Buchu Summary:

Buchu is an African medicinal plant that is mainly used for its antibacterial activity on the urinary tract. It has a much gentler action than other urinary antiseptics which makes it a good choice for the elderly or those with chronically weaker urinary tracts.

Buchu is also a diuretic that works mainly by improving blood flow to the kidneys, rather than actually affecting filtration rates. This means it promotes the normal functioning of the kidneys to filter the blood, rather than overstimulating or inhibiting absorption itself. Some people refer to this action as aqueretic rather than diuretic as it is fundamentally different in the way it works, but achieves nearly the same thing. 

Other common uses includes laxative, and carminative. 


Botanical Name

Agathosma betulina
Syn: Barosma betulina

Family

Rutaceae

Part Used

Leaf

Herbal Actions:

[1, 2, 5]

  • Urinary Antiseptic
  • Mild Diuretic
  • Aqueretic [10]

Dosage

Liquid Extract (1:2)

2-4 ml/day

Tincture (1:5)

5-10 ml/day

Infusion (1:20)

5-1- ml/day

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Indications:

  • Genitourinary infections
  • Cystitis
  • Urethritis
  • Prostatitis

Common Names:

  • Buchu (France)
  • Barosma betulina
  • Bucco (England)
  • Diosma (Italy)
  • Bukko (Denmark)
  • Buccoblatter (German)

Traditional Uses:

The Hottentots of South Africa used the leaves of buchu as a perfume. Most of its traditional medicinal usage in this region was for its ability to treat urinary tract disorders as well as for its carminative and laxative actions. [1, 9]. 

The eclectics suggested buchu as an aromatic stimulant and tonic and used it to treat poor appetite, flatulence, and nausea. It was also commonly used in Europe to treat urinary tract infection and inflammation. [1]. 

In modern times, buchu essential oil is often added to artificial fruit flavoring and is common in the food industry for this reason [1]. It is often used in perfumes [8]. 

The British Pharmacopoeia lists buchu as useful for a urinary antiseptic, and diuretic useful for cystitis, urethritis, and prostatitis. [4]. 


    Botanical Description:

    Buchu is a small shrub from South Africa [4]. 

    The leaves of buchu are highly aromatic, and resemble a combination of black-currant and peppermint. [1].

    Agothasma is a member of the citrus (Rutaceae) family. It is a shrub that can grow up to 2m in height, with rhomboid-obovate leaves. 

    The flowers have 5 whitish petals that develop into brown fruits containing 5 carpels. 

    Interestingly, recent evidence has surfaced to suggest that buchu has a particular synergistic relationship with a common soil yeast, which allows it to grow in the low nutrient soil it is found in [7]. It has been suggested that this relationship plays a strong role in the medicinal constituent concentrations in the harvested plants. More research is needed. 


    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    Buchu is native to the Cape province of South Africa [4]. It is mainly grown by poor farmers in the region, which are often poached for its high market value [6]. Always purchase buchu from reputable resellers to combat this growing issue. 


    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    Buchu leaves are suggested to be of the highest quality medicinally while the plants are flowering or fruiting. 

    The Khoi-San of South Africa call any aromatic dusting herb buchu, which has led to some confusion in the region. there are currently many different species of herb referred to as buchu from the reason. The main species considered buchu for medicinal purposes however is Agathosma betulina. [1].


    Constituents:

    Buchu contains volatile oils (between 1% and 3.5%) (limonene, menthone, pulegone), flavonoids (rutin, diosmetin, diosmin, hesperidin, quercetin, and derivatives), B vitamins, tannins, resin, and mucilage. [1-3]. 


    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

     

    Aqueretic actions

    Aqueretic was defined by Varro, E, Tyler PhD. He suggested that most botanicals used for UTIs are not actually diuretics, rather they are aqueretics. This means that they act to increase blood flow to the kidneys which then increases glomerular filtration rate. This is compared to the traditional idea of a diuretic which involves interfering with renal handling of ions. He spent time studying these effects in buchu, parsley, goldenrod, juniper, and birch and determined them to be aqueretic [10, 11]. 

     

    Toxicity

    Buchu is generally regarded as having a high level of safety, but is often contraindicated during pregnancy. This is mainly for the adulterant Agathosma crenulata however as the contraindicated chemical pulegone (in the essential oil) is contained in high amounts in this species. Agothasma betulina however is considered safe to use during pregnancy. Use caution when using buchu during pregnancy and ensure that it is in fact the correct species. There are ways of properly identifying this herb from the adulterant species.  

     

    Cautions:

    • May cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort if taken on an empty stomach. 
    • Some other species of Agathosma have high levels of the constituent pulegone which is contraindicated during pregnancy
    • Caution advised during use with kidney infection as the volatile oil may irritate the kidney. [3].

    Traditional Chinese Medicine:

    Still compiling research. 


    Synergy:

    Still compiling research. 



    Author:

    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: June 2017


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    References:

    1. Bone K, Mills S. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Elsevier health. China.
    2. Wren, R. C. (1968). Potter's new cyclopaedia of botanical drugs and preparations. Rustington, Sussex: Health Science Press for Potter & Clarke.
    3. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
    4. British Herbal Medicine Association. (1983). British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Bournemouth, UK: Author.
    5. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a., MO: Churchill Livingstone.
    6. Williams, S., & Kepe, T. (2008). Discordant Harvest: Debating the Harvesting and Commercialization of Wild Buchu ( Agathosma betulina ) in Elandskloof, South Africa. Mountain Research And Development, 28(1), 58-64.doi:10.1659/mrd.0813
    7. Cloete KJ, Valentine AJ, Stander MA, Blomerus LM, & Botha A. (2009). Evidence of symbiosis between the soil yeast Cryptococcus laurentii and a sclerophyllous medicinal shrub, Agathosma betulina (Berg.) Pillans. Microbial Ecology, 57(4), 624-32. doi:10.1007/s00248-008-9457-9
    8. El-Sheikh, M.A.; El-Rafie, S.M.; Abdel-Halim, E.S.; El-Rafie, M.H. Green Synthesis of Hydroxyethyl Cellulose-Stabilized Silver Nanoparticles. Polym. J. 2013, 2013, 1–11.
    9. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985:121.
    10. Tyler VD. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994
    11. Abascal, K., & Yarnell, E. (2008). Botanical Medicine for Cystitis. Alternative & Complementary Therapies, 14(2), 69-77.