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.
2018 has not augured well for South African farmers. Severe wild fires and droughts have been the plague of the 2018 buchu crop. Supplies plunged drastically by over 50%, accompanied by a corresponding dramatic price hike. 2019 brings hope in terms of near-normal availability and easing of prices. In the face of unpredictability, it is always wise to cover any imminent requirements.
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