This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
The broom, Cytisus Scoparius, Link (N.O. Leguminosoe), is a woody shrub, attaining a height of 2 metres, indigenous to England, and distributed over temperate Europe. It was employed medicinally by the Anglo-Saxons and by the Welsh. The younger herbaceous tops are collected, and are official in the fresh state for the preparation of the juice, and dried for making the infusion.
The stem of the broom produces numerous long, slender, alternate, erect branches which are glabrous, tough, and flexible. The upper part of each branch is dark green, and bears five distinct wings, which, however, are thrown off as the stems increase in size. The leaves are small, alternate, and hairy whilst young; the lower are trifoliate and stalked, but those near the ends of the twigs are reduced to single sessile leaflets. They easily fall off from the stems when dried, and the dry drug therefore frequently contains but few.
The bright yellow, fragrant, papilionaceous flowers are borne on solitary, axillary peduncles, and succeeded by oblong, flattened legumes with hairy margins.
When fresh, the flowering plant has an agreeable odour which, however, disappears on drying. The taste is bitter and unpleasant.
The chief constituents of broom are the liquid volatile alkaloid, sparteine, and an indifferent, yellow, crystalline substance, scoparin; in addition to these a crystalline, volatile alkaloid, genisteine, and a nonvolatile alkaloid, sarothamnine, have been isolated from it.
Sparteine, C15H16N2, has been obtained as a colourless, viscid oil (b. pt. 325°) forming crystallisable salts of which the sulphate has been used medicinally. It is present in largest proportion in March (0.45 per cent.) and smallest in August (0.15 per cent.).
Scoparin belongs to the quercetin group.
Genisteine, C16H18N2 has been isolated from commercial sparteine.
Broom is largely used as a diuretic in dropsy, an action which is due to the scoparin it contains. Sparteine exhibits physiologically a close resemblance to coniine, weakening the heart and depressing nerve cells.
Fig. 104. - Broom, flowering branch. (Maisch).