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Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius Linn.) herb and flower, sparteine

treats Labor induction, Diuretic, and Cardiovascular conditions

Generic Name: Cytisus

Category

Herbs & Supplements

Synonyms

Bannal, basam, Besenginaterkraut, besom, bissom, bream, broom, broom tops, broomtops, browme, brum, common broom, Cystisi scoparii flos, Cystisus scoparius, Cytsus scoprfus, English broom, European broom, genet a balais, Genista andreana, Genista scoparius (Lam.), Ginsterkraut, greem broom, herba spartii scoparii, herbe de genet a balais, herbe de genistae scopariae, herbe de hogweed, hogweed, Irish broom, Irish tops, sarothamni herb, Sarothamnus scoparius (Koch), Sarothamnus vulgaris, Scoparii cacumina, scopari herba, scotch broom top, scotchbroom, sparteine, Spartium scoparium Linn., sumidad de retma de escobas.

Family: Fabaceae/Leguminosae/Papilionaceae.

Note: Not to be confused with Spanish broom (Spartium junceum), which has been associated with severe toxicity, or Butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus).

Background

Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), also referred to as broom, is a perennial woody plant native to Europe. The species was introduced as a garden ornamental to North America and now is common across western Canada and California. Scotch broom plants grow up to 10 feet tall with sharply angled branches off the main stem, trifoliate leaves, and bright yellow small flowers. Scotch broom spreads quickly and aggressively at the expense of other plants and trees and is often considered a pest.

Both the flower and herb of scotch broom have been used medicinally. There is very little available scientific evidence about the efficacy or safety of this plant, and most conclusions come from knowledge of its constituents or from traditional use. There is particular concern about the potential toxicity of scotch broom due to the presence of small amounts of the toxic alkaloids sparteine and isosparteine, which are found in both the flowers and herb (above-ground parts). Sparteine has known effects on the electrical conductivity of heart muscle and can potentially cause dangerous heart rhythms or interact with cardiac drugs. Sparteine is also known to cause uterine contractions and should be avoided during pregnancy. Life-threatening adverse effects have been associated with sparteine and therefore scotch broom should be used only under strict medical supervision.

Evidence

DISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Cardiovascular conditions: Scotch broom herb has been taken by mouth traditionally for a variety of conditions related to the heart or blood circulation. These include abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), fast heart rate (tachycardia), swelling in the legs (peripheral edema), water in the lungs (pulmonary edema, congestive heart failure), and low blood pressure (hypotension). Scotch broom flower has been taken by mouth traditionally for tachycardia and to reduce leg swelling by increasing urination (diuretic), as well as for damage to the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) and for poor circulation. There is a scientific basis for some of these uses, due to the presence in scotch broom herb and flower of small amounts of the alkaloid sparteine. Sparteine may affect the electrical conductivity of heart muscle (similar to type 1A antiarrhythmic drugs such as quinidine). However, there is limited evidence in humans and it is not clear if sparteine found in the plant form has clinically meaningful effects. These potential properties of scotch broom may be dangerous in individuals with heart disease or taking cardiac medications. People with cardiovascular disorders should be evaluated and supervised by a licensed healthcare professional.
Grade: C

Diuretic (increased urine flow): Scotch broom preparations, particularly those made from the flower, have been used traditionally as diuretics (to increase urination). Diuretic effects have been attributed by some to the constituent scoparin or scoparoside. There is insufficient scientific evidence at this time to form clear conclusions about safety or efficacy in humans.
Grade: C

Labor induction (oxytocic): Scotch broom herb has been used historically to stimulate uterine contractions at birth and to reduce post-partum hemorrhage (bleeding after birth). There is a scientific basis of this use, due to the presence in scotch broom of small amounts of the alkaloid sparteine, which was studied and used through the 1970s as an oxytocic drug (to induce labor). This use was discontinued due to serious toxicities associated with sparteine. Currently, other drugs such as oxytocin (Pitocin®) are used for this purpose. The safety and efficacy of scotch broom preparations in labor are not well studied or established. Women who may require labor induction should be evaluated and supervised by a physician.
Grade: C

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