The mysterious and rarely seen Butcher’s Broom or (Ruscus aculeatus), is a low-growing permanent shrub. It has hard, erect, stems and very rigid leaves that lay off in a sharp spine. Thus, from the center of the leaves grow small greenish-white flowers. The flowers flourish in early spring and grow into red berries in autumn.
The minute red berries are attached directly to the leaves by a short stem, making it a very bizarre-looking plant. Butcher’s Broom belongs to Liliaceae family and has a height between 60 cm to 90 cm max. Therefore, the Butcher’s Broom is not breaking any rules of the plant kingdom. Because what appear to be leaves are really modified stems called “cladodes”. They have been compressed to not only look like leaves but serve their function as well.
Butcher’s Broom is extensively distributed, from Iran to the Mediterranean and the southern United States. Butchers Broom has a long history of use in herbal medicine traditions as a diuretic and blood vessel toner. They have also been used for over two thousand years as laxative and diuretics. It is also used to cure various ailments such as hemorrhoids, varicose veins, itching, deobstruent, aperient, and swelling.
The plant young shoots are also eaten like those of asparagus. So, the stiff twigs were once bundled together and used by butchers to save their cutting boards clean. Which came its public English name butcher’s Broom. It is also recognized by other names such as “Knee Holly”, because of its knee height, “Jew’s Myrtle”, for its use during the Feast of Tabernacles, “Sweet Broom” and “Pettigree”, although its meaning is not clear.
Furthermore, “Butcher’s Broom” is very hardy, thriving in almost any soil or situation. The tree is frequently planted in shrubberies or edges of woods, on account of its remaining green after the deciduous trees have shed their leaves. Moreover, extracts of butcher’s broom have been used throughout the ages. But the medicinal use of this plant did not become common until the last century.
Therefore, research in the 1950s specified that Butcher’s Broom could induce constriction of veins. Because of this it is still widely used for treating definite circulatory diseases. It also covers an alkaloid that inhibits the passing of sodium ions across the cell membrane and thus is an effective anti-arrhythmic substance.
Also, Butcher’s broom is widely planted in gardens and its berries are used for decorations purposes. The primarily related species phytochemical in the similarly named Scotch broom Cytisus scoparius is sparteine, a cardiac depressant – use with great caution.