins to contract. The ruscogenins and neuroscogenins which the plant’s rootstocks contain are good anti-inflammatory that do not only constrict veins, they also strengthen and tone them as well.
- It may improve poor blood circulation
Blood circulation is what makes the body work because it supplies oxygen to the brain and other organs. Imagine what it will be like if oxygen does not properly reach these vital parts of the human body. A cup of Butcher’s broom tea can help relieve symptoms of poor circulation. It may also help combat Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), a painful health condition in which the veins in the legs struggle to deliver blood back to the heart. In fact, studies suggest that this herb can reduce pain, cramps, as well as swelling and tension around the lower legs and ankles in patients with CVI.
- It may reduce symptoms of Orthostatic Hypotension
Orthostatic Hypotension which is a frequent problem in older adults is a form of low blood pressure that happens when the blood pressure falls significantly upon standing up quickly. The main symptom of this is feeling dizzy or fainting. Normally, the reflexes counter this effect by constricting blood vessels in the lower body. However, as a person grows old, these reflexes appear to weaken. Since Butcher’s broom can help constrict arteries and veins, it may prevent mild cases of Orthostatic Hypotension.