South Africa's New Power Plant
SA’s new power plant
International companies clamour for products made from buchu
by Bobby Jordan
A South African herb, first used by the San to make tea, is causing an international stir as a treatment for a wide range of ailments including arthritis and high blood pressure.
It’s called buchu – a round, green plant about the size of a hedgehog that belongs to the fynbos kingdom and occurs naturally on the mountainous areas of the Western Cape.
Oil from buchu is being used internationally as a natural flavor enhancer in cool drinks. Buchu leaves are also used to make tea.
Now a company based in Paarl, outside Cape Town, is producing bottled buchu water – and has international buyers clamouring for the product.
The company, Butucare International, has built a factory on a buchu-producing farm outside Paarl which is capable of pumping out five million litres of buchu water a year.
“It’s a very rare herb, but has been around for 400 years and has a proven track record,” said Mike Stander, a spokesman for Betucare.
“It’s a lot stronger than some over-the-counter prescription medicines and has been known to relieve arthritis, high blood pressure, cystitis, kidney stones and prostate problems,” Stander said.
Apparently, it is also good for vaginal disorders, acting as both a natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic.
“This is no hocus pocus – we’ve had far too many success stories,” Stander said.
He said buchu has been recognized as a valuable herb by leading pharmacology organisations, such as the American Merck Index and the British Pharmacopeia.
The oil contains quantities of diosphenol, limonene, menthone and isopulegone, which combine to produce what many believe is a “wonder muti”.
South Africa exports about 250 tons of buchu – both as oil and dry leaves – a year, mostly to the US, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, France and Britain.
Export volumes have increased significantly since the herb was first “discovered” on the international market, about 30 years ago.
The advent of buchu water looks set to increase demand tenfold. Two leading British pharmaceutical companies – Holland & Barret and Boots are keen to distribute the product.
Stander who spent 18 months promoting buchu water overseas also met distributors in Canada and the US.
“Buchu has always been a very highly prized oil,” said Juliette Godfrey, a spokesman for a buchu farm called Waterfall, outside Paarl.
“Even back in the days of the Hottentots, people used to swap a thimble of the stuff for a whole sheep.
“Buchu oil is highly volatile – that’s what makes it such a powerful flavor enhancer.” Godfrey said.
According to Stander, an article last year in the British newspaper the Sunday Mirror – entitled “I was crippled with back pain until I discovered miracle herb” – prompting an avalanche of enquiries from arthritis sufferers.
Stander said: “We received more than 2500 handwritten enquiries after the article appeared.”
E-mails from around the world continue to pour in, requesting more product information.
Stander said: “As far as I know, it’s the only South African herb that is specifically recognized for its medicinal properties.”
Sunday Times, South Africa, November 1999 - Readership 3,000,000