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Ruscus aculeatus

An herb more commonly known as Butcher's Broom, ruscus aculeatus is traditionally used for circulation and appears to constrict veins. This is thought to reduce pooling of blood in extremities, and the limited evidence appears to be promising.

Our evidence-based analysis on ruscus aculeatus features 21 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by Kamal Patel .
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Summary of Ruscus aculeatus

Primary Information, Benefits, Effects, and Important Facts

Ruscus aculeatus is an herb commonly referred to as Butcher's Broom due to its hard roots and (supposed) antibacterial properties being traditionally used to clean the cutting boards of butchers. It also holds traditional medicinal uses, which maily focus around improving blood flow in the veins by contracting them. The uses associated with this 'venotropic' action include reducing leg swelling and edema, treating chronic venous insufficiency, and treating or preventing hemhorroids.

The plant itself contains a variety of saponin structures, of which the active ones are not fully elucidated but are thought to be a collection of similar saponins known as the ruscogenins and neoruscogenins. These are present in high levels in the plant's vertical root (rhizome) and tend to be standardized for supplementation.

In regards to the plant's actions, it seems to increase the activity of noradrenaline at the level of the synapse where it contacts veins via acting through its alpha receptors.

Human evidence is limited, as while there is a large amount of evidence and a meta-analysis on a formulation of which contains this herb it is confounded by the inclusion of hesperidin methylchalcone (commonly added to venotropic agents). There are only two human studies using the herb in isolation, and the one investigating the major claim appears to support its traditional usage.

While limited evidence suggests it is effective, advocacy of the supplement is in part limited by a lack of replication with the herb in isolation as well as insufficient safety testing in humans.

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Things To Know & Note

Primary Function:

Also Known As

Butcher's Broom, Jew's Myrtle, Knee Holly, Kneeholm, Pettigree, Sweet Broom

How to Take Ruscus aculeatus

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

Supplementation of ruscus aculeatus tends to use the rhizome (vertical root above the ground) of the plant, and when using this extract it tends to be at concentrations above 10-fold (10:1) to 20-fold (20:1), in order to concentrate the main bioactives which are the ruscogenins.

In the above extract range, doses of 37.5mg are taken twice daily to total 75mg daily. This equates to approximately 750-1,500mg of the rhizome's unextracted dry weight daily.

There is not enough evidence to suggest whether it is better to take ruscus aculeatus on an empty stomach or with a meal, and while the above dosing appears effective there is not enough evidence to suggest if it is the optimal dosage.

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Human Effect Matrix

The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (it excludes animal and in vitro studies) to tell you what effects ruscus aculeatus has on your body, and how strong these effects are.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
grade-c Minor - See study
Ruscus aculeatus appears to be more effective than placebo for treating chronic venous insufficiency, although the degree of benefit relative to other treatments is not established.
grade-c Minor - See study
Secondary to its venotropic actions in persons with chronic venous insufficiency, supplementation of ruscus aculeatus appears to reduce leg swelling and edema (thigh and ankle).
grade-c - - See study
Despite improving symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency in the afflicted persons, supplementation failed to lead to an increase in quality of life relative to placebo.
grade-d Notable - See study
A fairly notable increase in HDL-C (23%) in the lone (but not placebo controlled) study with ruscus aculeatus, requires replication
grade-d Notable - See study
The decrease in HbA1c noted in this pilot study (15.6%) was fairly marked and requires replication.
grade-d Minor - See study
A reduction reaching 10.2% blood glucose has been noted with continual supplementation of ruscus aculeatus in type II diabetic persons in this non-placebo controlled study; requires replication.
grade-d Minor - See study
A 7.8% reduction in fructosamine has been noted with supplementation of ruscus aculeatus in diabetic persons.
grade-d Minor - See study
A decrease in total cholesterol (9.4%) has been noted in diabetic persons alongside an increase in HDL-C. Requires replication.
grade-d - - See study
No significant influence on circulating triglycerides in diabetic persons given ruscus aculeatus supplementation.
grade-d - - See study
The improvement in visual acuity seen with supplementation of this herb failed to reach statistical significance in diabetic persons with retinopathy.

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Research Breakdown on Ruscus aculeatus

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Ruscus aculeatus (of the family Liliaceae) is an herb commonly referred to as Butcher's Broom, a name which arose from the use of its roots to clean the cutting boards of butchers since the essential oil was thought to have antibacterial properties.[1] The extract of the root/rhizome also was traditionally used for the treatment of circulatory disorders with mild diuretic and laxative effects.[1][2] Other uses associated with venous insufficiency treatment such as hemorrhoids and varicose veins are also traditionally treated with Ruscus aculeatus extract.[3]

The traditional usage of the rhizome involves the dried root powder concentrated anywhere between 3.5-6.5:1 (water extract) to 15-20:1 (60% methanolic).[1] The preparations are said to contain no less than 1% total ruscogenins by weight; the traditional recommendations for total ruscogenin intake ranges from 7-11mg daily.[1]

Ruscus aculeatus is a traditionally used medicinal herb that, similar to Horse Chestnut, has been used for venous circulatory disorders.

