Thursday, 17 March 2016

Butcher’s Broom, The Fruits Grow on its leaves

The mysterious and rarely seen Butcher’s Broom, or Ruscus aculeatus, is a low-growing permanent shrub with 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 that 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 the height between 60 cm to 90cm 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” that have been compressed to not only look like leaves but serve their function as well. Hence, 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 diuretic and use 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, from which came its public English name: butcher’s broom. It is also recognized by others 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, and is frequently planted in shrubberies or edges of woods, on account of its remaining green after the deciduous trees have shed their leaves.

Moreover, to 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 which it is still widely used for treating definite circulatory diseases. It also covers an alkaloid which 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 used as decorations purpose. The primary related species phytochemical in the similarly named Scotch broom Cytisus scoparius is sparteine, a cardiac depressant - use with great caution.

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