Herb: Butcher's Broom

Latin name: Ruscus aculeatus

Family: Ruscaceae

Medicinal use of Butcher's Broom:

Butcher's broom is little used in modern herbalism but, in view of its positive effect upon varicose veins and haemorrhoids, it could be due for a revival. The root is aperient, deobstruent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and vasoconstrictor. It has been taken internally in the past in the treatment of jaundice, gout, and kidney and bladder stones, at the present time it is used to treat venous insufficiency and haemorrhoids. It should not be prescribed for patients with hypertension. It is also applied externally in the treatment of haemorrhoids. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The whole plant is also sometimes used. This remedy should not be given to people with high blood pressure. The plant contains saponin glycosides, including ruscogenin and neoruscogenin. These substances are anti-inflammatory and cause the contraction of blood vessels, especially veins.

Description of the plant:


75 cm
(2 feet)

to April

Habitat of the herb:

Outskirts of dry woods and in moist uncultivated ground especially on chalk.

Edible parts of Butcher's Broom:

Young shoots - cooked. They are harvested in the spring as they grow through the soil and used as an asparagus substitute. The taste is pungent and rather bitter. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

Mature shoots are bound into bunches and used as scourers or as besoms.

Propagation of Butcher's Broom:

Seed - sow the seed thinly in early spring in a cold frame in light shade. The seed germinates better if it is given a period of cold stratification. Germination can be rather slow, sometimes taking 12 months or more. Grow the seedlings on in the pot in light shade in the greenhouse for their first growing season, giving occasional liquid feeds to ensure they do not suffer nutrient deficiencies. Prick them out into individual pots in the following spring and grow them on for at least another year in the pots before planting them out in early summer. Be very sure to protect the seedlings from slugs. Division as the plant comes into growth in early spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Outskirts of dry woods and in moist uncultivated ground especially on chalk.

Known hazards of Ruscus aculeatus:

The berries are purgative.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.