Herbs & Plants

Ruscus aculeatus

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Botanical Name: Ruscus aculeatus
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Nolinoideae
Genus: Ruscus
Species: R. aculeatus
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales

Synonyms:  Ruscus flexuosus. Ruscus laxus. Ruscus parasiticus. Ruscus ponticus

Common Names:Butcher’s Broom,Kneeholy, Knee Holly, Kneeholm,Jew’s Myrtle,Sweet Broom,Pettigree, Hare’s apple (in greek)

Habitat :Ruscus aculeatus is native to western and southern Europe from Britain to Switzerland, south to the Mediterranean. It occurs in woodlands and hedgerows, where it is tolerant of deep shade, and also on coastal cliffs. It is also widely planted in gardens, and has spread as a garden escape in many areas outside its native range.

Ruscus aculeatus is an evergreen Shrub growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a slow rate  with flat shoots known as cladodes that give the appearance of stiff, spine-tipped leaves.
It is hardy to zone 7. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jan to April, and the seeds ripen from Aug to March. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is not self-fertile.


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The female flowers are followed by a red berry, and the seeds are bird-distributed, but the plant also spreads vegetatively by means of rhizomes

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Tolerant of most soils, including chalky and heavy clay soils. Prefers a shady position, tolerating dense dry shade and bad growing conditions, including the drip-line of trees. Dislikes much wetness at the roots. Established plants are drought resistant. A very hardy plant, when fully dormant it can tolerate temperatures down to about -25°c. Plants have a slowly creeping tough rootstock and eventually form large clumps. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. Plants are unusual in that the flowers are produced from the middle of the leaf. Although normally dioecious, some hermaphrodite forms are known. One of these is called ‘Sparkler’. Male and female plants must usually be grown if seed is required.

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.

Edible Uses:
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

Medicinal Uses:
Antipruritic;  Aperient;  Deobstruent;  Depurative;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Vasoconstrictor.

Butcher’s broom has been known to enhance blood flow to the brain, legs, and hands. It has been used to relieve constipation and water retention and improve circulation. Since Butcher’s broom tightens blood vessels and capillaries, it is used to treat varicose veins.

It is also used for hemorrhoids. In a 1999 open-label (not blinded) clinical trial, the herb was tested as a hemorrhoid treatment and showed statistically significant positive results It also showed reduction in venous insufficiency in two other studies. It was approved by the German Commission E guidelines for hemorrhoids treatment It is occasionally prescribed for varicose veins which can be a complication of pregnancy. However, since it is classified as a natural product, there is no evidence or trials to suggest complete safety for the fetus. A qualified healthcare practitioner should be consulted prior to using this compound during pregnancy.

A study published in 1999 suggested that Butcher’s Broom may also improve symptoms of postural hypotension without increasing supine blood pressure. Suggested mechanisms to explain this include stimulation of venous alpha 1 and 2 adrenoreceptors and decreased capillary permeability.

Other Uses  
Broom;  Scourer.

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

Known Hazards:   The berries are purgative. Caution required if used in patients on treatment for high blood pressure. An increase in tone of veins can influence blood pressure allowing more blood to flow to the heart.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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