Buchu Oil: Benefits, Uses, Properties, and Side Effects

The native people of South Africa have acknowledged the Buchu oil benefits since ancient times. Of about 700 indigenous South African herbs, Buchu has acquired a special place. In the San and Khoi culture of South Africa, Buchu’s role as tonic and medicine is of vital importance.

Though it is a well-known herb since the olden days, it has gained immense popularity in modern times as well. The essential oil obtained from Buchu leaves holds an industrial and medicinal significance.

In the late 1990s, Buchu became prominent as South Africa’s “Miracle herb.”

Considering its popularity and medicinal properties, let us look deep into the health benefits of buchu oil, its chemical constitution, and much more.

Caution: Buchu essential oil is strictly not recommended for home practitioners.  DO NOT USE BUCHU ESSENTIAL OIL UNLESS UNTIL PRESCRIBED BY PROFESSIONAL AROMATHERAPISTS.

What Is Buchu Oil?

Buchu essential oil is extracted mainly from the leaves of two buchu species Agathosma betulina & Agathosma crenulata. It belongs to the family Rutaceae. These aromatic herbs belong to the cape region of South Africa.

People collect the leaves when the plant is flowering and fruiting. The oil is then extracted through the process of steam distillation. Biologists have found about 150 Agathosma species. Agathosma species or commonly known as “buchu,” are perennial shrubs with woody branches.

Of those, Agathosma betulina and A. crenulata are mainly used for medicinal purposes. These two species are economically valued sources of essential oils.

A small, pale green color, leathery, and glossy round-shaped leaf with a recurved apex characterize Agathosma betulina whereas a large, dark green, and glossy oval-shaped leaf without the recurved apex characterize Agathosma crenulata. The former is called “round-leaf buchu” and the latter “oval-leaf buchu.”

Agathosma betulina are found in dry conditions such as sunny hillsides and rocky sandstone slopes. On the contrary, Agathosma crenulata grows in damp valleys and lower & middle hills (1).

The herbs are particularly useful for black currant flavors. The taste of the leaves is believed to be green herbal, sweet berry, minty camphoraceous, tropical guava, apricot, and peach-like.

Although all the species of Agathosma yields an essential oil, Buchu oil is extracted most commonly from Agathosma betulina and A. crenulata. However, it can be a little expensive due to the limited availability of the wild species but both can be cultivated easily.

The therapeutic application of Buchu leaf extract ranges from treating cold, flu, and cough to treating urinary tract infections, rheumatism, and cholera.

what is buchu oil

Scientific Name Of Buchu Oil

Agathosma betulina and Agathosma crenulata

History Of Buchu Oil

Charles Darwin once speculated that Africa might be the cradle of Human civilization. Later, after a fossil discovery in 1924, science approved that. All the Modern humans came out of Africa.

From north to south, Africa has a variety of vegetation from bare desserts to rain forests. Despite being stretched with desert lands, Africa has an astonishing range of indigenous medicinal plants. For centuries, these plants were used for its healing powers.

The San people applied the Buchu leaf extracts to moisturize and protect their skin in the desert climate. Even today, the South Africans use it as a tonic and medicine to treat multiple ailments (2).

The traditionally used herbs were then introduced to the Europeans during colonization. The usage and benefits of buchu oil and buchu leaf extract subsequently spread to Europe and America.

Later, buchu attracted the interest of various industries due to its incredible medicinal properties. Today, buchu is one of the best known African herbs internationally. Apart from being used as a tablet and herbal powder, the herb became part of many herbal teas.

Buchu was also sold as an “herbal water” in the late 1990s by an African company. Interestingly, many international buyers have clamored for this product considering buchu as South Africa’s new “power plant.”

However, modern usage slightly differs from traditional usage. The extract customarily used as a tonic is now a significant part of cosmetic industries.

Colour, Consistency, and Smell Of Buchu Oil

  • The color of buchu oil is pale to dark yellow-brown.
  • The consistency of buchu oil is thin to medium.
  • The smell of buchu oil is strong, sweet, and minty-camphoraceous.

