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Buchu

Scientific Name(s): Agathosma betulina (Berg.) Pillans, Agathosma crenulata (L.) Pillans
Common Name(s): Bookoo, Bucco, Bucku, Buku, Diosma

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 9, 2018.

Clinical Overview

Use

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 has also been used for leukorrhea and yeast infections.

Dosing

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

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

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

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

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

Toxicology

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

Scientific Family

  • Rutaceae

Botany

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.Gentry 1961 The buchus grow up to 6 feet tall as low, bushy, drought-resistant shrubs with colorful blossoms. The leaves are described as yellowish green to brown, glossy and leathery, revealing oil-glandular dots on the underside. The three species produce oval, serrated leaves with the leaf of B. serratifolia being the longest and most slender. Harvesting of the leaves occurs in summer. Most commonly, B. betulina is used in commerce. Native to South Africa, buchu undergoes hillside cultivation. Odor and taste of the plants is described as spicy, resembling black currant but also reminiscent of a mixture between rosemary and peppermint.Bisset 1994, Chevallier 1996 Buchu oil is sometimes added as a component of black currant flavorings. Synonyms include Barosma betulina [Berg.] Bartl. & Wendl. (short buchu); Barosma serratifolia (Curt.) Willd. (long buchu); and Barosma crenulata (L.) Hook. (ovate buchu). These plants should not be confused with "Indian buchu" (Myrtus communis L.), which is native to the Mediterranean regions.

History

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. The drug had been included in the US National Formulary and was described as a diuretic and antiseptic. Its use has since been abandoned in favor of more effective diuretics and antibacterials. Buchu remains a popular ingredient in over-the-counter herbal diuretic preparations.Osol 1960

Buchu was first 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."Chevallier 1996

Chemistry

Buchu leaves contain from 1.5% to 3.5% volatile oil. Over 100 components exist in the oilLeung 1980, Osol 1960 including diosphenol (the main component in distilled oil, also called buchu camphor, barosma camphor or 1-pulegone), limonene, methone, pulegone, terpinen-4-ol and p-menthan-3-on-8-thiol (responsible for the aroma of the plant).Bisset 1994, Gentry 1961, Newall 1996

Flavonoids include diosmetin, quercetin, diosmin, quercetin-3,7-diglucoside and rutin. Other constituents include mucilage, resin, thiamine and sulfur compounds. Coumarins have been reported from other agathosma species.Chevallier 1996, Newall 1996

Uses and Pharmacology

No scientific evidence is available to justify buchu's herbal uses, but its diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects may be attributed to the volatile oil and flavonoid's irritant nature.Newall 1996 Diosphenol, the flavonoids and terpinen-4-ol may contribute to the plant's diuretic activity, but this action of buchu teas is probably no greater than that of the xanthine alkaloids in coffee or tea.Medical Letter 1979 Buchu is listed in the German Commission E Monographs to treat inflammation, kidney and urinary tract infections and is also used as a diuretic, but the monograph explains that the plant's activity in these claimed uses has not been substantiated.Bisset 1994

Other reported uses of buchu include carminative action, treatment for cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, gout and as a stomach tonic.Duke 1989

An infusion of the leaves has been used gynecologically as a douche for leukorrhea and for yeast infections.Chevallier 1996 Diosphenol may be responsible for buchu's antibacterial effects.Bisset 1994

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 is also used in combination with other herbs such as cornsilk, juniper and uva-ursi.Chevallier 1996

Dosing

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

Pregnancy / Lactation

Documented adverse effects, including uterine stimulant effects.Brinker 1998 Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Essential oil components diosmin and pulegone can cause GI and renal irritation.Bisset 1994, Newall 1996 Pulegone is known to be hepatotoxic (depletes glutathione and leads to haptocellular necrosis),Vamenta-Morris 2014 an abortifacient, and to increase menstrual flow; therefore, use is not recommended during pregnancy.

Toxicology

Poisoning has not been reported.Bisset 1994, Newall 1996 Pulegone is also a hepatotoxin, present in the plant "pennyroyal," in larger quantities.Chevallier 1996, Newall 1996

Index Terms

  • Barosma betulina [Berg.] Bartl. & Wendl.
  • Barosma crenulata (L.) Hook.
  • Barosma serratifolia (Curt.) Willd.
  • Long buchu
  • Ovate buchu
  • Short buchu

References

Bisset N. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart, Germany: CRC Press 1994;102-3.
Brinker FJ. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications; 1998.
Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York, NY: DK Publishing. 1996;67.
Duke J. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Inc. 1989;77.
Gentry HS. Economic Botany. 1961;15:326.
Leung AY. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, NY: J Wiley and Sons, 1980.
Newall C, et al. Herbal Medicines. London, England: Pharmaceutical Press. 1996;51.
[No authors listed]. Toxic reactions to plant products sold in health food stores. Medical Letter Ther. 1979;21(7):29-32.460042
Osol A, et al. The Dispensatory of the USA, 25 ed. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Co. 1960;196-97.
Vamenta-Morris H, Dreisbach A, Shoemaker-Moyle M, Abdel-Rahman EM. Internet claims on dietary and herbal supplements in advanced nephropathy: truth or myth. Am J Nephrol. 2014;40(5):393-398.25376340

Disclaimer

This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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