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fragon épineux ou petit houx ruscus aculeatusRUSCUS ACULEATUS


Ruscus aculeatus, butcher's broom, is part of the same botanical family as garlic, aloe or iris but presents itself in a completely different aspect.

It is an evergreen shrub, perennial, rather dense, rather short (50 cm to 1 m), with bare stems at the base, erect, dark green, and ending with a pseudo leaf also dark green (1 to 4 cm).

This leaf is actually a flattened or cladode branch, oval in shape, ending in a sharp thorny point.

The flower, very small, is born on this "pseudo-leaf" and is transformed in autumn into a red scarlet fruit, a berry that contains 1 to 2 yellow seeds.

The rhizome, perennial, white-gray with brownish roots is the medicinal part.

Butcheur's broom are naturally found around the Mediterranean and in Western Europe they prefer calcareous soils.

In France it is common in the south and west, bordering wood, in hedges, edges, slopes and sometimes under trees because it is rather ombrophilous.

It is a plant that can be grown and is often planted in gardens.

It should not be confused with another very closely related species (not or not yet medicinal), Ruscus hypoglossum, also native to the countries around the Mediterranean and southern France, its leaves are longer (3 to 10 cm) and their tip is not thorny.




In the fall when the berries are red, the rhizome of Ruscus aculeatus contain :

- some essential oil,
- carbohydrates and reserve lipids,
- sterols,
- flavonoids, saponins, coumarins, some sparteine ??and tyramine,
- salts of Potassium and Calcium,
- and especially steroidal saponosides (or steroidal glycosides): combination of a molecule with a steroidal skeleton (the genin) with simple sugars. In this case the genins are: ruscinus and ruscoside.

These glycosides (RUSCOGENINS) are abundant in roots : up to 6% of the dry root.

In fact the whole plant contains these ruscogenins but their concentration is higher in the underground parts.

For a long time Ruscus aculeatus was only considered a diuretic plant to use in case of urolithiasis or oliguria as well as to relieve menstrual pain.
These indications now seem obsolete.
In the middle of the twentieth century pharmacologists have highlighted the VENOTONIC ACTION of extracts of butcher's broom.

One explanation is that the saponosides which are well absorbed orally, act in a few minutes on the alpha-adrenergic receptors present in the wall of the blood vessels (especially venous) and also by facilitating the release of norepinephrine.

All of this leads to the contraction of the muscle fibers of the walls of the blood vessels (vasoconstriction).

IN VIVO studies in animals (hamster) show that extracts of Ruscus:

- decrease the permeability of small vessels to macromolecules (ANTI-OEDEMATOUS action)

- inhibit the action of elastase (an enzyme involved in the alteration of the vascular wall

- modify (inhibit) the action of molecules that participate in the inflammatory reaction (bradykinin, histamine, leukotriene), (ANTI-INFLAMMATORY ACTION ).

IN VIVO in humans: there is an increase in venous tone resulting in a decrease in venous volume (in a clinical trial, 10% decrease 2 hours after oral intake of extracts of Ruscus) .

Clinical studies are numerous and most often focus on specialties where BUTCHER'S BROOM extracts are associated with other vasculoprotective molecules. They confirm the effectiveness of these plant extracts (including Ruscus) on symptoms of VENO-LYMPHATIC INSUFFICIENCY.




- VENO-LYMPHATIC INSUFFICIENCY with or without varicose veins,

- the sequelae of PHLEBITIS,


- sometimes disorders of the lymphatic circulation post-surgical (LYMPHOEDEMA)

Other disorders related to a disruption of the vascular tone such as orthostatic hypotension (for example in the elderly, the diabetic), diabetic retinopathy, capillary fragility in general,

- Some therapists also recommend Ruscus extracts to reduce edema of the lower limbs secondary to the use of calcium channel blockers in the treatment of arterial hypertension.

Examples of DOSAGE:

50 g of dry rhizome in small pieces in 1 liter of water, boil 10 to 15 minutes, infuse 30 minutes, filter, consume 1/2 to 1 glass 3 times a day.

INFUSION (less concentrated than the decoction):
50 g of dry rhizome in small pieces in 1 liter of very hot water, infuse for 15 to 20 minutes, to drink during the day.

TOTAL POWDER titrated at 2.5% saponoside (in pharmacy):
1 to 2 g per day (3 to 10 capsules) in 3 to 5 doses.

ALCOHOLIC TINCTURE of Ruscus aculeatus thorny sparrow:
50 to 150 drops a day.

150 mg 2 to 3 times a day

80 mg 1 to 2 times a day

The treatment must be prolonged: by cure (example 2 to 4 weeks), in the long course (example every other week), or continuous.

Extracts of Ruscus are used in the composition of pharmaceutical specialties for venotonic purposes and to treat hemorrhoidal disease.

They are often associated with other plants or plant extracts or vitamins with complementary properties.

There are also preparations for local use (ointment, suppository) to treat the hemorrhoidal crisis.

The red berries of butcher's broom, Ruscus aculeatus is known for its TOXICITY.
If eaten they cause digestive problems or even serious blood problems (hemolysis).


On the other hand, the young spring stems are edible.
They are then purple and quite brittle.
They are eaten after a short cooking like young asparagus.

The shiny green twigs with their cladodes and their bright red fruits in autumn are particularly decorative and come in the composition of bouquets of dry plants.

Butcher's broom is a hardy plant that adapts to most soils and is not afraid of shade.
It is easily spread by transplanting pieces of rhizomatous stolons or by breaking down bushes.
Propagation by seeds is possible but germination is very slow.


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The rhizome of Ruscus aculeatus, butcher's broom, contains substances strengthening the tone of the veins and limit the inflammatory reaction and edema that accompany venous insufficiency.
It is a decorative plant whose young shoots can be eaten but whose fruit is TOXIC