Herb Library

Back to Herb Menu     Back to Index

DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

Butcher's Broom Dyer's Broom Scotch Broom Spanish Broom

aka Banal, Basam, Bealadh (Gael), Bisom, Bizzom, Breeam, Broom, Broom Flowers, Broom Tops, Browne, Brum,
Common Broom, Green Broom, Irish Tops, Link, Retama (Sp)

(Cytisus scoparius syn Sarothamnus scoparius syn Spartium scoparium syn Genista scoparius)
NOTE: Found in early herbals under the name Planta genista

Dangerous alkaloids! Excess causes respiratory collapse!
Especially toxic to animals!
Subject to legal restrictions in some countries!

DRUG INTERACTIONS: Do NOT take if taking MAO inhibitors (ie. Nardil, Parmate) or if taking Parkinson's medication Eledepryl. NOT to be taken with quinidine haloperidol, moclobemide, antipyrine, rifampicin, and high blood pressure medications.

CONTRAINDICATED: NOT taken with high blood pressure, kidney disorders, spleen disorders, liver disorders, pregnancy.

CONTAINS: Volatile oil, bitter principle, trace of essential oil, tannin, fat, wax, sugar, flavonoid glycosides, hydroxytyramine, genisteine..
Alkaloids, including sparteine (affects heart and nerves; discovered by Stenhouse 1851) of which 0.03% appears as a transparent, colorless, oily liquid which turns brown on exposure and is slightly soluble in water, but easily soluble in alcohol or ether; commercially crystals of Sparteine sulphate are processed from the plant and prescribed by medical professionals as a cardiac depressant in cases of overactive heart and functional palpitations.
Scoparin, a glucoside, appearing in pale yellow crystal form and soluble in alcohol and hot water; also, the flavonoid glycoside scarparoside.

Native to Europe, but naturalized in North America, this deciduous shrub grows from 3 to 10 feet with a multitude of slender, leggy, angular (5 angles) branches. Flower is peaflower-shaped with 2 lips (3/4"), having 10 stamens and appear solitary or paired from old leaf axils. Leaves are sparse, hairy when young, alternate, with lower leaves stalked and being divided into 3 oblong-lanceolate leaflets; upper leaves are stalkless with one lanceolate leaflet. The fruit is a brownish-black, shaggy, oblong, flattened pod about 1½ inches long , hairy on edges, smooth on sides and nearly black when mature, containing 12 to 18 seeds; when ripe, the pods burst and twist with an audible sound and spray their seeds outward for some distance. The fresh plant has a strong, peculiar odor which disappears when dried.

As the name implies, these plants were once cut at the base and tied to the end of a stick to create a crude broom, although it was considered unlucky to use the plant for a broom when in full bloom. It was suggested by Maude Grieve in A Modern Herbal that the Broom plant known to the ancients by the name Genista may have been another species, possibly Spanish Broom. At one time it was grown as a shelter for game and as wind-break for newly planted shrubs until they were properly hardened.

By the early Middle Ages it had become a part of Welsh and Anglo-Saxon medicine. It was mentioned in the London Pharmacopoeia of 1618 and continued to be included in the British Pharmacopoeia.

Broom was also used as an heraldic device: Badge of Brittany, part of the Great Seal of Richard I, the Badge of the Forbes (Scot). Its former name of Planta genista was taken by the Plantagenets as their family name.

Broom has also been used in religious rites, such as temple purification. At weddings and handfastenings the plant was tied up in bright ribbons as a symbolic representation of the union; also as the bunch over which the handfasting couple jump during the ceremony. Has also been used as an herb to invoke Blodewwedd. Astrologically under the rule of Mars.

