Agathosma betulina (P.J.Bergius) Pillans

Last updated: 18 Jan 2016

Scientific Name

Agathosma betulina (P.J.Bergius) Pillans


Barosma betulina (P.J.Bergius) Bartl. & H.L.Wendl., Barosma orbicularis Sweet, Bucco betulina Schult., Diosma betulina (P.J.Bergius) Thunb. [Illegitimate], Diosma crenata Lodd. [Illegitimate], Hartogia betulina P.J.Bergius. [1]

Vernacular Name

Africa Khoi, bucu, Africans boegoe, roundblarboegoe, bucco, bukoo, ibuchu [2]

Geographical Distributions

Agathosma betulina is among several Agathosma species and is native to South Africa. [3]

A. betulina was introduced to the world by Dutch settlers and is now cultivated in most areas that fulfil its growth requirements. [3]

Botanical Description

A. betulina is a member of the Rutaceae family [1]. It is a shrub grows to a height of 2 metres and has star-shaped flowers that range from light pink to purple in colour [4].

The leaves are thick and leathery with jagged edges and vary in colour from green to brown. [4]

The essential oil of A. betulina is steam-distilled from the leaves. It is yellowish brown thin oil that becomes thicker as it ages. [4]


A. betulina growth requires well-drained soil and full sun. It is harvested for use in perfumes, potpourris and as flavouring because of its very unique aroma. [5]

Chemical Constituent

Essential oil of A. betulina has been reported to contain (iso)menthone, (ϕ)-diosphenol, cis- and trans-8-mercapto-p-menthane-3-ones. [6]

Essential oil of A. betulina fresh aerial parts has been reported to contain α-pinene, myrcene, limonene, 1,8-cineole, γ-terpinene, (E)-β-ocimene, ρ-cymene, menthone, isomenthone, linalool, trans-isopulegone, terpinen-4-ol, pulegone, psi-diosphenol (pseudo-diosphenol), 8-hydroxymenthone, diosphenol, 1-hydroxy-pseudo-diosphenol, 4-hydroxy -diosphenol. [7]

Plant Part Used

Leaves [4]

Traditional Use

A. betulina have traditionally been used as herbal remedy for ailments of the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts, as it has diuretic and antiseptic properties due to various phenolic compounds. Useful in all disease of the urinary organs attended with increased uric acid; in irritation of the bladder and urethra attending gravel, in irritation of the bladder and urethra attending gravel, in catarrh of the urinary bladder and incontinence connected with diseased prostate. [8]

A. betulina or Buchu may be prepared as brandy, tincture, tea or soaked in vinegar. The prepared aqueous solution can be used to deliver it to the body or the vinegar can be externally used to treat bruises, contusions, sprains and fractures, to clean wound and to treat rheumatism. [9]

A. betulina has a long-standing traditional use, but it has made its way into the fragrance and flavour industries due to its sulphur-containing compounds and sensory properties. It is used to enhance fruit flavours and fragrances, and boost blackcurrant-like flavours. It has a naturally minty, sweet berry, apricot, peach and green herbal taste, and its oils are used in perfumes and colognes. [9]

Preclinical Data


Antioxidant activity

Two assays to determine the antioxidant activity of A. betulina, namely, DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl radical assay and ABTS (2,2’-azinobis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) assay). The oxidative activity of the DPPH radical was inhibited by 11 of Agathosma sp extracts. A. betulina showed weak antioxidant activity with IC50 values > 100 µg/mL. However, Agathosma species showed greater activity in the ABTS assay. [10]

Antimicrobial activity

Minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) was tested on four type of bacteria to see its inhibition when treated with Agathosma sp. extracts. The data reveals that all of the extracts were active against the four pathogens namely, Candida albicans, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus. It has been concluded that most of the extracts exhibited good antimicrobial activity against the tested pathogens. [10]

Anti-inflammatory activity

A study on anti-inflammatory activity was determined using the COX-1 and COX-2 assays. The results showed that ethanol extracts of A. betulina inhibited COX-1 catalysed prostaglandin biosynthesis almost 98%. The inhibition of COX-2 catalysed prostaglandin biosynthesis in ethanolic extracts of A. betulina shows 25% of its inhibitory effect. [11]

A. betulina oil contains limonene, a monoterpene hydrocarbon with anti-inflammatory properties. Essential oils found in Agathosma have been found to inhibit the synthesis of leukotrienes by blocking synthesis of leukotrienes by blocking synthesis of the key enzyme 5-lypoxygenase. Thus, it reduces inflammation by preventing the initiation and maintenance of the inflammatory process, thereby limiting an infection and preventing its progression. [9]


In a study, where the toxicity of the Agathosma species were evaluated using the MTT (3-[4,5-dimethyl-2-thiazol-yl]-2,5-diphenyl-2H-tetrazolium bromide) cellular viability assay, the result obtained show that A. betulina were not toxic at concentrations up to 100 µg/mL. [10]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation


No documentation

Adverse reaction

There have been reports of potential adverse events from A. betulina such as gastrointestinal irritation, and centrilobular hepatic or hepatocellular necrosis. [12]

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Agathosma betulina (P.J. Bergius) Pillans. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013. [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2015 Sept 10]. Available from:
  2. Iwu MM. Handbook of African medicinal plants. 2nd edition. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2014; p. 124.
  3. Simpson D. Buchu--South Africa's amazing herbal remedy. Scott Med J. 1998;43(6):189-191.
  4. Lis-Balchan M. Aromatherapy science: A guide for healthcare professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 2006; p. 129-130.
  5. Moolla A, Viljoen AM. 'Buchu' - Agathosma betulina and Agathosma crenulata (Rutaceae): A review. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;119(3):413-419.
  6. Posthumus MA, van Beek TA, Collins NF, Graven EH. Chemical composition of the essential oils of Agathosma betulina, A. crenulata and an A. betulina x crenulata hybrid (Buchu). J Essent Oil Res. 1996;8(3):223-228.
  7. Viljoen AM, Moolla A, Van Vuuren SF, et al. The biological activity and essential oil composition of 17 Agathosma (Rutaceae) species. J Essent Oil Res. 2006;18: 2-16.
  8. Geetha RV, Roy A, Lakshmi T. Nature’s weapon against urinary tract infections. Int. J. Drug Dev. Res. 2011 Jul;3(3):85-100.
  9. Skosana B, Aboua G. Buchu - The multi-purpose ethnomedicinally important specie and its benefits in the reproductive system. In: Antioxidant-antidiabetic agents and human health. 2014. p. 297-316.
  10. Moolla A, Van Vuuren SF, Van Zyl RL, Viljoen AM. Biological activity and toxicity profile of 17 Agathosma (Rutaceae) species. S Afr J Bot. 2007;73(4):588-592.
  11. Steenkamp V, Gouws MC, Gulumian M, Elgorashi EE, Van Staden J. Studies on antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of herbal remedies used in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostatitis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;103(1):71-75.
  12. Kamsu-Foguem B, Foguem C. Adverse drug reactions in some African herbal medicine: Literature review and stakeholders’ interview. Integr Med Res. 2014;3(3):126-132.