Buchu (Agathosma betulina)

Buchu is a small evergreen shrub native to Namibia and South Africa in the Rutaceae family. It’s found growing in the lower elevation mountains on hillsides and near streams and in Fynbos habitats, which are shrublands found in the “Cape Floral Kingdom” – a small but richly diverse region around the South African cape. It is distinguished by it’s small, white or pale pink 5 petaled flowers, and leathery opposite leaves that have a finely toothed margin. The leaves have round oil glands scattered throughout the leaf, visible when held up to the light, and have a minty odor. It does best in full sun in well drained, acidic soils. Although it is adapted to dry conditions, it responds well to regular water and relies on seasonal rains. It is easily started from seed.

Medicinal Use
The volatile oils found in Buchu increase urine flow, making it a good diuretic with urinary antiseptic actions. It has a soothing, healing action on the urinary tract and can be helpful for treating infections such as cystitis, urethritis, and prostatis, and can help with burning and painful urination. It combines well with yarrow and couchgrass for urinary tract infections, and when combined with marshmallow and/or cornsilk, it can ease painful urination. It is also a carminative, aiding in digestion, and considered a warming herb. Buchu can also ease water retention and bloating caused by PMS.

Folk Uses
In South Africa, Buchu is commonly used to flavor tea, candy, and liquors such as buchu brandy, which is said to taste similar to black currant. It was a popular folk remedy made popular by the Hottentots for urinary tract infection and stomach discomfort until the mid 1800’s, when it fell out of fashion. Today is it more and more scarce due to over harvesting of the wild plants.

Dosage
The dosage for Buchu is typically 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb, infused for ten minutes, three times a day, or 2-4 ml of a tincture three times a day. Buchu has a minty aroma and taste, making it easy to blend into a pleasant tasting tea. Although Buchu is considered a safe herb suitable for daily use, diuretics deplete the body of Potassium. When using Buchu, be sure to increase your daily potassium intake with foods such as cantaloupe, bananas, and other fresh and dried fruits and vegetables.

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Oil glands on a buchu leaf

Oil glands on a buchu leaf

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