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Butcher's broom (also known as knee holly and Jew's myrtle) is a perennial evergreen shrub found throughout Northwest Europe and the Mediterranean region. The plant reaches up to 90 centimeters in height, with erect, striated stems, from which grow numerous short branches. Butcher's broom is essentially leafless, but displays numerous false leaves, which are actually expanded, flattened areas of the branches, near the tips. From the centers of the false leaves grow single, greenish-white flowers, which are in turn succeeded by bright red berries. The plant's thick, white root is used for health purposes.
Butcher's broom root contains a mixture of sterols, fatty acids, and phenolic substances. The primary active constituents are believed to be the steroidal saponins known as ruscogenin and neoruscogenin, which have shown the ability to constrict blood vessels in laboratory tests. Butcher's broom extracts are often standardized for consistent ruscogenin concentration.
For supportive therapy for discomforts due to chronic venous insufficiency or hemorrhoids, Germany's Commission E recommends a daily dosage of butcher's broom providing the equivalent of 7 to 11 mg of total ruscogenin (determined as the sum of neoruscogenin and ruscogenin after fermentation or acid hydrolysis). Butcher's broom has no known toxicity and is well tolerated at this dosage range, although, in rare cases, gastric disorders or nausea may occur. Topical butcher's broom preparations have not been associated with any adverse effects.