The rhizome of ruscus aculeatus (medicinally used component) contains:

  • Ruscogenin[4] at 0.111% in the rhizome and 0.02% in the roots[5] as well as its glycosides[6] and both sulfated and acetylated glycosides (not quantified).[6][7]

  • Neoruscogenin[4] at 0.173% in the rhizome and 0.046% in the roots[5] and its glycosides ruscin, desglucoruscin, and desglucodesrhamnoruscin[8]

  • Ruscoside and Desglucoruscoside[8]

  • Friedeline[9] and D:A-friedo-olean-2-one-3a-ol[9]

  • 22R-hydroxycholesterol[9]

  • β-sitosterol (as a 3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl glycoside[9])

The content of the major bioactive (ruscogenin) appears to be comparably high in the phylloclades of the plant when compared to the rhizome, whereas neoruscogenin is significantly lower.[5]

The herb's rhizome (vertical root above the ground) appears to be a source of a variety of different saponins, although the ones that attract the most attention are the ruscogenins and neoruscogenins due to their high contents in the active parts of the plant.

Ruscus aculeatus may help orthostatic hypotension due to its contrictive properties on veins. This helps prevent the pooling of blood in lower extremities (phlebotherapeutic properties) while not causing hypertension in a supine position like other potential orthostatic hypotension treatments,[10] although no controlled trials in humans to date have confirmed this use.

Ruscus aculeatus appears to have α-adrenergic stimulating properties, and vasoconstricting properties are thought to be associated with release of noradrenaline from nerve terminals (as cholinergic, prostaglandin, and serotonergic mechanisms have been ruled out[1]). In vitro, phentolamine (an α-adrenergic antagonist) is able to nearly abolish the contractile response[11][12] while both rauwolscine and prazosin are effective implicating both the α1 and α2 subsets of these receptors,[12] and as chemical denervation (6-hydroxydopamine) and reducing noradrenaline content in the synaptic gap (through cocaine) can both reduce the efficacy of Ruscus aculeatus it is thought that it stimulates neurons to release noradrenaline which then acts upon the α-adrenergic receptors.[1]

These vasoconstrictive properties are additive with cholinergic stimulation[11] and with warm temperatures.[12] While one study suggested that the contractile response of venous smooth muscle to Ruscus aculeatus is enhanced by chronic exposure to progesterone[13] later studies excising veins from human females found no relation between the efficacy of Ruscus aculeatus and circulating hormones levels (Marcelon et al. 1988b, as cited in this review[1]).

At 37°C (average body temperature), the contribution from the α1 and the α2 receptor subsets are equivalent.[12]

When looking at veins, Ruscus aculeatus appears to be able to contsrict veins secondary to stimulating noradrenaline release from nerves which then act on the alpha adrenergic receptors. Both major receptors are implicated, and this is thought to underlie the ability of Ruscus aculeatus to treat venous diseases and ailments.

The vasoconstrictive effects of Ruscus aculeatus are partially attenuated by the integrety of the endotheilial cells in dogs, while the endothelium was not found to play a role in its contractile effect in varicose veins excised from humans; a contradiction which may be accounted for by the fact that the endothelium of vericose veins may be dysfunctional.[1] There is evidence to suggest that Ruscus aculeatus causes some indirect relaxation mediated through stimulating the release of endothelium-derived factors, at least in coronary arteries.[1]

Ruscus aculeatus may have some relaxing effects on blood vessels which counterbalances its constrictive effects. This may be mediated through stimulating the endothelium. There is no evidence on practical relevance of this effect as it pertains to oral supplementation of Ruscus aculeatus.

