Butcher’s Broom Treats Lower Leg Swelling
August 15, 2002—People who suffer from swelling in the lower legs (chronic venous insufficiency) may be able to reduce the puffiness by taking an extract of butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus), according to a study in Arzneimittelforschung (2002;52:243–50).
Chronic venous insufficiency typically results from a weakness of the tissues that make up the veins; this weakness allows excessive amounts of fluid to leak from the bloodstream and “pool” in the legs. The condition may also occur following a blood clot in the leg or prolonged inflammation in the veins. Symptoms include swelling in the lower legs or ankles, darkening and dryness of the skin, and a dull, persistent ache that is worse with prolonged standing. People with this condition are often advised to elevate their legs frequently, to avoid long periods of standing, and to wear compression stockings to help improve the blood flow in the legs. These recommendations may provide temporary relief, however, they do not address the underlying cause. Conversely, butcher’s broom actually improves the tone of the veins, so that blood stagnation in the legs is reduced, thereby decreasing swelling.
In a three-month study, scientists gave 166 women with persistent lower leg swelling either 75 mg per day of butcher’s broom or a placebo. Measurements of ankle and leg circumference were taken every four weeks for the duration of the study. Participants were also asked to complete a symptom questionnaire at the same intervals.
Leg and ankle circumference were significantly reduced in those taking butcher’s broom, while it increased slightly in those taking the placebo. Leg and ankle swelling decreased after 8 weeks of treatment with butcher’s broom and continued to decline further after 12 weeks. Symptoms such as heaviness in the legs, tingling, and a sensation of tension all improved in the people taking butcher’s broom, whereas no improvement in any of these symptoms occurred in the placebo group. Butcher’s broom treatment was well tolerated and did not cause any significant side effects.
Other nutrients and herbs may also be useful in treating venous insufficiency. Several studies have shown that 600 to 900 mg per day of horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) significantly reduces leg and ankle swelling. Some small studies suggest that 300 to 500 mg per day of flavonoids (specifically hydroxyethylrutosides or proanthocyanidins [OPCs]), may increase venous tone and reduce swelling. Another preliminary study showed that gotu kola (Centella asiatica) successfully treated venous insufficiency when taken in amounts of 60 to 120 mg per day. For more specific intake amounts and safety information, consult a healthcare provider knowledgeable in herbal medicine.
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Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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