butcher's broom

What Is It?
Health Benefits

Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use

General Interaction

Possible Side Effects



Evidence Based Rating Scale

What Is It?

The stiff spines of butcher's broom were once popular for making brooms (hence the Herb's name). It is an evergreen bush (Ruscus aculeatus) in the Liliaceae family native to the Mediterranean region. For centuries, people also consumed this herb, which is closely related to asparagus, as a vegetable.

Long famed as a folk medicine, butcher's broom was also used for years in Europe for treating constipation, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and various digestive problems. Most often, the fleshy root of the plant was boiled and drunk as a tea.

During the twentieth century, the plant's use as a folk remedy began to fade until reports from France in the 1950s changed the thinking about this ancient herb. Investigators there found that treatment of dogs and hamsters with an Extract of the plant's underground stem resulted in narrowing of their blood vessels. Because this kind of action in the body has important implications for treating vessel diseases, today butcher's broom is used to treat such conditions as varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Also known as box holly, knee holly, and pettigree, butcher's broom now grows in many parts of the world, including the southern United States. The dried root and rootstock are used in medicinal preparations. (1, 2)

Health Benefits

The vessel narrowing observed in small animal studies of butcher's broom was eventually attributed to steroidal compounds called ruscogenins and neuroscogenins in the plant's rootstock. These compounds not only constrict veins, strengthening and toning them, but also decrease Inflammation. (3-5)

Studies suggest butcher's broom may reduce leg edema (swelling) due to chronic venous disease (CVD). (6) CVD is a condition where the valves in the veins of the legs sometimes allow blood to flow backwards and pool in the legs. This pooled blood increases pressure in the veins and causes problems including leg heaviness, varicose veins and chronic leg ulcers. When these symptoms develop, the person is said to have chronic venous insufficiency. (7) In one small study, fifty-two women with CVD were given compression stockings, no treatment, or a supplement known as Cirkan® that contains 40mG of butcher's broom, 100mG of the flavonoid hesperidin, and 200mG of vitamin C. After four weeks, Cirkan® reduced edema by improving vein diameter. The supplement should be used in conjunction with compression stockings. (8) Other studies indicated Cirkan® improved quality of life in patients with CVD and significantly reduced leg pain, heaviness, cramps, and edema in patients with chronic venous insufficiency. (9, 10)

Butcher's broom has been reviewed for the treatment of orthostatic hypotension, a condition where a person's blood pressure suddenly drops when the person stands up or stretches. However, no studies have been done to determine its effectiveness for this condition. (11)

Today, over-the-counter butcher's broom formulas for hemorrhoids and varicose veins sell quite well in Europe and are becoming better known in the United States.

Specifically, butcher's broom may help to:

  •  Relieve hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are enlarged or swollen veins of the anus or lower rectum. Rectal suppositories and topical ointments made from butcher's broom are useful when dabbed onto itchy and painful hemorrhoids. (2) Oral supplements of butcher's broom may improve circulation, blood flow, and vascular tone, a measure of the strength of the walls of the blood vessels. (12)

  • Treat varicose veins. Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and twisted from chronic venous disease. The vein-narrowing qualities of butcher's broom may relieve the discomforts of varicose veins. (12) 

The FDA has not evaluated butcher's broom for circulation problems. However, the German Commission E approved its use for hemorrhoids and for varicose veins.


  • tablet
  • suppository
  • ointment
  • liquid
  • capsule

Dosage Information

For hemorrhoids: Take 40 mg combined with 100 mg hesperidin and 200 mg of vitamin C 2-3 times a day or 0.5-1.5mL liquid extract three times a day. The liquid extract may also be applied to a cotton ball and gently dabbed onto the affected area three times a day until the hemorrhoid recedes.

For varicose veins: Take 40 mg of butcher's broom combined with 100 mg hesperidin and 200 mg of vitamin C 2-3 times a day.  

Guidelines for Use

Try taking butcher's broom along with vitamin C to boost its effectiveness; several studies have shown that the combination increases the herb's potency.

