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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen (List of Koehler Images)