PROPAGATION: By semiripe cuttings in summer; by
seed in spring (germination is erratic, give a hot water soak). By layering. Does not transplant well.
NEEDS: Grown as an ornamental in well-drained soil in sun, but is known as a dry-soil plant which thrives on poor, slightly acid soils. Cut back shoots by two-thirds after flowering to keep plant from getting spindly.
FLOWERS: Yellow; appear between April and June.
HARVEST: Tops of shoots are collected just before, or as flowering begins. Material is dried. Stocks must be renewed annually. Flowers are collected in full bloom, then dried. Seeds when ripe.
PART USED: Whole plant
SOLVENT: Seeds = water and alcohol.
Cytisus scoparius 'Prostratus: A prostrate growing variety.


Large doses cause vomiting and purging, weaken the heart, depress the nervous system, and lower blood pressure. In action on the heart, it resembles Hemlock. The depression of the respiratory system can cause death.
In the past was used primarily as a heart diuretic to strengthen and normalize heart beat while it rid the body of excess water build-up due to coronary insufficiency.
Bitter, cold, toxic, hypertensive, peripheral vasoconstrictor, astringent, cathartic, diuretic, purgative, narcotic, depresses respiration, affects heart action (increases heart beat), colon, kidney and is a uterine stimulant. There is a tendency to stomach and bowel upset when used as a diuretic, so it was usually combined with other diuretics. SEED is cathartic and emetic. There are some anecdotal stories involving its use as an hallucinogenic, the flowering tops being smoked as with marijuana.
Has been used primarily for heart problems and low blood pressure; has been combined with Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) for heart failure. Has also been used to regulate arrhythmias associated with low blood pressure. Small doses slow the heart initially, then increase its rate as well as the pulse. Was once used as a heart tonic.
Has been used for acute constipation, fluid rentention and edema related to heart problems.
Was once used to induce labor (smoked) and has been used for excessive menstrual bleeding as well as hemorrhaging after delivery, hemophilia, rheumatism, gall stones, liver disorders, enlarged spleen, respiratory conditions, snakebites, and as a blood purifier.
The flowers were once used as part of an unguent to relieve gout and the plant made into an ointment to dispel lice.
One old herbal (Dodoens 1606) recommends a decoction of the tops for dropsy and stoppage of the liver. Culpeper extends its uses to black jaundice, ague, gout, sciatica, and pains of the hips and joints. For chronic dropsy 1 oz of Broom tops plus 1/2 oz of dandelion root was boiled in 1 pint of water down to 1/2 pint; toward the end, 1/2 oz of bruised Juniper berries were added, then allowed to cool before straining; a pinch of cayenne powder was then added; this was taken in wineglassful doses 3 or 4 times daily; it was also used for bladder and kidney problems combined with Urva ursi, Cleavers, and Dandelion to cleanse kidneys and bladder and increase urine output. Other uses have been for toothache, and bladder gravel.
The tops were once burned to ashes to extract the salts, then infused in wine to create Salts of Broom (Sal Genista). The powdered seeds were used in a similar manner as well as employed for tinctures (1 tbsp in a glass of peppermint water was the recommended dosage for ague and liver problems).

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
2 TBSP can cause symptoms of poisoning = dizziness, headache, palpitations, prickling in extremities, weakness in legs, sweating, insomnia, dilated pupils; asphyxiation possible!
DRY HERB = 10 to 15 grains
INFUSION = 1 oz. dried tips infused in 1 pint of boiling water for 15 minutes, then strained; frequent wineglassful doses were given (or a large mouthful at a time).
FLUID EXTRACT of BROOM (USP) = Dried tops are used; 1/2 to 1 tsp.
LIQUID EXTRACT = 1/4 tsp daily
BROOM JUICE = Once used medicinally, it was obtained by bruising the fresh tips, collected in June, and pressing them out; to this 1/3 an amount of alcohol by volume was added and allowed to set for 1 week, then filtered before use; 1 to 2 oz was given.
TINCTURE = 1 to 10 drops.
FLOWERS = The dried flowers of SPANISH BROOM (Spartium junceum) have been mistakenly used in place of Cytisus socparius and caused poisonings! Of the flowers, 1 tsp in 1 cup of boiling water, steeped 7 minutes.

