Buch

Agathosma betulina

Description

Native to south-western South Africa, buchu (Agathosma betulina) is a member of the Rutaceae family. Its name stems from the Khoi name for the plant ‘bookoo’. Buchu is one of South Africa’s best-known medicinal plants and has been used for more than three centuries by indigenous people as an antiseptic and to treat urinary disorders. Early European settlers made a brandy from the leaves for use as a digestive tonic.

Parts used

The dried leaves. Buchu is available in capsule, tincture and liquid extract forms as well as dried leaves for tea. Buchu essential oil can also be purchased.

Constituents

The active ingredients in buchu include volatile oils such as diosphenol, camphor and isomenthone, and the flavonoids rutin, hesperidin, diosmin and quercetin. The plant’s mineral content includes nitrogen, phosphorus, sodium, manganese, selenium and boron.

Medicinal uses

  • Buchu inhibits growth of micro-organisms due to its anti-microbial and antiseptic actions, strengthening resistance to infections.
  • Useful to treat urinary infections, particularly a burning sensation on urination.
  • Treats bladder and prostate gland infections (in cases where prostate problems cause increased urination).
  • Used to treat kidney stones and bladder catarrh.
  • Commonly used in premenstrual medications.
  • Used to relieve stomach aches, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, coughs and colds.
  • A bunch of leaves in bathwater may ease rheumatism and backache.
  • Research is currently being carried out on buchu to test its effect in the treatment of high blood pressure and congenital heart failure.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
When purchasing buchu products, make sure they contain Agathosma betulina and not A. crenulata. Buchu is mild with few side effects, and is well-suited for use by children and the elderly. As the plant is a diuretic, it depletes potassium stores in the body, so when taking buchu, supplement your diet with bananas or other potassium-rich foods. Avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding, or if you have acute urinary inflammation. As always, consult your medical practitioner before taking herbal remedies.

Flora Force Products containing Buchu

Domestic & culinary uses

Although buchu is used in African cuisine to enhance flavour (the oil in the leaves has a taste similar to blackcurrants), the plant is not widely used in the kitchen. To make buchu tea, pour a cup of boiling water over 1 or 2 teaspoons of dried leaves and leave to infuse for 10 minutes before straining and drinking.

To make buchu brandy, or buchu vinegar to treat wounds, place a few sprigs of buchu in a bottle of brandy or white vinegar and leave to infuse for at least a week, shaking occasionally. Cloves may be added for extra flavour. Store in a dark cupboard. Drink a cup of tea three times daily; a tablespoon of buchu brandy can be taken twice daily.

Cultivation

Indigenous to the south-western Cape, buchu needs deep, well-drained, coarse and gravelly soil, with full sun and no frost. If your growing conditions are suitable, the shrub can be grown from seeds, although these may be hard to source. Pink, mauve or white star-shaped flowers appear in winter and spring, and the bright green leaves provide a fresh aromatic smell throughout the year.

Photo credits

  1. By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen (List of Koehler Images)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.