Buchu benefits are known for more than 3000 years. Why? What are the health benefits of buchu, and what does modern research reveal about this well-loved local plant?
What is buchu?
One of our best-known medicinal plants, buchu (Agathosma betulina) is native to south-western South Africa, where indigenous people have used its leaves for more than 3000 years as an antiseptic and to treat urinary disorders.
The leaves have a minty, camphor-like, berry- and fruit-like fragrance, and a green herbal taste, inspiring the early European settlers, with their fondness for a new tipple, to make a brandy to use as a digestive tonic. Buchu – its name stems from the Khoi word for the plant, bookoo – was first documented in 1652; some 140 years later it was exported to Britain, where it was listed in the British Pharmacopoeia as a medicine for ‘cystitis, urethritis, nephritis and catarrh of the bladder’.
What are the potential buchu benefits?
Modern science has yet to confirm empirically how buchu benefits health, but studies are showing some positive results. The plant’s active ingredients have been identified as the volatile oils diosphenol, camphor and isomenthone, and disease-preventing flavonoids such as rutin, hesperidin, diosmin and quercetin. Minerals such as nitrogen, phosphorus, sodium, manganese, selenium and boron have also been isolated, as have vitamins A, B, C and E. So buchu is clearly a plant of some nutritious and medicinal value or benefit. However, while it may not deliver on the Khoisan belief that it was an elixir of youth, buchu is now used worldwide as:
- A tonic that promotes general wellbeing, helping your body to resist infection.
- A natural diuretic that can be used as to treat stomach ailments and to fight inflammation, kidney and urinary tract infections such as cystitis. Buchu’s primary volatile oil, disphenol, is thought to contain the principal urinary tract antiseptic. It also reduces urinary gravel (linked with kidney stones) and bladder catarrh.
- treatment for prostate infections responsible for increased urination.
- An anti-inflammatory that helps ease the aches and pains associated with gout, arthritis and rheumatism. The natural anti-inflammatory action also prevents the onset of inflammation, speeds up muscle recovery and soothes muscle and joint pain – and that’s good news for cyclists ahead of the Argus Cycle Tour on Sunday 12 March.
- A tonic to ease premenstrual cramping and bloating in women.
- Buchu may reduce high cholesterol and hypertension, and help if you’ve over-indulged in food and alcohol.
- Buchu has diuretic properties (it makes you urinate more often), so it may even help you lose weight.
Always talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements. Check the packaging to ensure that the product contains Agathosma betulina and not A. crenulata. Buchu is mild with few side effects, although it may cause an upset stomach and should be taken with meals. It 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.
Where to get buchu
You’ll find Buchu tea in many health shops and retail chains. It is an acquired taste though, so if you’re not a fan of the tea, Flora Force Buchu capsules is an all-natural, unadulterated product containing 100% Agathosma betulina. Get yours online at Faithful To Nature.
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.
- Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 317.
- Moollaa, A., Viljoen, AM. ‘Buchu’ – Agathosma betulina and Agathosma crenulata (Rutaceae): A review. 2008. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 119. 2008, 413–419.
- Simpson D. Buchu: South Africa’s amazing herbal remedy. Scott Med Journal. 1998, 43:189–91 [review].
- Photo courtesy of skeeze / Pixabay.com