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Good afternoon my fellow floral folk!

I hope this missive finds you well, despite the numerous planetary retrogrades and other human-related chaos influencing our blue and green world. The world can be a wild and unruly inhabitance, and can often leave us feeling as though we have no control over the courses it takes, subject to the whims of the wind and delights of the divine. Don’t let the planets and the news get you down though– if each of us recognizes our innate ability to bring good and light to even one other person throughout the course of our day, imagine the kind of place our world would be for it! Let us all tend to our corners of the world, and through our efforts, a wildflower carpet of love, joy, and contentment will cover the globe.

Today’s plant profile will be on the herb Buchu, native to South Africa and used in traditional medical practice by the San and Khoi-Khoi indigenous people. It’s a fantastic herb for treating anything urinary tract-related, as it is a potent tonic and antiseptic, and is most effective when used in the short-term to treat acute infections. Continue reading below to learn more about this southern hemisphere herbal friend!

Buchu’s Traditional Uses

As I mentioned previously, the San and Khoi-Khoi tribes in what we now call South Africa were the first to put buchu to use medicinally. They isolated the potent part of the plant, the essential oil present in the leaves, and used it to internally treat various ailments related to the bladder and digestive system. Externally, a decoction could be made from the leaves and used as an antiseptic wash for wounds and cuts, as well as an effective insect repellent. When the Dutch explorers came to South Africa, they learned how to use buchu from the San and Khoi-Khoi people, and built on its use, mixing the leaves with alcohol to take as a tincture for stomach problems such as indigestion. The herb made its way over from Africa to Britain in 1821, and from that point on it has been mainly used to treat the bladder, urethra and prostate.

Identifying Buchu

Buchu, or Barosna betulina syn. Agathosma betulina, is a relatively small, woody bush that is native to the western cape of South Africa- the name buchu is a general term in that region for “fragrant plant”, as the herb gives off a peppermint-like aroma when the leaves are dried. An evergreen shrub, buchu (or round-leaf buchu specifically) grows leaves in bunches along the multiple branches and stems; the leaves are medium green in color, placed opposite each other on the stem, and the flowers have five petals each, colored white and pale pink. The seeds are housed in pods that are five-parted as well, and when the pods dry on the branches they split apart to release the seeds.

Healing Attributes of Buchu

As I mentioned in the Traditional Uses section, the medicinally-potent part of the buchu herb is the essential oil that can be found in the leaves. The key actions of the leaves are antiseptic, especially in the case of the urinary tract. Buchu is best used in the short-term for optimal results against acute infections and temporary ailments; something like cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) would be best to use for more chronic issues and conditions. Continue reading below to see how buchu can help out in your day-to-day health!

  • Cystitis- infusion of buchu, not exceeding 50 grams a week
  • UTI (urinary tract infection)- tincture or infusion of buchu, 3-7.5 grams once a day until healed
  • Inflamed prostate or urethra- capsule of buchu, following distributor’s instructions, or tincture or infusion of buchu, 3-7.5 grams once a day until healed

Corn silk (Zea mays) is most commonly used in conjunction with buchu when treating urinary issues, but herbs such as cleavers, dandelion, goldenrod, and parsley are all compatible to that effect as well! If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, only take buchu upon recommendation by your herbal or medical practitioner, as buchu can be potentially toxic to developing babies if it’s taken in excess dosage.

Thank you once again for joining me in learning more about buchu! Let me know what you thought about this article, or any experience you might have with this herb, in the comments below. I hope this article was helpful to you, and you’ll consider adding buchu to your home apothecary arsenal!

Til next time, my floral friends!

Best wishes and borage,

Katharine