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Botanical Description & Habitat

Cytisus scoparius or Sarathamnus scoparius


Common Names
Broom Top
Hog weed
Irish broom
Scotch broom

Native of Europe, North Africa, and western Asia, and naturalized in a few areas of North America.

Broom is a deciduous shrub 4-5 feet in height, with long, erect, dark green twigs that are tough and flexible. The angular, slender stem bears oval, pointed leaves; the lower leaves grow in groups of 3 and the upper leaves are single. Bright yellow, sweetly scented flowers bloom from April to June. Its fruit is a blackish pod containing 12-18 seeds; it explodes to disperse its contents.

Medicinal Parts
Dried tops, gathered when flowering

Historical Properties & Uses

Broom's flowering tops have an oxytocic action for the induction of labor. The action is due to the presence of sparteine. Broom possesses cardiac depressant properties which are useful in the treatment of bradycardia, arrhythmia and cardiac insufficiency. This property is generally accepted by the medical community, as is the tendency of the herb to induce emesis and catharsis. The curare-like effect of broom may explain reports that sheep who graze on it acquire an immunity to snake bites.

Scotch Broom is an approved herb by the German Comisssion E for use in functional heart disorders and circulatory disorders.

However, Scotch Broom flower has not achieved approval status by the German Commission E. Either there was insufficient evidence in favor, or a contraindication.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

The oxytocic property is due to the presence of sparteine. This alkaloid is often used to induce labor at term.

The snakebite folklore gains some validity from the fact that sparteine sulphate detoxifies snake venom.

The cardiac depressant and curare-like effects of broom tops are generally accepted.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Known Interactions

Since broom's diuretic action increases the renal excretion of sodium and chloride, this herb may potentiate the hyperglycemic and hyperuricemic effects of glucose-elevating agents.

Diuretics in general may potentiate the action of antihypertensive, ganglionic or peripheral adrenergic blocking drugs, tubocurarine and, to a lesser degree, norepinephrine. It should also be noted the effects of dopamine and diuretic agents are additive.

Due to its cathartic activity, broom may potentiate anticoagulant therapy by reducing absorption of vitamin K from the gut. It may also inhibit absorption of dextrose from the intestines.

This cathartic herb may also increase intestinal transit time of digitalis glycosides, inhibiting their absorption and cardiac action.

Cathartic-induced hypokalemia, however, increases toxicity and potency of absorbed digitalis and potentiates muscle relaxants.

In addition to specific interactions listed, the cathartic action of this herb tend to hasten the passage of all oral medications through the gut, thereby inhibiting their action.

The German Commission E noted that due to the tyramine content of Scotch Broom, the simultaneous administration of MAO inhibitors can cause a blood pressure crisis.

Possible Interactions

In conjunction with corticotropin (ACTH) or corticosteroids, this diuretic herb is more prone to produce hypokalemia. The use of diuretics in general may require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs. Furthermore, the diuretic action of broom may reduce renal clearance of lithium. It should also be noted an initial dose of the hypertensive captopril may cause a severe drop in blood pressure within three hours if a strong diuretic is also being used.

The sympathomimetic action of the uterine relaxant ridodrine HCl and the vasoconstricting property of broom are additive. The pressor effect of this sympathomimetic agent may be markedly potentiated by monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI's) and tricyclic antidepressants.

The use of this herb in obstetrics (e.g., to correct hypotension) in conjunction with oxytocic drugs may produce hypertension.

Additive pressor effects may occur when using broom with the analeptic doxapram HCl. Colchicine may increase sensitivity or enhance the response to the herb. Concurrent administration of large amounts of broom and procarbazine antineoplastic drugs may induce a sudden hypertensive crisis.


Prolonged use of this diuretic herb may affect certain laboratory test results such as electrolytes, especially potassium and sodium, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), uric acid, glucose, and protein bound iodine (PBI). The strong diuretic action of broom may produce digitalis toxicity if digitalis glycosides are being used. In conjunction with aminoglycoside antibiotics, it may also produce ototoxicity; combined with alcohol, barbiturates, or narcotics, it may produce orthostatic hypotension.

Strong diuretics such as this, in conjunction with indomethacin, may produce natriuretic effects. Broom may also enhance the nephrotoxicity of cephaloridine.

In the absence of other hard data, it may still be assumed observable interactions may occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in this herb.

The presence of tyramine and/or tryptophan in broom could produce hypertension if a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) is also being used, although this is not a likely interaction.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.


Safety Factors & Toxicity

Broom is regarded as unsafe by the FDA.

The use of broom tops to induce hallucinations or as an intoxicant is probably not very effective. It would require very high doses, much more than is available in a normal dose of the plant.

The German Commission E also notes the possibility for hepatoxicity from pyrrolizidine alkaloids in Scotch broom.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Scotch Broom flower has not achieved approval status by the German Commission E.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.


Preparation & Administration

Dried tops
1-2 grams as a tea

Fluid extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 1-2 ml

1:5 in 45% alcohol, 0.5-1 ml

Broom should not be taken during pregnancy.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows:

1 - 1.5 g of the herb.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


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