Barosma betulina, Agathosma betulina, Agathosma crenulata
Buchu has a long tradition of use for the treatment of bladder and urinary tract problems, especially urinary tract infections. In South Africa, buchu and other plants similar to it are additionally used for stomach aches, joint pain, and colds and flus. The leaves are the part used medicinally.
Many herbalists use buchu as a part of herbal combinations designed for kidney and bladder problems. Buchu is said to have a diuretic effect, meaning that it increases the flow of urine. However, there is no meaningful scientific documentation of this or any other medicinal effect of buchu.
Buchu contains various bioflavonoids, including diosmin, rutin, and quercetin.1,2 Its essential oil contains a variety of aromatic substances, including limonene and menthone, along with the known liver toxin pulegone. While it is commonly said that the essential oil has antimicrobial effects, the only published study on the subject failed to find activity in this regard.3 This study did, however, find possible antispasmodic actions, which could potentially reduce the pain of bladder infections.
Buchu is typically taken at a dose of 1–2 grams of dried leaf three times daily, with meals. However, due to the toxicity of one of the constituents of buchu, we do not recommend using it at all.
Because buchu contains the known liver toxin pulegone, the herb should be used only with great caution, if at all. It also frequently causes stomach upset. It definitely should not be used by young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with liver or kidney disease.
In addition, if buchu does in fact have diuretic effects as claimed, people taking the medication lithium should use buchu only under the supervision of a physician, as dehydration can be a danger with this medication.4
If you are taking lithium, do not use buchu except under the supervision of a physician.
1. 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;26:539–45.
2. Newall C, Anderson L, Phillipson J. Herbal Medicines, A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London:Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
3. Lis-Balchin M, Hart S, Simpson E, et al. 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;53:579–82.
4. Pyevich D, Bogenschutz MP. Herbal diuretics and lithium toxicity [letter]. Am J Psychiatry. 2001;158:1329.
Last reviewed August 2013 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 8/22/2013
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