Butcher's broom might sound like an object rather than a plant, but it's actually an herb used to improve circulation and for other health benefits. It's been used for hundreds and probably thousands of years in herbal medicine.
Butcher's broom has been most often used as a diuretic and blood vessel toner. The root is approved for use by the German Commission E to treat chronic venous insufficiency, giving it status as a highly effective herb. (1)
Here's more about the benefits of butcher's broom, how to use it, and any precautions you need to know.
What Is Butcher's Broom?
Butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is an evergreen shrub that in some ways resembles a holly bush. It's originally native to the Mediterranean, western Europe, and parts of Africa. Other common names for it include box holly and sweet broom.
The shrub will grow about three feet in height and develops large red berries. The branches are stiff and used to be cut, bound together, and used by butchers to sweep off their chopping blocks (hence the name).
The roots of butcher's broom have been used for many years as a medicinal herb. In certain countries, the roots are also cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
Historically, butcher's broom root has had many uses. It was most often decocted in either water or wine and taken to help digestive issues and for kidney stones. The root has many different plant compounds including flavonoids and a compound called ruscogenin. (2)
At one point in time, the berries of the plant were also used. They were made into a poultice and applied topically to help fractured bones knit back together.
Not very well known in the U.S., butcher's broom is more widely used in Europe and recognized officially by the German Commission E, a scientific board that approves herbal medicines for treatment of specific issues.
Benefits of Butcher's Broom
The main benefit of butcher's broom is its ability to improve circulation. It's been used to treat a wide range of conditions relating to poor or stagnant circulation, including chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). (3)
CVI is a chronic and often painful condition in which veins, typically in the legs, have trouble circulating blood back to the heart. It can cause blood to pool in your legs or other limbs and increases inner pressure on veins. The condition is more common in women (particularly those with multiple pregnancies) and usually hits around age 60. (4)
Compounds in butcher's broom help veins to contract and promote blood flow back to the heart. Studies have confirmed that butcher's broom can help with swelling, tension, pain, and cramps related to CVI. (5)(6)
Beneficial for Varicose Veins & Hemorrhoids
Because it has benefits for circulation, butcher's broom is often used for varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
The definition of varicose veins is twisted and swollen or enlarged veins. They often appear dark blue or purple and occur because blood is allowed to back-flow or to pool. Varicose veins usually don't cause other symptoms but can sometimes be uncomfortable or painful.
Butcher's broom helps by causing veins to contract, stimulating blood flow, and possibly by reducing swelling as well. (7)
Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the lower rectum and anus. The mildest kind are merely uncomfortable, but they can become itchy, painful, and even cause bleeding.
Once again, butcher's broom helps to reduce swelling and pain by causing veins to contract and by stimulating circulation. (8)
Varicose veins and hemorrhoids can have several different causes, but both frequently pop up during pregnancy. To promote circulation during pregnancy, try this Vascular Toning tea containing butcher's broom and other herbs.
May Reduce Inflammation and Swelling
Like many other herbs, butcher's broom contains plant compounds that can help reduce inflammation in your body. One of the main active compounds in the root is ruscogenin. It's been shown in a few studies to possess anti-inflammatory properties. (9)
Butcher's broom also helps with swelling by improving circulation and by having a diuretic effect that helps your body get rid of excess fluid.
For more ways to naturally deal with inflammation, check out this list of the best herbs for pain relief and inflammation.
Helps Orthostatic Hypotension
Orthostatic hypotension is the technical term for a sudden blood pressure drop when you go from sitting to standing. It causes dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, and/or nausea.
Normally, your body prevents this by constricting certain blood vessels and taking other measures to stabilize blood pressure. However, this natural response from your body can weaken with age or because of an underlying condition.
Butcher's broom can help with symptoms by strengthening blood vessels and promoting healthy circulation, among other actions. There is evidence that it may prove to be safer, more effective, and less expensive than current drug therapies for orthostatic hypotension. (10)
Using Butcher's Broom
Butcher's broom root is most often used as an extract or tea, though it's also available as capsules and a powder.
You can make a tea at home by using the cut, dried root. Just add 1 cup of boiling water to 1 teaspoon of the dried herb. Let it steep for 10 minutes in a closed teapot or in a mug with a cloth over it. Strain out the herb and drink the tea as needed.
If you want to use this herb for improving circulation, take it with other herbs that tone the vascular system like in this tea.
Butcher's broom has no known contraindications. In rare cases, it can cause digestive upset or nausea.
There aren't any confirmed interactions with medications, but there is the possibility butcher's broom might interfere with kidney or blood pressure medicine.
Be sure you speak with your physician about serious medical conditions like chronic venous insufficiency. For a better idea of how butcher's broom might help you during pregnancy, consult a qualified naturopath or midwife to get personalized recommendations.
Your circulatory system might not be something you think about very much, but it's very important for health! Without blood continuing to circulate, our bodies would shut down and eventually die.
Circulatory issues show up in symptoms like cold extremities, varicose veins, poor heart health, etc. If you are in need of better circulation, give butcher's broom a try and discover the benefits of an herb that's been used for centuries.