Significant reductions were noted in fasting blood glucose (10.6%), fructosamine (7.8%), and HbA1c concentrations (15.6%) after supplementation of 37.5mg Ruscus aculeatus extract (twice daily for three months) relative to baseline in type II diabetic persons.[14]

Supplementation of Ruscus aculeatus (37.5mg twice daily for three months; saponin content not listed) in diabetic persons with retinopathy was able to decrease the amplitude of oscillating potentials of the eyes by 15%, although this value was not statistically significant when compared to baseline and underperformed relative to the reference drug (troxerutin).[14] This slight decrease was accompanied by an increase in visual acuity, although this was also not statistically significant and weak in size. However, progression of diabetic retinopathy (assessed by opthalmoscope) was reversed in 23.1% of patients with no instances of disease progression noted, and this was comparable to troxerutin.[14]

Ruscus aculeatus has been tested in persons with chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) in combination supplementation with hesperidin methylchalcone and sometimes Vitamin C[15][16][17][18] which have been concluded effective when subject to meta-analysis (despite some variability in the structures of the studies).[19]

Limited studies have tested the efficacy of Ruscus aculeatus in isolation. One study in women with CVI given a capsule containing 36-37.5mg of a 15-20:1 concentration twice daily for twelve weeks showed a reduction in limb circumference (an anti-edemic action), but Ruscus aculeatus did not alter quality of life compared to placebo.[20]

Although the majority of evidence on Ruscus aculeatus and CVI is conducted in a manner where hesperidin and vitamin C confound the results, the limited evidence assessing the herb alone have found benefit with it. The efficacy of this herb against other possible interventions for CVI has not been directly assessed.

There is a case study of a diabetic woman on stable therapy (insulin and metformin) who experienced ketoacidosis associated with taking Ruscus aculeatus supplementation for improving circulation in extremities.[21] While causation was not established (due to no reintroduction to Ruscus aculeatus) the ketoacidosis occurred 5 days after the start of supplementation and it was controlled under medical supervision.[21]

Ruscus aculeatus supplementation (dosage and brand unspecified) has been associated with a case of ketoacidosis in a diabetic woman on controlled antidiabetic therapy


  2. ^ No authors listed. Ruscus aculeatus (butcher's broom). Monograph. Altern Med Rev. (2001)
  3. ^ MacKay D. Hemorrhoids and varicose veins: a review of treatment options. Altern Med Rev. (2001)
  4. ^ a b Mangas S, et al. The effect of methyl jasmonate on triterpene and sterol metabolisms of Centella asiatica, Ruscus aculeatus and Galphimia glauca cultured plants. Phytochemistry. (2006)
  5. ^ a b c Vlase L, et al. High-throughput LC/MS/MS analysis of ruscogenin and neoruscogenin in Ruscus aculeatus L. J AOAC Int. (2009)
  6. ^ a b Mimaki Y, et al. Steroidal saponins from the underground parts of Ruscus aculeatus and their cytostatic activity on HL-60 cells. Phytochemistry. (1998)
  7. ^ De Marino S, et al. Novel steroidal components from the underground parts of Ruscus aculeatus L. Molecules. (2012)
  8. ^ a b de Combarieu E, et al. Identification of Ruscus steroidal saponins by HPLC-MS analysis. Fitoterapia. (2002)
  9. ^ a b c d Dunouau C, et al. Triterpenes and sterols from Ruscus aculeatus. Planta Med. (1996)
  10. ^ Redman DA. Ruscus aculeatus (butcher's broom) as a potential treatment for orthostatic hypotension, with a case report. J Altern Complement Med. (2000)
  11. ^ a b Marcelon G, et al. Effect of Ruscus aculeatus on isolated canine cutaneous veins. Gen Pharmacol. (1983)
  12. ^ a b c d Rubanyi G, Marcelon G, Vanhoutte PM. Effect of temperature on the responsiveness of cutaneous veins to the extract of Ruscus aculeatus. Gen Pharmacol. (1984)
  13. ^ Miller VM, Marcelon G, Vanhoutte PM. Progesterone augments the venoconstrictor effect of Ruscus without altering adrenergic reactivity. Phlebology. (1991)
  14. ^ a b c Clinical Effect of Buckwheat Herb, Ruscus Extract and Troxerutin on Retinopathy and Lipids in Diabetic Patients.
  15. ^ Allaert FA, et al. Correlation between improvement in functional signs and plethysmographic parameters during venoactive treatment (Cyclo 3 Fort). Int Angiol. (2011)
  16. ^ Guex JJ, et al. 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)
  17. ^ Porto CL, et al. Changes on venous diameter and leg perimeter with different clinical treatments for moderate chronic venous disease: evaluation using Duplex scanning and perimeter measurements. Int Angiol. (2009)
  18. ^ Aguilar Peralta GR, et al. 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)
  19. ^ Boyle P, Diehm C, Robertson C. Meta-analysis of clinical trials of Cyclo 3 Fort in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency. Int Angiol. (2003)
  20. ^ Vanscheidt W, et al. 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)
  21. ^ a b Sadarmin PP, Timperley J. An unusual case of Butcher's Broom precipitating diabetic ketoacidosis. J Emerg Med. (2013)