Butcher's Broom for Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Butcher's broom
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Butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is an herb sourced from a small evergreen shrub found in Europe and North Africa.

Uses for Butcher's Broom

Thought to help stimulate circulation, butcher's broom is used to treat chronic venous insufficiency. In addition, the herb is sometimes used for the following health issues:

  • Varicose veins
  • Ankle swelling
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Nighttime leg cramping
  • Swelling of the legs

Butcher's Broom Benefits

Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition in which the veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs to the heart, resulting in blood "pooling" in leg veins. The condition results from partial vein blockage or blood leakage around the valves of the veins and can be treated with compression stockings, lifestyle changes (such as avoiding long periods of sitting or standing), and/or surgery.

Risk factors for chronic venous insufficiency include a history of deep vein thrombosis in the legs, obesity, and pregnancy. Symptoms include:

  • Dull aching, heaviness, or cramping in legs
  • Itching and tingling
  • Pain that gets worse when standing
  • Pain that gets better when legs are raised

Butcher's broom is rich in flavonoids, antioxidants that strengthen blood vessels and reduce the fragility of capillaries. The herb contains substances that appears to stimulate receptors in the body known as "alpha-adrenergic receptors," which cause veins to constrict.

Although research on the use of butcher's broom alone is very limited, some studies have examined butcher's broom as a key ingredient in a formulation combined with hesperidin and ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C).

In a 2017 study published in International Angiology, for example, researchers analyzed 10 previously published studies on the use of Ruscus extract in people with chronic venous disorders. The study's authors found that Ruscus reduced leg pain, heaviness, felling of swelling, and other symptoms compared to a placebo.

A study published in the journal Arzneimittel-Forschung concluded that butcher's broom is "a safe and effective treatment for patients suffering from chronic venous insufficiency." For the study, 148 people with chronic venous insufficiency took either butcher's broom or a placebo every day for 12 weeks. By the study's end, those who had received butcher's broom experienced significantly greater improvements in several symptoms (such as heaviness and tiredness in the legs and sensations of tingling and tension) compared to the placebo group. The treatment group also showed greater improvement in quality of life.

Side Effects

Butcher's broom may trigger mild side effects, such as upset stomach and diarrhea.

Due to the potential alpha-adrenergic stimulating properties and tyramine content, butcher's broom may cause adverse effects such as elevated blood pressure and increased urination. 

Additionally, butcher's broom may interact with certain medications, such as alpha-blockers, antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), blood pressure medication, diuretics, lithium, and blood-thinning drugs like warfarin.

According to a case report, a woman developed diabetic ketoacidosis five days after beginning treatment with butcher's broom for mild ankle swelling.

If you're considering using butcher's broom supplements, be sure to speak to your doctor first to discuss whether they are appropriate and safe for you. Self-treating chronic venous insufficiency and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women and children shouldn't take butcher's broom. You can get additional tips on using supplements here.

Where to Find It

Available for purchase online, butcher's broom supplements are sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

The Takeaway

Although butcher's broom shows promise in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency, more research needs to be conducted before it can be recommended as a treatment for this condition.

If you're considering the use of butcher's broom, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.

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