Agathosma is derived from the Greek words agathos, which means pleasant and osme, which means smell.
Buchu (Agathosma Betulina) is a traditional healing herb and belongs to the fynbos plant kingdom. It is endemic to South Africa and grows naturally in the mountainous areas of the Western and Southern Cape. It is a protected plant and it cannot be harvested or traded without a licence.
The Khoi-Khoi and San people considered buchu a cure for all ilnesses and an aid to longevity. They chewed the fresh or dried leaves or made infusions for medicinal purposes. They also lubricated their bodies with buchu mixed with sheep fat. Applied in this way the buchu acted as antibacterial and antifungal remedy as well an insect repellant and a deodorant.
The Khoi pastoralists introduced the first Dutch colonists, who arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652, to buchu.
Some years later, in 1821 a London Drug Firm, Reece & Co, registered buchu as a medicine and remedy for several illnesses such as; cystitis urethritis, nephritis and catarrh of the bladder.
Buchu also played an important role in the Crimean and First World Wars. During this time soldiers used it as a powerful antiseptic to clean wounds.
By 1865 buchu leaves were imported into the United States as a panacea for most ailments. This was written about the use of buchu by American doctors in the FDA Consumer magazine:
1900s American Doctors
American doctors of the early 1900s carried few drugs when they made house calls, but according to the American Medical Association, they knew the effects of each one of them. Calomel, opium, quinine, buchu (a diuretic to stimulate the kidneys), ipecac (an emetic), and Dover's powder (a laxative) made up the supply. Since its introduction in 1899, aspirin has been the most popular drug of all time…
FDA Consumer magazine
Before modern drugs and antibiotics buchu was introduced to the world as a treatment for colds and flu, headaches, stomach disorders, gonorrhea and more life-threatening diseases such as cholera and bilharzias.
Buchu has even been recorded as a treatment of infections of the genitor-urinary tract by major pharmacopoeia such as; British Pharmacopoeia (1821), The Physiomedical Dispensatory (1869), The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics (1898), King's American Dispensatory (1898) and The British Pharmaceutical Codex (1911).
‘The active ingredient in buchu is diosphenol (once known as barosma camphor), to which the antiseptic and diuretic effects of buchu have been ascribed. This would probably also account for the stimulation of perspiration that an infusion of buchu brings on, as well as its remarkable flushing action of the kidneys. Buchu is one of the ancient treatments for cholera and for infections of the prostate gland. It is also a remarkable treatment for gout taken as a tea twice daily – the increased perspiration is greatly beneficial to this painful affliction, and acts this way on rheumatism as well.’
Indigenous Healing Plants
Southern Book Publishers, 1990