Broom, officinally speaking, consists of the tops of Cytisus Scoparius {Spartium Scoparium, Linn.), or the common broom plant, a European shrub, with long, slender, bright-green terminal branches, beset with downy ternate leaves, and fine, large, showy, golden-yellow flowers, on account of which it is sometimes cultivated in our gardens. These branches, with their leaves and flowers, are the parts employed under the name of tops.


Fresh broom has a strong characteristic odour when bruised, and a bitter nauseous taste, which it retains after being dried. It imparts all its virtues to water and alcohol. According to Dr. Sten-house it contains two active principles; one diuretic, which he calls sco-parin, and the other narcotic, having properties analogous to those of the vegetable volatile alkaloids, for which he proposes the name of spar-tein (Ann. de. Thérap., a.d. 1853, p. 153); but these results have not yet, so far as I know, been confirmed.

Medical Effects and Uses

In moderate doses, broom is tonic and diuretic; in larger, emetic and cathartic. Dr. Cullen, in his Treatise on Materia Medica, says of it, that, having found it in use among the common people, he had prescribed it to some of his patients, and seldom found it to fail in operating both by stool and. urine. Some cases of dropsy were cured by it. Dr. Mead also gives his testimony in its favour; Dr. Pearson considers it tonic and diuretic; and Dr. Pereira speaks of it in the highest terms of commendation, having found it more certain than any other diuretic. Dr. Christison, however, has had less reason to be satisfied with its effects. {Dispensatory.) It is thought not to be well adapted to febrile and inflammatory cases; and, with its tendency to disturb the stomach and bowels, should not be employed in irritable states of these organs. With these exceptions, it may be used in all kinds of dropsy; and should be tried when other diuretics have failed.

Cullen used the medicine in decoction, made with half an ounce of the fresh tops and a pint of water, boiled down to one-half, of which he gave a fluidounce every hour till it operated on the bowels, or the whole had been taken. The British Pharmacopoeia directs half an ounce of the tops to be boiled for ten minutes in ten fluidounces of water. The dose would be the same. A compound decoction was directed by the London and Edinburgh Colleges, made by boiling half an ounce, each, of broom, juniper, and dandelion, in thirty fluidounces of water down to twenty, of which from half a pint to a pint might be taken in divided doses during the day, as an adjuvant to more powerful diuretics.

The seeds, which have the same properties, and keep better, may be substituted in the dose of ten or fifteen grains.