Fresh and dried Buchu leaves and Buchu seeds are available.
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- Agathosma Crenulata (oval-leaf Buchu)
- Agathosma Betulina (round-leaf Buchu)
These two are known as “true Buchu”, while other members of the family are known as: Sea-Buchu (Agathosma apiculata), Stembuck-buchu (Agathosma ciliata), and Wild Buchu (Diosma vulgaris). The group of aromatic herbs and shrubs now known as buchus are classified under the generic name of Agathosma (previously Barosma), which is a member of the Rutaceae family, better known as the citrus family. Agathosma – in Greek “Agathos” means pleasant and “osma” smell.
Other names: Bucco, Bookoo, Bucku, Buku, Boegoe.
Buchu is native to South Africa. The indigenous people of South Africa used buchu leaves and the oil of Buchu for hundreds of years. The medicinal use of this plant is part of the cultural heritage of the Khoisan, who chewed the leaves as a stimulant or to relieve stomach problems and mixed the leaves with buck fat as an ointment to treat wounds. In the 17th century, when Dutch colonists settled in South Africa they learned about the herb with antibiotic properties from the natives and adopted Buchu for urinary tract infections, kidney stones, cholera, muscle aches and also made a brandy from it, which was consumed as a digestive tonic. It was first exported to Europe as a medicine in the early 1800’s.
Buchu is used in the perfume, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, tea, aromatic and aromatherapy industries. In the food industry, it is used as a natural flavouring (black current flavouring in foodstuffs). It is also said to be a useful urinary antiseptic, providing relief particularly for burning during urination, and has diuretic properties. Buchu is one of the best remedies for urinary diseases (especially chronic vesical catamh) and haematuria. It is useful for stoppage of the urine and any infection of the genito-urinary system, inflammation of the bladder, dropsy, cystitis, dysuria and urethritis. The leaves contain an oil that increases urine production. It is also used to treat prostatitis, high blood pressure, congenital heart failure, stomach aches, headaches, flu, fever, cholera, nausea, vomiting and indigestion. Buchu is also useful for the treatment of Premenstrual Syndrome and relieves the bloating associated with PMS.
Buchu is noticeably helpful when drunk as a tea, for urinary tract infections, mild digestive disturbances or to lose weight. The tea is also said to be an effective treatment for gout, arthritis and rheumatism when taken twice daily.
Buchu is also one of the ancient treatments for infections of the prostate gland, and is also used as a remedy for high blood pressure and congenital heart failure. Fishermen rub Buchu twigs between their hands to remove the smell of fish and campers rub their bedding with the twigs to keep ants and mosquitoes away. Some of the Buchu species are said to contain an agent which blocks out ultraviolet light and therefore may be a useful sunscreen.
Buchu provides a potent flavourant, which has the same function as salt but without the side effects. It is thus a flavour enhancer, binder and fixative. As such, it is in high demand as it is used to enhance the flavour of berry-based cool drinks.
Buchu brandy is a green-coloured liquid with a peppermint taste. It is made by steeping fresh buchu in a bottle of brandy or white vinegar, sometimes three or four cloves are added. The mixture is shaken daily for a week and then stored.
It is recommended that a tablespoon be taken twice a day for coughs and colds. Buchu brandy or vinegar can be applied topically as a liniment; it can be used for burns and as an antiseptic for the cleaning of wounds. It has been suggested that a teaspoon of buchu brandy at night helps you sleep.
Mixed with olive oil, neutral cream or fat to keep insects away (mosquitoes, etc.) or for skin infections. Natural anti-septic, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal balm for wounds, sore muscles and sore joints.
Buchu is a long known remedy for cleansing and detoxification due to its diuretic and antiseptic properties. Drink 250ml (1 cup) daily after consulting with health practitioner. Do not drink if pregnant or breast feeding.
Tincture: Take 2-4ml tincture three times a day.
Dried herb / tea:
Buchu tea is made by pouring a cup of boiling water over a spoon full of fresh buchu leaves, leaving the mixture to infuse/brew for 15 minutes and then straining. Do not boil Buchu leaves. Dried leaves, flowers and stems can also be used for making Buchu tea. Honey, Rooibos- or Honeybush teabags may be added if desired.One cupful of tea, taken three times a day is said to ease cramps, colic, indigestion, chills and anxiety.
To ease backaches and rheumatic pains, relax in a hot bath to which a bunch of buchu leaves has been added, while for a painful joint or back, leaves warmed in water can be used as a poultice or embrocation.
For cystitis Buchu may be used in combination with Bearberry, Yarrow or Couch grass; for dysuria with Corn Silk or Marshmallow.
Essential oils are fragrant products extracted from plant materials by steam distillation. They are volatile at room temperature.
Inhalation of potent flavour / smell of leaves are recommended for “flu”.
Capsules are available as over-the-counter preparations for use as a diuretic and can be used safely to lose weight.
Possible side effects
Buchu as tea is relatively safe with few side effects. However, the oil may cause gastrointestinal or renal irritation for some sensitive users. Some strains could contain small quantities of the volatile oil pulegone, which in excess could be toxic to the liver. Excessive doses should be avoided in view of these possible side effects. Buchu should not be taken during pregnancy and while breast-feeding. If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements. Diuretics deplete body stores of potassium – an important nutrient. When taking Buchu, increase your consumption of potassium by consuming foods high in potassium such as bananas, fresh vegetables, etc. It is suggested that the use of buchu should be avoided during kidney infections.
FDA considers this herb as safe if taken as directed. No harmful effects have been reported.
Buchu can be grown from seeds. The flowering season extends over a number of months so that not all the seeds ripen at the same time. Once the seed capsule has ripened, it spontaneously splits open shooting the seed out in every direction. If, however, the seed are collected before the capsule has ripened, the seed will not be viable. Viable seed can be identified by the fact that they sink in distilled water.
The plants flower in South Africa in winter and spring with dainty pink, mauve or white star-shaped flowers. With their bright green coloured leaves, fresh aromatic smell throughout the year, and pretty winter display, Buchu is an asset to the garden. Buchu needs to be grown in well-drained, coarse, gravelly and deep soil, with full sun and in a frost-free climate.
The active ingredient of Buchu leaves, a volatile oil with a peppermint-like odour, known as Oil of Buchu, is obtained commercially mainly from A. betulina which contains 0.5 – 1.8% of the oil. Using a range of analytical techniques 120 compounds were identified in the oil. The major components in the oil include diosphenol (Buchu camphor) (15 – 30%), menthone and (-)-isomenthone (50 – 60%), limonine (about 17%), pulegone (a known hepatoxin) and (+)- and (-)-isopulegone (about 7%), 8- mercapto-p-menthan-3-one, which is responsible for the blackcurrant type odour, 8- acetylthiomenthone, piperitone epoxide (+)-menthon, p-cymol and terpineol. A. crenulata has a lower oil yield and lower diosphenol content (about 2%) but higher pulegone and isopulegone content (about 60%) than A. betulina.
Chemically the essential oil consists largely of mixtures of volatile lipids (fats) called terpenes. Terpenes are small organic molecules that have a large diversity of structure. They contain either 10 (monoterpenes) or 15 (sesquiterpenes) carbon atoms and can be open chained or form a ring. Many of the terpenes have an oxygen atom attached, and a few have a sulphur atom.
Flavonoids: rutin, diosmin, hesperidin, quercitin and derivatives. Miscellaneous: vitamins of the B group, tannin and mucilage.
Disclaimer: None of the information on this page is intended or meant to be medical advice. Please consult your physician before using.