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Botanical name: Agathosma betulina

Common names: buchu, round-leaf buchu (Eng.); boegoe, rondeblaarboegoe (Afr.); buchu (Khoi); ibuchu (Xhosa)

Family: Rutaceae

Buchu is a fragrant shrub growing to a height of 2m. The leaves are single, small, rounded, and grassy green with distinctive red stems. Oil glands are prominent along the margins of the leaves and the flowers are white to pale pink in colour and star-shaped.

Agathosma betulina has a restricted natural distribution area in the Western Cape. It is found on mountain slopes near Citrusdal, Niewoudtville, Piketberg and Tulbagh and in the Cederberg Mountains.

Buchu has received international attention since the early 1800's. In 1912, eight bales of buchu went to the bottom of the sea with the Titanic, on route to America where it was used as a panacea for a variety of ailments. 

In the native South Africa, the highly aromatic Buchu leaves have been used by indigenous people for their healthful properties for centuries. Buchu oil is widely used in the perfume industry, as well as a component in artificial fruit flavours, alcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, condiments and relishes. As a herb in the general marketplace, Buchu leaf can be used in extracts, liqueurs, teas, and topical applications. The dried leaf is typically prepared as tea or tincture.

A. betulina contains flavonoids and essentials oils, some reminiscent of black current and people experience Buchu as being aromatic and having a very strong taste.


Buchu is a diuretic and can increase urination. Historical and modern recorded medicinal uses are diverse and multi-functional and include the stimulation of mucosal membranes of the urinary tract and GI tract, for kidney and bladder issues, wound healing, inflammation in joints, detoxing, skin health, anxiety support, colds, flu and gut health.  

Combinations of buchu with Artemisia afra are commonly taken for colds and influenza or as a general tonic.


Use as a tea or add to Rooibos or Honeybush to taste. Buchu is a (weak) diuretic and therefore caution should be taken to use it before bed time.

Externally it is applied as an antiseptic wash to infected wounds.

Buchu can be used as a compress to relieve swelling, bruising and sprains.


Owing to the variable composition of Buchu essential oil, particularly in respect of pulegone (a naturally occurring organic compound obtained from the essential oils of plants) levels, the use of Buchu preparations during pregnancy and lactation is contraindicated. Traditional practitioners report gastro-intestinal irritation as a possible side effect of oral use. Buchu preparations should therefore be used with caution by patients suffering from kidney infections, haemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome. It is recommended that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.

View medicinal monograph via SANBI

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