What is Buchu?
Buchu is the dried leaves obtained from the species of Barosma. The species derive their common names from the shape of the aromatic leaf. Native to South Africa, the buchu grow as shrubs with leathery leaves that have oil-glandular dots on the underside. Odor and taste of the plants is described as spicy, resembling black currant, but also reminiscent of a mixture between rosemary and peppermint. Buchu oil sometimes is added as a component of black currant flavorings. Most commonly, B. betulina is used in commerce.
What is it used for?
The Khoekhoe people (also spelled Khoikhoi) 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. Buchu first was 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.”
The drug had been included in the US National Formulary and was described as a diuretic and antiseptic. Its use since has been abandoned in favor of more effective diuretics and antibacterials. Buchu remains a popular ingredient in over-the-counter herbal diuretic preparations.
Historically, 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 also has been used for leukorrhea and yeast infections.
Buchu remains a popular ingredient in over-the-counter herbal diuretic preparations. 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 also is used in combination with other herbs such as corn silk, juniper and uva-ursi. Buchu also is listed in the German Commission E Monographs to treat inflammation, kidney and urinary tract infections, and also is used as a diuretic, but the monograph explains that the plant's activity in these claimed uses has not been substantiated.