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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.

aka Box Holly, Broom, Jew's Myrtle, Knee Holly, Kneeholm, Pettigree, Sweet Broom
(Ruscus aculeatus)

Rare instances of gastric problems and nausea have been reported.


CONTAINS: 69.8% Water when fresh; about 9% Water when air dried, plus 8% sugars, 12% starch.
Steroidal saponins (act on blood vessels by stimulating the release of norepinephrine, thus delaying clotting time), flavonoids, glycolic acid, euparone, chrysophanic acid, neoruscogenin, rutin, ruscogenin, ruscin, ruscoside, mucilage, volatile oils, fixed oils, resins, 12% starch, 8% sugars (fructose, sucrose, glucose).
Based on zero moisture per 100 grams = 131 mg aluminum, 6.3% ash, 7.25 mg calcium, 0.25 mg chromium, 1.28 mg cobalt, 16.4 mg iron, 234 mg magnesium, 0.70 mg manganese, 8.14 mg niacin, 167 mg phosphorus, 934 mg potassium, 8.4% protein, 0.14 mg riboflavin, 0.14 mg selenium, 2.24 mg silicon, 28 mg sodium, 0.05 mg thiamine, 0.83 mg tin, 2120 IU vitamin A, 25.6 mg vitamin C, 0.21 mg zinc.

A low, shrubby evergreen found in the woods and scrubby waste places of southern England, also the Mediterranean region, from Europe to northern and western Africa and some parts of the southern United States. The leaves are prickly, like holly. Stems are tough, green, erect, striated, without bark. Flowers are solitary, small, greenish-white, growing from the center of the leaves. Fruits are scarlet berries, about the size of cherries, which adhere to the plant all winter. Root is thick, growing deep, brownish-gray when dry, 2 to 4 inches long, 1/3 inch in diameter with crowded rings and stem scars on the upper surface and numerous woody rootlets below. Plants are either male or female (dioecious).

Its name is derived from the stiff-jointed, leaf-like twigs which were once used by butchers to clean their cutting boards.

Astrologically ruled by Mars.

PROPAGATION: By division of roots in autumn; also by seed in autumn (may take 18 months to germinate).
NEEDS: Thrives under most conditions. Grows in clumps. Planted as an ornamental in sun or shade in groups of several females to 1 male to insure good fruiting. Remove dead shoots in spring.
FLOWERS: Early spring
HARVEST: Roots/rhizome in autumn, then dried; plants in late spring and dried as for holly.
PART USED: Whole above ground plant, young shoots, roots
POET'S LAUREL (Ruscus racemosus): Without spines; has terminal racemes of small flowers; berries smaller than those of Butcher's Broom.
Ruscus androgynous: Native to the Canary Islands, bearing flowers along the edges of the leaves.
Ruscus hypophyllum: Flowers are on the underside of the flattened branches.
Ruscus hypoglossum: Native to southern Europe; flowers are on the upper side and under the bract-like branchlet.


Aromatic, aperient, bitter, antithrombotic, diuretic, deobstruent, mild laxative, anti-inflammatory, increases perspiration, vasoconstrictor. The root has been used as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, for circulatory insufficiency and as a preventative for arteriosclerosis. Affects circulatory and urinary systems. Has been used in decoction, ointment, and suppository forms. Animal experiments report an increase in venous tone and electrolyte-type reaction on cell walls of capillaries.
The saponins present in the plant reduce vascular permeability.
Used historically in cases of dropsy, nephritis, arteriosclerosis (used to increase circulation to the body and brain), jaundice, gravel, venous insuficiency, hemorrhoids, and urinary obstructions. For urinary problems and as a diuretic, a decoction of the root was combined with Parlsey, Fennel, and Smallage in white wine to which an equivalent of Grassroot was added.
Has been used internally for gout, kidney and bladder stones (used to increase circulation to the body and brain), varicose veins, dropsy, headache, leg cramps, menstrual problems, phlebitis, thrombosis and hemorrhoids. Has been used externally in the form of ointment for hemorrhoids. Also, the tincture has been applied topically.
Was also used for circulatory problems, thrombosis, post-op thrombosis, phlebitis.
Culpeper recommended a decoction of the root and a poultice of the berries and leaves for broken bones or joint separations. Was mentioned by Dioscorides (1st century AD) for treatment of kidney stones.Theophrastus (ca 325BC) praised its healing powers, likening it to a miracle herb. It was also mentioned by Pliny (ca 60AD) as being exceptional in cases of lameness caused by swellings in the limbs. During the Middle Ages, Butcher's Broom was known for its ability to relieve the sensation of 'heaviness in the legs', a condition which arises when standing too long (especially for women during menstruation and pregnancy) causing the lymphatic fluids to pool.
Has been used for scrofulous tumors (1 tsp tincture each morning).
A decoction sweetened with honey has been used for chest phlegm and respiratory difficulties.
The branches were once used to flog the limbs in cases of chillblains.
As a food during the Middle Ages it gained a reputation for relieving a 'heavy feeling' in the legs (probably due to lymphatic swelling in the legs).

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
FRESH ROOT = 1 to 2 tbsp daily
DRIED ROOT = 1.5 to 3 grams daily, OR 1½ to 3 tsp
DECOCTION = 1/2 oz twigs or 1/4 oz bruised root
INFUSION = same as Decoction

In spring the young shoots have been eaten like asparagus.

The fruiting branches are used for Christmas decoration.

Bundles of Butcher's Broom were used to protect hanging meat from mice.

©2000 & 2005 by Ernestina Parziale, CH