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Botanical Name :Cytisus scoparius
Species: C. scoparius
Common Names: Common broom or Scotch broom
Habitat : Cytisus scoparius is found in sunny sites, usually on dry, sandy soils at low altitudes. In some places outside of its native range, such as India, South America and western North America, it has become an ecologically destructive colonizing invasive species in grassland, shrub and woodland, and other habitats.
As a legume, this shrub can fix nitrogen in the soil through a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria.
Cytisus scoparius grows to a height of 3 to 5 feet and produces numerous long, straight, slender bright green branches, tough and very flexible, smooth and prominently angled. The leaves are alternate, hairy when young the lower ones shortly stalked, with three small, oblong leaflets, the upper ones, near the tips of the branches, sessile and small, often reduced to a single leaflet. Professor G. Henslow (Floral Rambles in Highways and Byways) says with reference to the ‘leaves’ of the broom: ‘It has generally no leaves, the green stems undertaking their duties instead. If it grows in wet places, it can develop threefoliate leaves.’ The large bright yellow, papilionaceous, fragrant flowers, in bloom from April to July, are borne on axillary footstalks, either solitary or in pairs, and are succeeded by oblong, flattened pods, about 1 1/2 inch long, hairy on the edges, but smooth on the sides. They are nearly black when mature. They burst with a sharp report when the seeds are ripe flinging them to a distance by the spring-iike twisting of the valves or sides of the pods. The continuous crackling of the bursting seed-vessels on a hot, sunny July day is readily noticeable. The flowers have a great attraction for bees, they contain no honey, but abundance of pollen.
‘In flowers without honey, such as the Broom, there is a curious way of “exploding” to expel the pollen. In the Broom the stigma lies in the midst of the five anthers of the longer stamens, and when a bee visits the flower those of the shorter explode and disperse their pollen on the bee pressing upon the closed edges of the keel petal. “The shock is not enough to drive the bee away . . . The split now quickly extends further . . . when a second and more violent explosion occurs.” The style was horizontal with a flattened end below the stigma; but when freed from restraint it curls inwards, forming more than a complete spiral turn. It springs up and strikes the back of the bee with its stigma. The bee then gathers pollen with its mouth and legs.’ (From The Fertilization of Flowers, by Professor H. Mueller, pp. 195-6)
Cultivation Broom is most easily raised from seed, sown broadcast in the open air, as soon as ripe. Seedlings may be transplanted in autumn or spring to their permanent position. Prune directly after flowering, if the shoots have not been gathered for medicinal use, shortening the old shoots to the base of promising young ones.
As their roots strike down deeply into the ground, the plants can be grown in dry, sandy soil, where others will not grow. They do well on rough banks.
Broom may also be increased by layers. Choice garden varieties are generally increased by cuttings inserted in cold frames in September.
Constituents: Broom contains two principles on which its activity depends. Sparteine, discovered in 1851 by Stenhouse, of which about 0.03 per cent is present, is a transparent, oily liquid, colourless when fresh, turning brown on exposure, of an aniline-like odour and a very bitter taste. It is but slightly soluble in water, but readily soluble in alcohol and ether. Stenhouse stated that the amount of Sparteine in Broom depends much upon external conditions, that grown in the shade yielding less than that produced in sunny places.
Scoparin, the other principal constituent, is a glucoside, occurring in pale-yellow crystals, colourless and tasteless, soluble in alcohol and hot water. It represents most of the direct diuretic activity of Broom.
Volatile oil, tannin, fat, wax, sugar, etc., are also present. Broom contains a very large quantity of alkaline and earthy matter, on incineration yielding about 3 per cent of ash, containing 29 per cent of carbonate of potash.
Sparteine forms certain salts of which the sulphate (official in the British and the United States Pharmacopceias) is most used in medicine. It occurs in colourless crystals, readily soluble in water.
Oxysparteine (formed by the action of acid on Sparteine) is used as a cardiac stimulant.
The flowers contain volatile oil fatty matter, wax, chlorophyll, yellow colouring matter, tannin, a sweet substance, mucilage, albumen and lignin. Scoparin and the alkaloid sparteine have been separated from them.
Part Used Medicines :The young, herbaceous tips of the flowering branches are collected in early spring, generally in May, as they contain most alkaloid at the close of the winter. They are used officially both in the fresh and dried state.
Broom Juice (Succus Scoparii) is directed to be obtained by pressing out the bruised, fresh tops, adding one-third volume of alcohol and setting aside for seven days, filtering before use.
For the expression of the juice the fresh tops may be gathered in June. Broom Juice is official in the British, French, German and United States Pharmacopoeias.
Infusion of Broom (Infusum Scoparii) is made by infusing the dried tops with boiling water for fifteen minutes and then straining. It was introduced in the British Pharmacopoeia of 1898, in place of the decoction of Broom of the preceding issues.
The Fluid Extract of Broom of the United States Pharmacopceia is prepared from the powdered dried tops.
The drug, as it appears in commerce, consists of very long, much-branched, tough and flexible twigs, which lie parallel with and close to one another and are about 1/25 to 1/12 inch thick, narrowly five-winged, with alternating, slight nodes, dark-green and usually naked; internally, greenish-white.
When fresh, the whole plant has a strong and peculiar odour, especially when bruised, which almost entirely disappears on drying.
The tops are dark green when fresh and dark brownish-green when dried.
The quality of the drug deteriorates with keeping, and this condition can be determined by the partial or complete loss of the slight, peculiar odour of the recently dried drug.
The deep yellow flowers, dried, are considerably employed separately, under the name Flores Genistae, or Flores Scoparii.
Broom Seeds are used sometimes and are as active as the tops. Water and alcohol extract their active properties.
Medicinal Action and Uses: Diuretic and cathartic. Broom tops are used in the form of decoction and infusion, often with squill and ammonium and potassium acetate, as a feeble diuretic, generally in dropsical complaints of cardiac origin. The action is due to the Scoparin contained, whose action on the renal mucous membrane is similar to that of Buchu and Uva-Ursi.
The infusion is made from 1 OZ. of the dried tops to a pint of boiling water, taken in wineglassful doses frequently. When acute renal inflammation is present, it should not be given.
Broom Juice, in large doses, is apt to disturb the stomach and bowels and is therefore more often used as an adjuvant to other diuretics than alone.
A compound decoction of Broom is recommended in herbal medicine as of much benefit in bladder and kidney affections, as well as in chronic dropsy. To make this, 1 OZ. Broomtops and 1/2 oz. of Dandelion Roots are boiled in one pint of water down to half a pint, adding towards the last, 1/2 oz. of bruised Juniper berries. When cold, the decoction is strained and a small quantity of cayenne added. A wineglassful is taken three or four times a day.
The statements of different investigators, both clinical and pharmacological, concerning the effects of the Sparteine in preparations of Broom, have elicited absolutely opposing views on the effect upon the nerves and circulatory system. It is found to produce a transient rise in arterial pressure, followed by a longer period of decreased vascular tension. Small doses slow the heart for a short period of time and then hasten its rate and at the same time increase the volume of the pulse. Those who advocate its employment claim that it is a useful heart tonic and regulator in chronic valvular disease. It has no cumulative action, like Digitalis.
In large doses, Sparteine causes vomiting and purging weakens the heart, depresses the nerve cells and lowers the blood pressure and has a strong resemblance to the action of Conine (Hemlock) on the heart. In extreme cases, death is caused by impairing the activity of the respiratory organs. Shepherds have long been aware of the narcotic properties of Broom, due to Sparteine, having noticed that sheep after eating it become at first excited and then stupefied, but the intoxicating effects soon pass off.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider