089. Spartium scoparium. Common Broom.

Botanical name: 

089. Spartium scoparium. 089. Spartium scoparium. C. Synonyma. Genista. Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Gerard. Emac. p. 1311.
Genista angulosa & scoparia. Bauh. Pin. p. 395.
Genista vulgaris & scoparia. Park. Theat. p. 228.
Genista angulosa trifolia. J. Bauh. Hist. vol. i. p. 388. Ray Hist. p. 1723. Synop. p. 474.
Spartium foliis inferioribus ternatis hirsutis superioribus simplicibus. Hall. Stirp. Helv. n. 354.
Spartium scoparium. Hudson. Flor. Ang. p. 310. Withering. Bot. Arrang. p. 756. Flor. Dan. p. 313.

Class Diadelphia. Ord. Decandria. Lin. Gen. Plant. 858.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Stigma longitudinale, supra villosum. Filamenta germini adhaerentia. Cal. deorsum productus.
Spec. Char. S. foliis ternatis solitariisque, ramis inermibus angulatis.

The root is woody, tough, and extends to a considerable length: the stalk is shrubby, branched, and covered with light brown bark: it usually rises from four to six feet in height, and sends forth a great number of slender angular green shoots: the leaves are small, downy, divided into three oval leafits, and standing upon footstalks of different lengths: the flowers are large, numerous, of the papilionaceous shape, and of a bright yellow colour: the calyx is tubular, divided transversely at the margin into two lips, of these the uppermost is entire, the undermost slightly notched: the corolla is composed of five petals: the superior, or standard petal is inversely heart-shaped, and bent backwards: the two lateral petals, or wings, are oblong, convex, less than the standard, and united to the filaments: the keel is composed of the two undermost petals, which are connected together by soft hairs at the margin, so as to appear keel-shaped: the filaments are ten, nine of which are united at the base, of unequal length, curled inwards, and furnished with oblong antherae: the germen is flat, oblong, hairy, and supports a slender style, with an oblong stigma: the seeds are round, or somewhat kidney-shaped, and contained in a long cylindrical pod, like that of the garden pea. It is common in dry sandy pastures, and flowers in April and May.

Linnaeus, Bergius, [They both say of G. tinctoria, "Virtus: pellens, purgans, Usus: Hydrops;" while the common broom is passed unnoticed. See M. M. Lin. p. 170. Berg. p. 598.] and several other writers seem to have confounded the medicinal qualities of this plant with those of Genista tinctoria: the officinal Genista is however by the British Pharmacopoeias considered to be the common Broom, of which the tops and seeds are directed for use. The tops and leaves of Broom have a nauseous bitter taste, which they impart by infusion both to water and spirit. They are commended for their purgative and diuretic qualities, and have therefore been successfully employed in hydropic cases, of which particular instances are related by Mead [Mon. & Praec. p. 138. where we are told that a patient by taking half a pint of a decoction of green Broom tops, with a spoonful of whole mustard seed, every morning and evening, was cured, after being tapped three times, and trying the usual remedies given in dropsies. See also Möhring Act. N. C. vol. v. p. 32.] and others, to which we may add the following from Dr. Cullen: "Genista, though very little in use, I have inserted in my catalogue (of cathartics) from my own experience of it. I found it first in use among our common people; but I have since prescribed it to some of my patients in the manner following: I order half an ounce of fresh Broom tops to be boiled in a pound of water till one half of this is consumed, and of this decoction I give two table-spoonfuls every hour till it operates by stool, or till the whole is taken. It seldom fails to operate both by stool and urine, and by repeating this exhibition every day, or every second day, some dropsies have been cured." [Mat. Med. vol. ii. p. 534.] The ashes of Broom have also been much used in dropsies, and principally on the authority of Sydenham, [Opera, p. 497.] whose account of their good effects has been since confirmed by the testimony of Dr. Monro, [He gave a dram divided into three doses every day. On Dropsy, p. 64.] and other writers. [See Odhelius in Vet. Acad. Handl. 1762. p. 82.] We may observe however that the efficacy of this medicine must depend entirely upon the alkaline salt, and not in the least upon the vegetable from which it is obtained. The seeds and flowers of Broom are said to be emetic and cathartic; but the evidence upon which this assertion rests is not wholly to be relied upon, as the former when roasted have been used as a substitute for coffee, and the latter employed as a pickle. [Purgat genistae semen non minus potenter fere quam Spartium aut Helleborus, &c. Idem confirmat Lobelius, semine Genistae scopariae vomitum non secus ac Spartio Diosc. saepius ℥ii decocto propinato citra magnam contentionem se movisse scribens. Verum flores recens decerptos saepissime quamplurimos & per se acetariis inditos vorat, (inquit plebecula Arverna and Aquitaniae maxima copia innocuos non modo sed etiam admodum gustui suaves; nec quicquam vomitionis nauseaeve, aut commotionis moetre solent. Quin apud Brabantos, & Anglos non minus, gemmantes dum adhuc virides sunt condiuntur sale & aceto flores, menisque inferuntur, Capparum Olearumve pari commendatione. Ray l. c. Ray also informs us, that from the MS. of Dr Hulse, he learned that the flor. genist. given in the form of electuary, with honey of roses, were found of great efficacy in scrophulous affections.]

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.