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BUCHU - Agothosma betulina

FAMILY: Rutaceae

SYNONYMS: Barosma betulina, short buchu, mountain buchu, bookoo, buku, bucca

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A small shrub with simple wrinkled leaves about 1-2 cms long; other much smaller leaves are also present which are bright green with finely serrated margins.It has delicate stems bearing fine petalled white flowers. The whole plant has a strong, aromatic, blackcurrant-like odour.


DISTRIBUTION: Native to the Cape of Good Hope in Soth Africa, it now grows wild all over South Africa. Dried leaves are exported to Holland, England and America.

OTHER SPECIES: There are more than twelve so-called Barosma species in South Africa - the 'true' buchus are B. crenulata (vontains high amounts of Pulegone, a toxic constituent), B. serratifolia and B. betulina.

HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION: The leaves are used locally for antiseptic purposes and to ward off all insects. In western herbalism, the leaves are used for infections of the genito-urinary system, such as cystitis, urethritis and prostatitis. Current in British herbal Pharmacopoeia 1983.


ACTIONS: Antiseptic (especially urinary), diuretic insecticide.

EXTRACTION: Essential oil by steam distillation from the dried leaves.

CHARACTERISTICS: Dark yellowy-brown oil with a penetrating minty-camphoraceous odour.


PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS: Diosphenol (25-40 per cent), limonene and methane, among others.

SAFETY DATA: Should not be used during pregnancy. The toxicity of buchu is unknown but since B. betulin yields oils high in diophenols and B. crenulata yields oils high in pulegone, they should both be regarded as questionable at present.


AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE: none

OTHER USES: A tincture, extract and oleoresin are produced for pharmaceutical use. Limited use in blackcurrant flavour and fragrance work, for example colognes and chypre bases.

Reference: The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: Julia Lawless

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