Buchu is native to South Africa.  The indigenous people of South Africa used buchu leaves and the oil of Buchu for hundreds of years.  The medicinal use of this plant is part of the cultural heritage of the Khoisan, who chew the leaves to relieve stomach problems and mix the leaves with sheep fat as an ointment to treat wounds.  In the 17th century, when Dutch colonists settled in South Africa they learned about the herb from the natives and adopted Buchu for urinary tract infections, kidney stones, cholera, muscle aches and also made a brandy from it, which was consumed as a digestive tonic.  It was first exported to Europe as a medicine in the early 1800’s.

Biological names  

These two are known as “true Buchu”, while other members of the family are known as: Sea-Buchu (Agathosma apiculata), Stembuck-buchu (Agathosma ciliata), and Wild Buchu (Diosma vulgaris).  The group of aromatic herbs and shrubs now known as buchus are classified under the generic name of Agathosma (previously Barosma), which is a member of the Rutacecae family.

Other names:  Bucco, Bookoo, Bucku, Buku, Boegoe.

Active compounds

The active ingredient of Buchu leaves, a volatile oil with a peppermint-like odour, known as Oil of Buchu, is obtained commercially mainly from A. betulina which contains 0.5 – 1.8% of the oil.  Using a range of analytical techniques, 120 compounds were identified in the oil.  The major components in the oil include diosphenol (Buchu camphor) (15 – 30%), menthone and (-)- isomenthone (50 – 60%), limonine (about 17%), pulegone (a known hepatoxin) and () and (-) isopulegone (about 7%), 8-mercapto-p-menthan-3-one, which is responsible for the blackcurrant type odour, 8-acetylthiomenthone, piperitone epoxide  ()-menthon, p-cymol and terpineol.  A. crenulata has a lower oil yield and lower diosphenol content (about 2%) but higher pulegone and isopulegone content (about 60%) than A. betulina.

Chemically the essential oil consists largely of mixtures of volatile lipids (fats) called terpenes.  Terpenes are small organic molecules that have a large diversity of structure.  They contain either 10 (monoterpenes) or 15 (sesquiterpenes) carbon atoms and can be open chained or form a ring.  Many of the terpenes have an oxygen atom attached, and a few have a sulphur atom.

Flavonoids:    rutin, diosmin, hesperidin, quercitin and derivatives.

Miscellaneous:    vitamins of the B group, tannin and mucilage.





A. betulina




A. crenulata

















































Pulegone range

0.63 – 4.46

7.58 – 26.78

31.63 – 73.20

Sample size






The Buchu shrubs are about two metres high, with small, shiny dark green leaves, which are rich in oil glands and strong smelling and have therapeutic properties.  The plants have small star-shaped flowers ranging in colour from white to pink.  The leaves, which are small and oval, or round (depending on the type of Buchu), are dotted on the underside with oil glands and have a strong aromatic smell.  The leaves of A. betulina constitute the ‘Folia Buchu’ of the British Pharmacopoeia and are officially recognized in many other pharmacopoeias internationally.

Common uses

Buchu is used in the perfume, cosmetic, tea and aromatherapy industries.  In the food industry, it is used as a natural flavouring (black current flavouring in foodstuffs). It is also said to be a useful urinary antiseptic, providing relief particularly for burning during urination, and has diuretic properties.  Buchu is one of the best remedies for urinary diseases (especially chronic vesical catamh) and haematuria.  It is useful for stoppage of urine and any infection of the genito-urinary system, inflammation of the bladder, dropsy, cystitis, dysuria and urethritis.  The leaves contain an oil that increases urine production.  It is also used to treat prostatitis, high blood pressure, congenital heart failure, stomach aches, cholera, nausea, vomiting and indigestion.  Buchu is also useful for the treatment of Premenstrual Syndrome and relieves the bloating associated with PMS. 

Buchu is noticeably helpful when drunk as a tea, for urinary tract infections, mild digestive disturbances or to lose weight.  The tea is also said to be an effective treatment for gout, arthritis and rheumatism when taken twice daily.

