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Medically reviewed on Jul 2, 2018

Scientific Name(s): Agathosma betulina (Berg.) Pillans (syn. Barosma betulina [Berg.] Bartl. & Wendl.) (short buchu); B. serratifolia (Curt.) Willd. (long buchu); B. crenulata (L.) Hook. (ovate buchu). Family: Rutaceae. These plants should not be confused with “Indian buchu” ( Myrtus communis L.), which is native to the Mediterranean regions.

Common Name(s): Bookoo , buku , diosma , bucku , bucco . 1


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.


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


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


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


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

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


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


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. 2 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. 3 , 4 Buchu oil is sometimes added as a component of black currant flavorings.


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. 5

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.” 4


Buchu leaves contain from 1.5% to 3.5% volatile oil. Over 100 components exist in the oil, 1 , 5 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). 2 , 3 , 6

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. 4 , 6

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. 6 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. 7 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. 3

Other reported uses of buchu include carminative action, treatment for cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, gout and as a stomach tonic. 8

An infusion of the leaves has been used gynecologically as a douche for leukorrhea and for yeast infections. 4 Diosphenol may be responsible for buchu's antibacterial effects. 3

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. 4


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


Documented adverse effects, including uterine stimulant effects. 9 Avoid use.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There is little evidence to suggest that the casual intake of teas brewed from buchu are harmful. 10 Essential oil components diosmin and pulegone can cause GI and renal irritation. 3 , 6 Pulegone is known to be an abortifacient and to increase menstrual flow; therefore, use is not recommended during pregnancy.


Poisoning has not been reported. 3 , 6 Pulegone is also a hepatotoxin, present in the plant “pennyroyal,” in larger quantities. 4 , 6


1. Leung AY. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics , NY: J Wiley and Sons, 1980.
2. Gentry HS, Economic Botany 1961;15:326.
3. Bisset N. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals . Stuttgart, Germany: CRC Press 1994;102-3.
4. Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants . New York, NY: DK Publishing. 1996;67.
5. Osol A, et al. The Dispensatory of the USA, 25 ed . Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Co. 1960;196-97.
6. Newall C, et al. Herbal Medicines . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press. 1996;51.
7. Medical Letter 1979;21:29.
8. Duke J. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Inc. 1989;77.
9. Brinker FJ. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions . 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications; 1998.
10. DerMarderosian AH, Liberti LE. Natural Product Medicine . Philadelphia: G. F. Stickley Co, 1988.

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