Herb: Broom


Latin name: Cytisus scoparius


Synonyms: Sarothamnus scoparius, Spartium scoparium


Family: Leguminosae



Medicinal use of Broom:

Broom is a bitter narcotic herb that depresses the respiration and regulates heart action. It acts upon the electrical conductivity of the heart, slowing and regulating the transmission of the impulses. The young herbaceous tips of flowering shoots are cardiotonic, cathartic, diuretic, emetic and vasoconstrictor. The seeds can also be used. The plant is used internally in the treatment of heart complaints, and is especially used in conjunction with Convallaria majalis. The plant is also strongly diuretic, stimulating urine production and thus countering fluid retention. Since broom causes the muscles of the uterus to contract, it has been used to prevent blood loss after childbirth. Use this herb with caution since large doses are likely to upset the stomach. The composition of active ingredients in the plant is very changeable, this makes it rather unreliable medicinally and it is therefore rarely used. This herb should not be prescribed to pregnant women or patients with high blood pressure. Any treatment with this plant should only be carried out under expert supervision. See also the notes above on toxicity. The young herbaceous tips of flowering shoots are harvested in spring, generally in May. They can be used fresh or dried. They should not be stored for more than 12 months since the medicinally active ingredients break down.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Shrub

Height:
2.4 m
(7 3/4 foot)

Flovering:
May to
June


Scent:
Scented
Shrub

Habitat of the herb:

Sandy pastures and heaths, occasionally in open woodland, and often near the coast. Strongly calcifuge.

Edible parts of Broom:

The flower buds are pickled and used as a substitute for capers. They can also be added to salads. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. The tender green tops of the plant have been used like hops to give a bitter flavour to beer and to render it more intoxicating. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

An excellent fibre is obtained from the bark, it is used in the manufacture of paper, cloth and nets. It is not as strong as the fibre from the Spanish broom (Spartium junceum). The fibre is obtained from the root according to other reports. The bark fibre is used to make paper, it is 2 - 9mm long. The branches are harvested in late summer or autumn, the leaves removed and the stems steamed until the fibres can be stripped. The fibres are cooked for 3 hours in lye then put in a ball mill for 3 hours. The paper is pale tan in colour. The bark is a good source of tannin. A yellow and a brown dye are obtained from the bark. A yellow dye is obtained from the flowering stem. A green dye is obtained from the leaves and young tops. The branches are used to make baskets, brushes, brooms and besoms. They are also sometimes used for thatching roofs and as substitutes for reeds in making fences or screens. An essential oil from the flowers is used in perfumery. Growing well on dry banks and on steep slopes, it is an effective sand binder and soil stabiliser. Broom is one of the first plant to colonize sand dunes by the coast. The plant attracts insects away from nearby plants. The var. prostratus (= C. scoparius maritimus?) makes a good fast growing ground cover plant to 30cm tall, though it needs weeding in its first year. The cultivar "Andreanus Prostratus" can also be used. Wood - very hard, beautifully veined. The plant seldom reaches sufficient size for its wood to be of much value, but larger specimens are valued by cabinet makers and for veneer.

Propagation of Broom:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours in warm water then cold stratify for 1 month and sow in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in 4 weeks at 20C. Seedlings should be potted up as soon as possible since plants quickly become intolerant of root disturbance. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late summer if they have made sufficient growth, otherwise in late spring of the following year. The seed has a long viability. Seed can also be sown in situ as soon as it is ripe in the late summer and autumn. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 4 - 7 cm with a heel, August in a frame. Produces roots in the spring. Pot up as soon as possible. Cuttings of mature wood, October/November in a frame. Layering.

Cultivation of the herb:

Sandy pastures and heaths, occasionally in open woodland, and often near the coast. Strongly calcifuge.

Known hazards of Cytisus scoparius:

Poisonous. The plant is of extremely low or zero toxicity.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.