So named because its branches were a traditional source of broom straw used by butchers, this Mediterranean evergreen bush has a long history of traditional use in the treatment of urinary conditions. More recently, it has been studied as a treatment for vein-related conditions.
Butcher's broom has been approved by Germany's Commission E as supportive therapy for chronic venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency, a condition closely related to varicose veins, involves pain, swelling and fatigue in the calves. Commission E also recommends butcher’s broom for the treatment of hemorrhoids.
This recommendation was in place before any meaningful studies had been performed evaluating butcher’s broom for either of these purposes. However, several studies performed subsequently now provide preliminary supporting evidence for its use in chronic venous insufficiency.
No substantial studies have evaluated butcher’s broom for hemorrhoids, but because hemorrhoids are similar to varicose veins, it is a reasonable supposition that butcher’s broom might be helpful.
Various treatments used for venous insufficiency have also shown promise for treating arm swelling (lymphedema) following surgery for breast cancer. One study suggests that butcher's broom may be helpful for this condition as well.
A well-designed and reported double-blind trial evaluated the effectiveness of a standardized butcher’s broom extract in 166 women with chronic venous insufficiency.4 For a period of 12 weeks, participants received either placebo or butcher’s broom (one tablet twice daily containing 36.0 to 37.5 mg of a methanol dry extract concentrated at 15-20:1). The results showed that leg swelling (the primary measurement used) decreased significantly in the butcher’s broom group as compared to the placebo group.
Similar results were seen in a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 148 participants.1
Another 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 141 participants used a combination of butcher’s broom extract and the bioflavonoid trimethylhesperidin chalcone, and found benefits.2 Marginal benefits were seen in a much smaller study using this combination.3
In a double-blind study, 57 women with lymphedema received either placebo or butcher's broom combined with the modified citrus bioflavonoid trimethylhesperidin chalcone.5 The results indicated that use of the combination therapy resulted in significantly less swelling.
A typical dose of butcher's broom is 36.0 to 37.5 mg twice daily of a methanol extract concentrated at a level of 15-20:1. This should supply about 7-11 mg ruscogenin (also called ruscogenine) daily.
For hemorrhoids, butcher's broom is sometimes applied as an ointment or in the form of a suppository.
In clinical trials, use of butcher's broom has not been associated with any serious adverse effects. However, comprehensive safety studies have not been reported. Maximum safe doses in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with liver or kidney disease have not been established.
1. Lucker P, Jost V, Wolna P, et al. Efficacy and safety of ruscus extract compared to placebo in patients suffering from chronic venous insufficiency [abstract]. Phytomedicine. 2000;7(suppl 2):P-155.
2. Rudofsky G, Diehm C, Gruss JD, et al. Chronic venous insufficiency. Treatment with Ruscus extract and trimethylhesperidin chalcone [in German; English abstract]. MMW Munch Med Wochenschr. 1990;132:205–210.
3. Weindorf N, Schultz-Ehrenburg U. Controlled study of increasing venous tone in primary varicose veins by oral administration of Ruscus aculeatus and trimethylhespiridinchalcone [in German; English abstract]. Z Hautkr. 1987;62:28–30,35–38.
4. Vanscheidt W, Jost V, Wolna P, et al. Efficacy and safety of a Butcher's broom preparation ( Ruscus aculeatus L. extract) compared to placebo in patients suffering from chronic venous insufficiency. Arzneimittelforschung. 2002;52(4):243-250.
5. Cluzan RV, Alliot F, Ghabboun S, et al. Treatment of secondary lymphedema of the upper limb with CYCLO 3 FORT. Lymphology. 1996;29:29-35.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 12/15/2015