General Interaction

  • In theory, because it has an effect on the diameter of blood vessels, butcher’s broom could interfere with the effectiveness of certain high blood pressure medications, such as doxazosin and prazosin. The same is true for various medications used in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Consult a doctor for guidance.

  • Butcher's broom may have an additive effect when combined with drugs such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®) and phenylpropanolamine (Afrin®).

  • Combining MAO inhibitors with butcher's broom poses a potential risk of increased blood pressure. Consult a doctor for specific advice.

Possible Side Effects  

  • The safety of butcher's broom has not been examined beyond three months of use.

  • Given its apparent ability to constrict blood vessels, people with high blood pressure or prostate problems should use the herb with caution.

  • Oral supplements may cause nausea, diarrhea, and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining).  


The kinds of circulation problems popularly treated with butcher's broom can be serious. Consult a doctor before using this herb for anything other than hemorrhoids. Do not use if pregnant or breast-feeding. 


1. Ruscus aculeatus (butcher's broom). Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Dec;6(6):608-12.
2. Natural Herbal Treatments-Butcher's Broom. Available at Accessed November 12, 2011.
3. Huang YL, Kou JP, Ma L, Song JX, Yu BY. Possible mechanism of the anti-inflammatory activity of ruscogenin: role of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and nuclear factor-kappaB. J Pharmacol Sci. 2008 Oct;108(2):198-205.
4. Svensjo E, Bouskela E, Cyrino FZ, et al. Antipermeability effects of Cyclo 3 Fort® in hamsters with moderate diabetes. Clin Hemorheol Microcirc 1997;17:385-388.
5. Bouskela E, Cyrino FZGA, Marcelon G. Effects of Ruscus extract on the internal diameter of arterioles and venules of the hamster cheek pouch microcirculation. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol 1993;22:221-222.
6. Reuter J, Wölfle U, Korting HC, Schempp C. Which plant for which skin disease? Part 2: Dermatophytes, chronic venous insufficiency, photoprotection, actinic keratoses, vitiligo, hair loss, cosmetic indications. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2010 Nov;8(11):866-73.
7. UpToDate—Chronic Venous Disease. Available at Accessed November 13, 2011.
8. Porto CL, Milhomens AL, Pires CE, Xavier SS, Sicuro F, Bottino DA, Bouskela E. Changes on venous diameter and leg perimeter with different clinical treatments for moderate chronic venous disease: evaluation using Duplex scanning and perimeter measurements. Int Angiol. 2009 Jun;28(3):222-31.
9. Guex JJ, Avril L, Enrici E, Enriquez E, Lis C, Taïeb C. Quality of life improvement in Latin American patients suffering from chronic venous disorder using a combination of Ruscus aculeatus and hesperidin methyl-chalcone and ascorbic acid (quality study). Int Angiol. 2010 Dec;29(6):525-32.
10. Aguilar Peralta GR, Arévalo Gardoqui J, Llamas Macías FJ, Navarro Ceja VH, Mendoza Cisneros SA, Martínez Macías CG. Clinical and capillaroscopic evaluation in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency with Ruscus aculeatus, hesperidin methylchalcone and ascorbic acid in venous insufficiency treatment of ambulatory patients. Int Angiol. 2007 Dec;26(4):378-84.
11. Redman DA. Ruscus aculeatus (butcher's broom) as a potential treatment for orthostatic hypotension, with a case report. J Altern Complement Med. 2000 Dec;6(6):539-49.
12. MacKay D. Hemorrhoids and varicose veins: a review of treatment options. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Apr;6(2):126-40.

Evidence Based Rating Scale

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies and what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice into a visual and easy to interpret format. This tool is meant to simplify the information on supplements and therapies that demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions.








Supplements may improve circulation, blood flow, and vascular tone and can be used in addition to conventional treatments. (12)

Varicose Veins  

Vein-narrowing qualities may relieve discomforts of varicose veins. (12)


Date Published: 04/18/2005
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