A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
Buchu, belonging to the genus Barosma, is a wooded shrub that grows up to a height of six feet and the color of its bark varies from red to brown or violet or deep brown. The leaves of the buchu plant are rubbery, glossy and are spotted with oil glands. These leaves have toothed margins and their color varies from yellow to green to brown. Buchu bears petite flowers whose shape resembles the stars.
Initially employed in the form of a medication by the Hottentots, one of the three major tribes of South Africa, the leaves have been employed in the form of a domestic remedy for nearly all known sufferings. In these parts of South Africa, buchu is also used to prepare an alcoholic beverage, called buchu brandy, which is extensively distributed in the region. Earlier, this medication was the officially listed in The National Formulary and was somewhat extensively used in the form of an antiseptic for urinary problems as well as a diuretic. However, in present times, physicians have discontinued the use of buchu, while people who believe in the therapeutic benefits offered by buchu still continue to promote the herb for similar health conditions which a New York City-based patent medicine producer Helmbold suggested its usage over 135 years back.
Whatsoever remedial uses buchu might have are primarily owing to a volatile oil enclosed by its leaves. The major element of this volatile oil comprises diosphenol or buchu camphor. Owing to the presence of this chemical compound, leaves of buchu are used in an assortment of herbal teas marketed in Europe for treating kidney disorders as well as other problems of the urinary bladder. Nevertheless, this volatile oil possesses diuretic properties and also mild antiseptic attributes. Therefore, this needs to be borne in mind especially when any individual is enduring a medical condition that necessitates the use of a particularly effectual remedy. However, there is no reason whatsoever to raise questions regarding safety of using buchu.
Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the indigenous tribes of southern Africa, especially members of the Khoi San tribe of Western Cape area, established the therapeutic use of buchu, especially using the plant to cure urinary problems. When the Dutch arrived in the region in the 17th century and set up their colonies in the Cape region, they were quick to pick up this herb from the natives to treat arthritis, kidney stones, muscle pains, cholera as well as infection of the urinary tract. English settlers in the region, who arrived after the Dutch, claimed that the herb helped them to treat almost all medical conditions suffered by humans. While the volatile oil present in buchu may be responsible for the herb's antiseptic and diuretic attributes, the effectiveness of the plant in curing sexually transmitted diseases is not substantiated scientifically.
It may be noted that two prescription drugs Odrinil and Fluidex, which facilitate in alleviating premenstrual bloating, contain buchu as an active ingredient. The Khoikhoin people of South Africa used buchu as a traditional medication for long and used this herb in the form of a common energizer or tonic as well as a diuretic. Buchu is potently fragrant and is taken internally as a carminative (a medication or substance that promotes expulsion of gas from the stomach) with a view to alleviate gas and bloating.
In 1790, buchu was exported to Britain for the first time and it was accepted as an official medication in 1821. Buchu was catalogued in the British Pharmacopoeia as a valuable medication for treating health conditions like cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), catarrh of the urinary bladder and nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys).
Generally speaking, contemporarily, buchu is employed in Western herbal medicine for similar kinds of urinary problems as the herb was used in the 12th century. Today, the herb is generally prescribed for infection of the urinary tract, frequently being successful in treating severe cases of cystitis when it is used in combination with other herbs, for instance juniper and corn silk. If preparations containing buchu are taken internally on a regular basis, this herb may help in preventing urethritis or periodic attacks of persistent cystitis. Additionally, buchu is also taken for treating prostatitis as well as irritable bladder, usually along with other herbs like corn silk and uva-ursi. Diosphenol is the active component of buchu and it possesses diuretic properties. This substance may partially be responsible for the antiseptic actions of the herb on the urinary system.
The infusion or tincture prepared with buchu is effective in treating urethritis and cystitis, particularly when these conditions are associated with a previously existing problem of Candida, for instance yeast infections. Generally, buchu infusion is preferable to the tincture, especially when the commencement of the contagion is unexpected. In addition, buchu infusion is also employed in the form of a douche for treating leucorrhea (a white vaginal discharge) and sometimes to treat infections caused by yeasts. Buchu is known to be a stimulant for the uterine and encloses pulegone, a substance that is also found in significant quantities in pennyroyal. Pulegone is a substance that causes abortion (abortifacient) as well as it is a potent emmanagogue (a medication or substance that encourages menstrual flow). However, here is a word of caution. Buchu should never be given during pregnancy.
Remedial preparations using leaves of buchu have a long account of being used in traditional herbal medication in the form of a disinfectant for the urinary tract as well as a diuretic. Since earliest days, practitioners of herbal medicine used buchu to cure inflammation of the urinary tract, in addition to the inflammation of the prostate. In Europe, herbalists also recommended the use of buchu for treating gout. Nevertheless, the innovative usage of buchu by the native tribes of southern Africa is yet to be ascertained since the word ‘buchu' is a common term used to describe aromatic plants. According to many researchers and herbalists, the native tribes of southern Africa possibly used buchu in the form of an insect repellent. In addition, they may have also used the herb internally to cure stomach disorders, problems of the urinary bladder as well as rheumatism.
Habitat and cultivation
Buchu is indigenous to South Africa, where people grow the plant on hillsides. In addition, buchu is also cultivated in several regions of South America. Buchu is generally propagated from cuttings during the later phase of summer and it needs a soil having excellent drainage as well as lots of sunlight. The leaves of this herb are collected in summer when the plant is in bloom or bearing fruits.
Buchu may be used as infusion or in the form of a tincture to treat a number of health conditions discussed above.
Infusion: In order to prepare an infusion using the herb, you need to add one or two teaspoonfuls of the leaves of buchu in a cup of steaming water and allow the mixture to suffuse for about 10 minutes. The standard dose of buchu infusion is drinking it thrice every day.
Side effects and cautions
Generally considered to be a safe herb, buchu may also result in a number of side effects. For instance, buchu may cause gastrointestinal exasperation and, hence, it is advisable that you take this herb only with meals. In addition, buchu should not be given during pregnancy or to nursing mothers.
How it works in the body
Chemical analysis of buchu leaves has revealed that they enclose flavonoids and 1.0 per cent to 3.5 per cent volatile oils. The antiseptic benefits of buchu to treat disorders of the urinary tract are attributed to the volatile oils enclosed by the plant. It is believed that the basic component of the volatile oil possesses antibacterial activities. This component is known as monoterpene disophenol. Nevertheless, one test tube experiment using the volatile oil of buchu did not find any noteworthy antibacterial actions.
Collection and harvesting
The leaves of buchu ought to be harvested during summer when the plant is in full bloom or bearing fruits.