Buchu (Agathosma betulina) leaves and oil of buchu were used by the indigenous people of the Cape area of South Africa for hundreds of years. Although its original use is unclear, it appears to have been applied topically on the skin, possibly as an insect repellant, and also used internally for stomach problems, rheumatism, and bladder problems. Buchu's original genus was Barosma, which was changed to Agathosma.
Buchu contains both diosmin and hesperidin, which indicates it may have anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic (blood cholesterol lowering), and vasoprotective actions.
Most of the plants are still grown in South Africa where the government exercises strict control over the gathering of the leaves to prevent destruction of wild plants.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
There is no proven safe or effective dose for buchu. Historically, dried buchu leaf 1-2 grams has been taken in capsules three times a day. As a fluid extract, 0.125-0.25 fluid ounces has been used. Also, 1-2 teaspoons of buchu leaves, infused for 5-10 minutes in a cup of boiling water (leaves should not be boiled), and ingested two or three times a day, has been used. A tincture of 1-4 milliliters daily for three times a day, or 10-20 drops of tincture in water three times a day after meals, has been used.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for buchu in children, and use is not recommended.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to buchu.
Side Effects and Warnings
There is little available data on the safety of buchu. In general, buchu may cause upset stomach, diarrhea, or kidney irritation. Traditional experts recommend monitoring liver function when using buchu, due to its potentially hepatotoxic (liver damaging) effects.
Buchu may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Although not well studied in humans, high concentrations of buchu oil appeared to block calcium channels, which could lead to cardiac arrest. Buchu may also increase menstrual flow and may also induce abortion.
Use cautiously in patients with seizure disorders, as buchu might cause spasmogenic action followed by spasmolysis.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Buchu is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence. According to traditional use, buchu may be an abortifacient (induce abortion) and may stimulate uterine contractions.
Buchu may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
High concentrations of buchu oil may block calcium channels. Patients taking calcium channel blocker medications should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
Buchu may additively interact with cardiac glycoside drugs.
Buchu may also interact additively with diuretic (increasing urine flow) drugs, such as chlorothiazide (Diuril®) or bumetanide (Bumex®). Caution is advised.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Buchu may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
Buchu may interact additively with diuretic herbs, or cardiac glycoside herbs, such as foxglove.
El Shafae AM, El Domiaty MM. Improved LC methods for the determination of diosmin and/or hesperidin in plant extracts and pharmaceutical formulations. J Pharm Biomed.Anal. 2001;26(4):539-545.
Ernst E. Interactions between synthetic and herbal medicinal products Part 1: a systematic review of the indirect evidence. Perfusion 2000;13:4-15.
Lis-Balchin M, Hart S, Simpson E. Buchu (Agathosma betulina and A. crenulata, Rutaceae) essential oils: their pharmacological action on guinea-pig ileum and antimicrobial activity on microorganisms. J Pharm.Pharmacol. 2001;53(4):579-582.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.