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Butcher's Broom for Chronic Venous Insufficiency

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Updated May 06, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is an herb used to treat chronic venous insufficiency. Extracted from a small evergreen shrub found in Europe and North Africa, butcher's broom is thought to help stimulate circulation.

Butcher's broom is often combined with hesperidin and ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) in treatment of chronic venous insufficiency.

What is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition in which the veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs to the heart, and is linked to problems like varicose veins, ankle swelling, and nighttime leg cramping. Chronic venous insufficiency 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
  • swelling of the legs

Using Butcher's Broom for Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Although research on the use of butcher's broom in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency is fairly limited and dated, some studies suggest that taking butcher's broom may offer certain benefits to people with this condition.

For example, a 2002 study from the German 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.

In addition, several studies have focused on the effects of taking butcher's broom in combination with hesperidin and ascorbic acid in treatment of chronic venous insufficiency. In a 2007 study published in International Angiology, for example, 124 patients with chronic venous insufficiency took a combination of butcher's broom, hesperidin, and ascorbic acid every day for eight weeks. Starting from the second week, study participants showed a significant decrease in a range of symptoms (including pain, cramps, and swelling).

Is Butcher's Broom a Safe Treatment for Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

Butcher's broom may trigger mild side effects, such as upset stomach and diarrhea. Additionally, taking butcher's broom in combination with certain medications (such as blood-thinning drugs) may be harmful to your health. Therefore, it's important to seek medical advice if you're considering the use of butcher's broom supplements.

Where to Find Butcher's Broom

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

Should You Use Butcher's Broom for Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

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 in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating chronic venous insufficiency with butcher's broom and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources:

Aguilar Peralta GR, Arévalo Gardoqui J, Llamas Macías FJ, Navarro Ceja VH, Mendoza Cisneros SA, Martínez Macías CG. "Clinical and capillaroscopic evaluation in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency with Ruscus aculeatus, hesperidin methylchalcone and ascorbic acid in venous insufficiency treatment of ambulatory patients." Int Angiol. 2007 Dec;26(4):378-84.

Bylka W, Kornobis J. "Butcher's Broom, in the treatment of venous insufficiency." Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2005 Aug;19(110):234-6.

Facino RM, Carini M, Stefani R, Aldini G, Saibene L. "Anti-elastase and anti-hyaluronidase activities of saponins and sapogenins from Hedera helix, Aesculus hippocastanum, and Ruscus aculeatus: factors contributing to their efficacy in the treatment of venous insufficiency." Arch Pharm (Weinheim). 1995 Oct;328(10):720-4.

Guex JJ, Avril L, Enrici E, Enriquez E, Lis C, Taïeb C. "Quality of life improvement in Latin American patients suffering from chronic venous disorder using a combination of Ruscus aculeatus and hesperidin methyl-chalcone and ascorbic acid (quality study)." Int Angiol. 2010 Dec;29(6):525-32.

Guex JJ, Enriquez Vega DM, Avril L, Boussetta S, Taïeb C. "Assessment of quality of life in Mexican patients suffering from chronic venous disorder - impact of oral Ruscus aculeatus-hesperidin-methyl-chalcone-ascorbic acid treatment - 'QUALITY Study'." Phlebology. 2009 Aug;24(4):157-65.

National Institutes of Health. "Venous insufficiency: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." March 2012.

Vanscheidt W, Jost V, Wolna P, Lücker PW, Müller A, Theurer C, Patz B, Grützner KI. "Efficacy and safety of a Butcher's broom preparation (Ruscus aculeatus L. extract) compared to placebo in patients suffering from chronic venous insufficiency." Arzneimittelforschung. 2002;52(4):243-50.

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