Buchu is also one of the ancient treatments for infections of the prostate gland, and is also used as a remedy for high blod pressure and congenital heart failure.  Fishermen rub Buchu twigs between their hands to remove the smell of fish and campers rub their bedding with the twigs to keep ants and mosquitoes away.  Some of the Buchu species are said to contain an agent which blocks out ultraviolet light and therefore may be a useful sunscreen.

Buchu provides a potent flavourant, which has the same function as salt, but without the side effects.  It is thus a flavour enhancer, binder and fixative.   As such, it is in high demand, as it is used to enhance the flavour of berry-based cool drinks. 


Liquid extract:    Buchu brandy is a green-coloured liquid with a peppermint taste.  It is made by steeping fresh buchu in a bottle of brandy or white vinegar.  Sometimes three or four cloves are added, and the mixture is shaken for a week and then stored.  It is recommended that a tablespoon be taken twice a day for coughs and colds.  Buchu brandy or vinegar can be applied topically as a liniment and it can be used for burns and as an antiseptic for the cleaning of wounds.  It has been suggested that a teaspoon of buchu brandy at night helps you sleep.

Tincture:   Take 2-4ml tincture three times a day.

Dried herb / tea:   Buchu tea is made by pouring a cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of fresh buchu leaves, leaving the mixture to infuse for ten minutes and then straining.  Do not boil Buchu leaves.  Dried leaves, flowers and stems can also be used for making Buchu tea.  A cup of boiling water (150ml) is added to the herbs (6g) and the mixture allowed to brew for 20 minutes – honey may be added if desired.  One cupful of tea, taken three times a day is said to ease cramps, colic, indigestion, chills and anxiety.

To ease backaches and rheumatic pains, relax in a hot bath to which a bunch of buchu leaves has been added, while for a painful joint or back, leaves warmed in water can be used as a poultice or embrocation. 

For cystitis Buchu may be used in combination with Bearberry, Yarrow or Couch grass;  for dysuria with Corn Silk or Marshmallow.

Essential Oil:   Essential oils are fragrant products extracted from plant materials by steam distillation.  They are volatile at room temperature.

Capsules:   Capsules are available as over-the-counter preparations for use as a diuretic and can be used safely to lose weight.

Possible side effects

Buchu is relatively safe with few side effects.  However, it contains the volatile oil pulegone, which is toxic to the liver.  The oil may also cause gastrointestinal and renal irritation.  Excessive doses should be avoided in view of these possible side effects.  Buchu should not be taken during pregnancy and while breast-feeding.  If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.  Diuretics deplete body stores of potassium – an important nutrient.  When taking Buchu, increase your consumption of potassium by consuming foods high in potassium such as bananas, fresh vegetables, etc.  It is suggested that the use of buchu should be avoided in kidney infections.

FDA considers this herb as safe if taken as directed.  No harmful effects have been reported.

Growing Buchu

Buchu can be grown from seeds, although the collection of seeds does present problems.  The flowering season extends over a number of months so that not all the seeds ripen at the same time.  Once the seed capsule has ripened, it spontaneously splits open shooting the seed out in every direction.  If, however, the seed is collected before the capsule has ripened, the seed will not be viable. Commercially, flowering shoots are enclosed in cheese-cloth (or pantyhose) to catch the seed when the capsule splits open.  Viable seed can be identified by the fact that they sink in distilled water.

The plants flower in South Africa in winter and spring with dainty pink, mauve or white star-shaped flowers.  With their bright green coloured leaves, fresh aromatic smell throughout the year, and pretty winter display, Buchu is considered to be an asset to the garden.  Most Buchus, however, need to be grown in well-drained, coarse, gravelly and deep soil, with full sun and in a frost-free climate.


To order Buchu, contact David de Villiers at:

  Tel:  +27 21 – 874 1020

Fax:  +27 21 – 874 1452

E-mail:  swanpack@grapenet.co.za