Buchu's original genus was Barosma, which was changed to Agathosma. Produced by steam distillation of its leaves, buchu is wild harvested from the Western Cape area of South Africa. The leaves have round oil glands and when fresh have a peppermint like odour. When in flower (May-August) the plant gives us bright purple and white star-shaped flowers.
Commonly known as 'Round Leaf Buchu' it has traditionally been used as a flavouring agent and a herbal remedy. It was also known as Barosma betulia, with the name originating from the word 'Barosma' (Greek) meaning “heavy smell”.
Although not common in aromatherapy the leaves have historically been used to make a tea to help combat the symptoms of digestive problems, gout, rheumatism, coughs and colds.
Buchu contains diosmin and hesperidin, suggesting it has anti-inflammatory properties, hypolipidemic (blood cholesterol lowering), and vasoprotective (blood vessel related problems like haemorrhoids and varicose veins) benefits.
As a flavouring agent Buchu has a strong odour, which is almost unbearable at 100%. However once diluted at 0.1% - 0.2% it gives a wonderful blackcurrant flavour and can also be found in some fragrances as a minty, sweet berry, apricot or peach middle note (when used with other ingredients).
The South African government set controls over harvesting to prevent it disappearing from nature. At one point more was being cultivated than could be naturally reproduced. More recently newer plantations have emerged giving buchu a more sustainable future.
The National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act of South Africa has recently implemented stringent export parameters. The country’s buchu oil exports have been affected under the Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing (BABS) Regulations. The new regulations make it mandatory for producers to hold valid Integrated Export and Bioprospecting permits, thus making it difficult for exporters.
South Africa imposed a national lockdown. Agriculture however, coming under the purview of an essential service, was permitted to continue with strict precautions. As a result, though actual buchu oil production continued unabated, there were challenges with distribution. Freight issues with limited operational airports and double the usual freight costs were some factors disrupting the buchu market. The crop this year has been encouraging with new plantations adding to the volumes. However, production continues to fall short of the demand, and taking advantage of the situation, some agents have quoted astronomical sums. It is hoped that with the gradual replenishment of raw materials prices should level off over the coming months. The winter rains are in full swing and the market is looking forward to a good crop next season.
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