Properties Of Buchu Essential Oil

The therapeutic properties of Buchu oil include (5):

  • Antispasmodic – Relieves spams of the involuntary muscles
  • Antipyretic – Helps reduce fever
  • Antimicrobial – Inhibits the growth of microbes
  • Antioxidant – Eliminates harmful oxidizing agents
  • Antiseptic – Inhibits the growth of microorganisms
  • Anti-inflammatory – Reduces inflammation
  • Antibiotic – Destroys the growth of microbes
  • Antifungal – Prevents fungal growth
  • Antibacterial – Kills bacteria
  • Insect repellentRepels insects and other bugs
  • Liniment – Relieves pain
  • Carminative – Relieves flatulence
  • Anti-rheumatic – Helps treat rheumatoid arthritis
  • Anti-Arthritic – Prevents or relieves arthritic pain

Chemical Compounds In Buchu oil

The chemical composition of the essential oils extracted from Agathosma betulina and A. crenulata shares similar significant compounds but at different concentration (3).

Of about 70 compounds found in the essential oil of A. betulina, the significant compounds include menthone (29.2%) and limonene (23.7%), Isomenthone (14.2%), and pulegone (8.4%) (4, 5).

Of about 70 compounds present in the essential oil of A. crenulata, the major ones are Pulegone (34.9%), menthone (16.6%), limonene (13.4%), isomenthone (7.3%). The essential oil constituents also include flavonoids, coumarins, and alkaloids.

The other significant compounds present in essential oils obtained from both the species include α-pinene, β-pinene, myrcene, α-terpinene, 1,8-cineole, Linalool, carvacrol, γ-terpinene, cryptone, neryl acetate, methyl eugenol, eugenol, trans-α-bergamotol, geraniol, 8-mercapto-p-menthan-3-one, camphor, and camphene.

what is buchu oil used for

Uses & Benefits Of Buchu Oil

Though there are numerous buchu oil benefits, the important ones include:

1. Treats cold, cough, and flu

For centuries, the San people used buchu oil to cure cough, cold, and flu. People considered it as one of the active treatments. In fact, in olden times, people used to drink leaf extracts as a tonic to treat cold at home.

Research claims that the buchu essential oil shows antipyretic and antimicrobial activity. Being an antipyretic, Buchu oil helps in reducing fever by profuse perspiration (6).

The oxygenated constituents like 1,8-cineole, linalool, and carvacrol present in it are responsible for the antimicrobial activity of the oil.

2. Heal wounds

Buchu oil is an excellent antiseptic and antimicrobial agent. It has been used since olden days to treat wounds in South Africa.

People mix buchu leaf extract with “vinegar” and apply topically on the wounds to aid healing (6).

People often ignore wounds. However, wounds should be treated promptly. Ignoring some deep wounds may lead to microbial infections like tetanus. Buchu oil being an excellent antiseptic prevents infection when applied topically.

3. Relieves rheumatism

Rheumatism is a musculoskeletal disorder. Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Infectious arthritis, and Gout are a few common rheumatic diseases. Scientists claim that there are more than 200 rheumatic diseases.

The disease occurs when your immune system doesn’t function the way it should and finally, attacks your tissues. They usually cause inflammation and pain in the joints, which may also lead to loss of motion.

Buchu oil is believed to work well in giving relief from rheumatic diseases. Since it is an excellent diuretic, it removes toxins and excess water from the body. It aids the body to cure itself and prevent the immune system from going awry.

Also, the oil is antispasmodic, relieving pain and spasms in the muscles. Thus, alleviating the symptoms of rheumatism.

4. Gives a healthy skin

Traditionally, buchu plants were used for cosmetic purposes, as they were an excellent antioxidant. The San people used it as an “antibiotic protectant.”

The leaves of this aromatic plant moisturized the skin deeply, leaving it soft in the desert climates. They believed that the uptake of aromatic substances from buchu essential oil through skin promotes their overall health.

5. Great tonic for your health

In the late 1990s, buchu herbal water was internationally famous for being a health potion. People used this water to enhance their overall health and treat various ailments like kidney disorders, calculus removal, rheumatism, etc. (7)

Research shows that buchu essential oil helps to boost the immune system. It prevents infection and regularizes metabolism. In this way, the oil taken in any form gives strength to the body and helps maintain your overall health.

