Buchu

Scientific names: Agathosma betulina, Barosma betulina (short buchu), B. serratifolia (long buchu), B. crenulata (ovate buchu). These plants should not be confused with “Indian buchu” (Myrtus communis), which is native to the Mediterranean regions.

Common names: Buchu also is known as bookoo, buku, diosma, bucku, and bucco.

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Buchu?

Buchu is harvested from the dried leaves obtained from three species of Barosma. The species derive their common names from the shape of the aromatic leaf. Native to South Africa, the buchus grow as shrubs with leathery leaves that have oil-glandular dots on the underside. Odor and taste of the plants is described as spicy, resembling black currant, but also reminiscent of a mixture between rosemary and peppermint. Buchu oil sometimes is added as a component of black currant flavorings. Most commonly, B. betulina is used in commerce.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The Hottentots employed the leaves for the treatment of a great number of ailments. Early patent medicines sold in the United States hailed the virtues of the plant and its volatile oil for the management of diseases ranging from diabetes to nervousness. Buchu first was exported to Britain in 1790. In 1821, it was listed in the British Pharmacopoeia as a medicine for “cystitis, urethritis, nephritis and catarrh of the bladder.”

The drug had been included in the US National Formulary and was described as a diuretic and antiseptic. Its use since has been abandoned in favor of more effective diuretics and antibacterials. Buchu remains a popular ingredient in over-the-counter herbal diuretic preparations.

Historically, buchu has been used to treat inflammation, and kidney and urinary tract infections; as a diuretic and as a stomach tonic. Other uses include carminative action and treatment of cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, and gout. It also has been used for leukorrhea and yeast infections.

Diuretic/Anti-inflammatory

Buchu remains a popular ingredient in over-the-counter herbal diuretic preparations. Despite the lack of evidence, buchu is still used today in western herbal medicine for urinary tract ailments, cystitis or urethritis prophylaxis, and prostatitis. It also is used in combination with other herbs such as cornsilk, juniper and uva-ursi. Buchu also is listed in the German Commission E Monographs to treat inflammation, kidney and urinary tract infections, and also is used as a diuretic, but the monograph explains that the plant's activity in these claimed uses has not been substantiated.

What is the recommended dosage?

There is no recent clinical evidence to guide dosage of buchu. Classical doses were from 1 to 2 g of the leaves daily.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/nursing

Documented adverse effects, including uterine stimulant effects. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Buchu can cause stomach and kidney irritation, and can be an abortive. It also can induce increased menstrual flow. Buchu is not recommended during pregnancy.

Toxicities

Poisoning has not been reported. Buchu contains the hepatotoxin (toxic to the liver) pulegone, also known to be present in pennyroyal.

References

  1. Buchu. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2005. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 16, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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