The tops of Cytisus Scoparius (Linné), Link"—(U. S. P.) (Genista scoparia, Lamarck; Spartium scoparium, Linné; Sarothamnus Scoparius, Koch; Sarothamnus vulgaris, Wimmer).
COMMON NAMES: Broom, Irish broom, Broom tops.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 70.
Botanical Source.—This is a large, bushy shrub, growing from 4 to 9 feet in height, with numerous, long, straight, pentangular, dark-green, smooth, tough, very pliant branches. The leaves are deciduous, scattered, stalked, and ternate; the upper ones generally simple; leaflets uniform, obovate, obtuse, entire, and silky when young. The flowers are axillary, solitary, or in pairs, on simple stalks, longer than the leaves, papilionaceous, large and handsome, of a deep golden-yellow color. The fruit is brown legume, flat, above an inch long, nearly smooth at the sides, fringed with hairs at each margin, and contains about 15 or 16 seeds. The swelling ovary soon splits the tube of the filaments (L.).
History and Description.—This plant is common to Europe and this country, and is frequently cultivated in gardens; it grows on dry and sandy soils, and flowers in May and June. The tops (Scoparii Cacumina, Br. Pharm.; Herba Scoparii) are the official parts. The seeds are also employed, and may be preserved for a longer time than the former. All parts of the plant have a peculiar, nauseously amarous taste, and, when rubbed, have a characteristic odor. They yield their virtues to water or alcohol. The young blossoms, when pickled, are said to be equal in quality to capers. The U. S. P. demands broom tops "in thin, flexible, branched twigs, pentangular, winged, dark-green, nearly smooth, tough, usually free from leaves; odor peculiar when bruised; taste disagreeably bitter"—(U. S. P.). The seeds of Spartium junceum, Linné, of Europe, are possessed of emetic, purgative and diuretic properties.
Chemical Composition.—The flowers contain volatile oil, yellow fat, wax, sugar gum, tannin, yellow coloring matter, mineral matter, etc. (Cadet de Gassicourt, 1824). Stenhouse, in 1851, isolated from broom tops the volatile, oily, narcotic, and bitter alkaloid, sparteine (C15H26N2), and the yellow, crystallizable coloring matter, scoparin, which is diuretic and purgative. (For preparation and properties of Sparteine, see Sparteinae Sulphas.) Scoparin is obtained by evaporating an aqueous decoction of the plant to a smaller bulk, and allowing to stand for 24 hours. A jelly-like, crude scoparin is obtained, which is pressed out and purified by recrystallizing from hot water, then from hot alcohol. Hot alcohol converts it into a jelly-like insoluble, and a crystalline, soluble modification. It forms a pale-yellow, amorphous mass, or yellow crystals, quite soluble in hot water and hot alcohol, easily soluble in aqua ammoniae, caustic alkalies, and alkali carbonates. When fused with caustic potash, phloroglucin and protocatechuic acid are formed (Hlasiwetz, 1866). Stenhouse gives the formula C21H22O10, while Goldschmidt and von Hemmelmayr find C20H20O10, or C19H16O8(OH)(OCH3) (Chem. Centralblatt, Vol. II, 1893, p. 213; and Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1894, p. 37).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Broom is not without decided physiological effects—a staggering gait, impaired vision, and profuse vomiting and sweating have resulted from its use. The physiological effects of scoparin are not yet well studied, though it is regarded as diuretic and purgative. (For the action of sparteine, the cardiac principle, see Sparteinae Sulphas.) In large doses, broom is emetic and cathartic; in small doses, diuretic. Used in all chronic forms of dropsy, said to never fail in increasing the flow of the urine; especially beneficial in dropsy of the thorax, combined with diseases of the lungs. Scurvy and jaundice have been successfully treated with it. Dose, of a strong decoction, prepared by boiling 1 ounce of the tops in a pint of water for 10 minutes, 4 fluid ounces every hour, until it produces some effect, using about 1 pint in 24 hours (dandelion and juniper berries may be made into a decoction with it); of the pulverized seed, from 10 to 15 grains, aided by the free use of diluents; of the tincture, 15 to 30 drops. The latter is inferior to the infusion.
Related Species.—Ulex Europaeus, Gorse, Whin, Furze. A spiny plant, bearing bright-yellow flowers, and very common along the roadways and in waste places in Great Britain. A. W. Gerrard (1886) isolated from the seeds an alkaloid, ulexine. This alkaloid, according to the views of Kobert (1890), Moer (1891), and Partheil (1892), is identical with cytisine (see Laburnum, for description; also see Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1893, p. 296). The action of ulexine is similar to that of cytisine and sparteine, giving to the heart vigorous and slower action. It induces greater arterial contraction, and proves diuretic. Its diuretic effects, however, are less pronounced than those of digitalis, which it most resembles. Cardiac paralysis is the result of toxic doses. A child was poisoned by milk from a cow which had eaten gorse. The remedy may be used in dropsies of cardiac origin (Kobert). Dose, of ulexine, 1/20 to 1/15 grain; of the nitrate, 1/20 to 1/12 grain, hypodermatically.