6. Keeps stomach healthy

In olden days, the San people used to chew Buchu leaves to treat stomach complaints. It was also taken as a tincture with “brandy” to address various stomach problems.

It supports healthy digestion. In fact, it is also studied to be an excellent carminative.

It fights indigestion, stimulates the secretion of digestive juices into the stomach, helps remove gases, relaxes abdominal region, relieves heaviness in the chest and abdominal area. The oil may also be used to treat diarrhea, loss of appetite, and nausea.

7. Eliminates body toxins

Buchu oil is an excellent diuretic. It promotes the removal of unwanted substances and toxins like uric acid, excess water, excess salt, cellulite, and fats from the body. The toxins are then released through urination. It also helps in treating urinary tract infection and kidney infections (8).

8. Relieves sprains

Buchu oil is used for centuries to ease muscle pain and sprains. Scientists have studied the buchu oil for its antispasmodic properties. The oil is an excellent muscle relaxant. Topical application of the oil and a proper massage on the affected area soothes the pain.

However, it would be best if you were cautious about the concentration in which you use the oil. Low dilution of buchu oil is highly recommended.

9. For cooking, beauty, and perfumery

Buchu leaves were used for cosmetic purposes since olden times. The San people used buchu leaves powder and mix it with sheep fat. The people used to anoint their body with this mixture for cosmetic purposes and as an “antibiotic protectant.”

Buchus are also natural deodorizers. However, buchu essential oil gained its unique place in cosmetic industries in the modern age due to its strong aroma. The oil is extensively used in perfumes and men’s colognes.

The oil is also used in the food industry to enhance the taste. It is explicitly known to give blackcurrant flavors. Scientists claim that 8-mercapto-p-menthan-3-one, one of its potential chemical compounds gives this blackcurrant taste.

10. Effective insect repellent

According to Researchers, Buchu essential oil is also toxic to cell metabolism, making it an excellent insecticide. In olden days, people used smoke from Buchu leaves to protect them from insects, bugs, flies, and ants.

It also used to helps get rid of parasites and other insects such as mosquitoes, flies, and bed-bugs. Campers & trekkers rub this oil in their bedding to prevent mosquitoes and ants. But ingesting it can be very dangerous (9).

Uses Of Buchu Oil

The modern uses of buchu oil are mostly found in cosmetic industries. It is used in perfumes, deodorizers, and colognes due to its strong aroma. However, they are used in a minimal quantity or a diluted form. It is also used in the food industry due to the fact that it has a similar flavor of black currant.

What Blends With Buchu oil?

Though there are many oils that it blends it, the best ones include:

How To Use Buchu Oil?

uses of buchu oil

Buchu oil is also studied to be toxic in some cases. Lack of evidence makes it very difficult to comprehend about the usage. Since many plants are generally referred to as buchu, you should be careful about the source. The provider should mention the exact source of the oil.

It is always better to use the oil under the guidance of an experienced and professional aromatherapist.

  • Topical Application: Any essential oil, when used correctly can serve its purpose well. It is in your hand to use the oil efficiently. Therapists do not recommend excess or prolonged usage of buchu oil. Always use buchu oil in very low dilution. Since Buchu oil is not recommended for home practitioners, apply the oil as prescribed by your Physician or therapists. Also, be careful about the place where you use the oil.
  • Aromatherapy: Buchu essential oil is an excellent insect repellent. However, it would help if you used only vaporizer or diffuser to diffuse the oil for its aroma. Do not diffuse the oil in a congested place. Also, it is highly recommended to use the oil in a minimum quantity
  • Ingestion: Buchu oil is UNSAFE in more substantial amounts and when consumed. DO NOT CONSUME BUCHU ESSENTIAL OIL.

Side Effects Of Buchu Oil

  • As discussed earlier, buchu essential oil is considered as toxic by researchers. Hence, you should be cautious while using it.
  • It may also cause skin irritation, allergies, and inflammation.
  • It might slow down blood clotting. It increases bleeding. Do not use buchu oil when you are consuming drugs for anticoagulants and antiplatelets.
  • Do not use buchu oil during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Do not use buchu oil if you suffer from kidney and liver infections.
  • Use it only if a professional aromatherapist prescribes it.

Featured Image Credit: Indiamart

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