Buchu (Agathosma betulina)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Agathosma betulina, Agathosma crenulata, Agathosma serratifolia, Barosma betulina, barosma camphor, Barosma crenulata, Barosma serratifolia, barosmae folium, boegoe (Afrikaans), boochoo, bookoo, bucco, buchu brandy, buchu camphor, bucku, diosma, diosmin, hesperidin, ibuchu (Xhosa), long buchu, oil of buchu, oval buchu, ovate buchu, round buchu, round-leaf buchu, Rutaceae (family), short buchu, shortbroad buchu, true buchu.
Note: This monograph does not include Indian buchu (Myrtus communi), which is an unrelated plant.
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.
No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.
*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 against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. 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 health care professional.
Abortifacient (induces abortion), AIDS, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic (anti-bacterial), antispasmodic, appetite stimulant, astringent, bloody urine, bruises, carminative (reduces gas), cholera, colds, colon inflammation, congestive heart failure, cough, cystitis (bladder infection), diabetes, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), digestive, diuretic, edema, flavoring agent, fragrance, gout (foot inflammation), gum inflammation, hangovers, hypertension (high blood pressure), improving urine flow, incontinence, influenza, insect repellent, kidney function, kidney infection, kidney stones, muscle aches, nephritis (kidney inflammation), premenstrual syndrome, prostate disorders, respiratory disorders, rheumatism, sinus problems, sprains and strains, stimulant, stomachache, tonic, urethritis (inflamed uretha), urinary tract tonic, urolithiasis (kidney stones), uterine stimulant, vaginal irritation, sexually transmitted diseases.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
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.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. 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.
Interactions with Drugs
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.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
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. View Abstract
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. View Abstract
Sim MJ, Choi DR, Ahn YJ. Vapor phase toxicity of plant essential oils to Cadra cautella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). J Econ Entomol. 2006;99(2):593-598. View Abstract
Simpson D. Buchu--South Africa's amazing herbal remedy. Scott.Med J 1998;43(6):189-191. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
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.
March 22, 2017