Buchu (Agathosma betulina)

Buchu Summary

Buchu is best known for its effects on the urinary tract. It's a diuretic, increasing the flow of urine, and speeding filtration in the blood. it works differently to most diuretics, however, by increasing blood flow to the kidneys, allowing them to work harder on their own accord. other diuretics tend to work by decreasing the reabsorption rates in the nephrons.

Buchu is a diuretic, but it is also a urinary antiseptic. It's effective for treating urinary tract infections in men and women. t has a much gentler action than other urinary tract infections, which makes it useful for children, the elderly, and those with weak or chronically damaged urinary tracts.

 

+ Indications

  • Genitourinary infections
  • Cystitis
  • Urethritis
  • Prostatitis

+ Contraindications

  • None noted

Herbal Actions:

  • Urinary Antiseptic
  • Mild Diuretic
  • Aqueretic [10]
 

What Is Buchu Used For?

Buchu's main use is as a urinary antiseptic, and to increase urine flow. It is useful for conditions like prostatitis, cystitis, and urethritis.

Buchu is also used as a mild laxitive and carminative.

Fortunatly, Buchu has a great flavour, similar to cranberry, making it a good choice for children or those who fnd it difficult to palate herbs.

 

Traditional Uses

Western Herbal Medicine

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].

South Africa

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].

 

Weekly Dose

Part Used

Leaf

Family Name

Rutaceae

Distribution

South Africa

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Constituents of Interest

  • Mucilage
  • Volatile oils
  • Flavonoids

Common Names

  • Buchu
  • Barosma
  • Bucco
  • Diosma
  • Bukko
  • Buccoblatter

CYP450

  • Unknown

Quality

  • Unknown

Pregnancy

  • Unknown

Taste

  • Unknown

Duration of Use

  • Not suitable for long term use
 

Botanical Information

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

Buchu is a member of the Rutaceae family of plants. This is also known as the citrus family, which includes as much as 2000 species distributed into 160 genera. The Agathosma genus contains about 140 different species.

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.

 

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].

 

Pharmacology & 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].

 

Phytochemistry

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].

 

Clinical Applications Of Buchu:

Buchu has proven to be most useful for treating urinary tract infections. Its awueretic activity ofers some advantages to other diuretics, and its gentle antiseptic nature allows its use on more chronically ill patients, or those with weaker urinary tract tissue such as the old, and the young.

 

Cautions:

Caution advised during pregnancy. Adulterats are also common so buchu should only be purchased from reputable and trustworthy sources.

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.

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].

 
 

Author:

Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)

 

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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.