Used for angina, arteriosclerosis, and stiff muscles.

At one time, the green tops were used as part of the winter food supply for livestock. It was believed to prevent rot and dropsy in sheep. In Greece and Yugoslavia the branches were cut in autumn as a food source for sheep.
In Russia, was once used to treat rabies.
A strong tea was used as a vermifuge for worms; also for skin ailments, dropsy, constipation, kidney ailments, and to increase urine output.
Severe skin ailments were treated internally and externally with an infusion of the flowers in hot milk (1 handful to a pint of milk).
ANIMAL DOSE = 1 handful of broom tops brewed in 2 pints of water; one small cupful was given morning and evening, fasting.

In ancient times the flower buds were pickled or preserved in salt (washed or boiled before use) and eaten as capers.
The seeds were once used as a substitute for coffee.

The flowering tops produce yellow in wool.
Leaves and young tops yield green.

The flowering tops were used for household decoration during the Whitsuntide festival. Also, when rosemary was unavailable, broom was tied up with colored ribbons and carried by the guests at weddings.
The twigs and branches have been used to make baskets; as thatch for cottage roofs and cornricks; as a substitute for reeds in fences and screens
The bark yields a flax-like fiber which is separated by macerating the twigs in water. It has been used to manufacture cloth and paper.
Bark contains large amounts of tannin which was formerly used to tan leather.
Before hops were introduced, the tender, green tops were used to "bitter" beer and make it more intoxicating.
During the 1970's, counterculture experimenters advocated harvesting the flowers, then placing in an airtight jar for 10 days. It should be noted that allowing them to dry in this manner, they become moldy and the type of mold (Aspergillus species) raises the risk of allergic reaction in sensitive people. They were then rolled in cigarette papers and smoked like marijuana; altogether a dangerous practice, although at one time this same method was used to induce labor since smoking the flowers increases uterine contractions. Over time it was determined to be an unsafe and risky procedure and was discontinued.

aka Dyer's Greenwood, Dyer's Weed, Farberginster (Ger), Genet des Teinturiers (Fr), Green Weed, Wede-wixin, Woad Waxen, Woud-wix
(Genista tinctoria)

Small, shrubby, perennial roadside plant with small, narrow, pointed alternate, leaves with hairy margins which is native to Europe but found naturalized in the eastern United States. Pea-like flowers are yellow and appear in spikes in July. Stems are smooth, bright green, much branched and between 1 to 2 feet in height. The fruit is a smooth pod 1 to 1¼ inches long, compressed laterally, brown when ripe and containing 5 to 10 seeds.

PART USED: Twigs, leaves, flowering tops, seeds


Flower tops and seeds have been used as diuretic, cathartic and emetic. The powdered seeds have been used as a mild purgative.
A decoction has been used for dropsy, gout, and rheumatism (wineglassful dose 3 to 4 times daily). In the 14th century, it was combined with Scotch Broom to produce an ointment called Unguentum geniste which was used for gout.
The ashes form an alkaline salt which was once used for dropsy.
The seed has been employed as a plaster for broken limbs.
In the Ukraine, it was once considered a remedy for rabies.

When eaten by cows, Dyer's Broom imparts a bitter flavor to milk.

The flowering tops yield yellow.
It is combined with Woad for green.
Combined with alum, cream of tartar, and sulphate of lime as a fixative.

(Spartium junceum)


A small shrub native to southern Europe. Flowers are large, yellow and fragrant.

NEEDS: Grown as an ornamental.


Seeds were once used in tincture form for dropsy.
The leaves have been used as a laxative.

Flowers yield yellow.
Once source states that the leaflets will produce blue under conditions of fermentation.

Twigs were once macerated to produce a fiber which was used for thread.

©2004 by Ernestina Parziale, CH