A close look at one of Elephant Gin’s ingredient: BUCHU

Buchu (Agathosma Betulina) is one of Elephant Gin’s key ingredients, and we will give you a bit more background on the plant, its history, its uses and why we picked it…

Buchu, is part of the Rutaceae family, native to the lower elevation mountains of western South Africa, where it occurs near sources of water.

We first came across Buchu when reading about South African plants that have been used in traditional African medicine until today. In fact, what may look like an ordinary shrub is in fact the world’s first documented natural anti-inflammatory. For example, drinking infusions of Buchu has been used for relief of rheumatism and urinary tract infections in South Africa for decades. Steeped in vinegar it is also used as a remedy for bruises and sprains.

The Khoisan (South African bushmen) believed Buchu was an elixier of youth, and today it is widely used as a general tonic to promote physical wellbeing in the form of teas. The essential oils and extracts of the leaves are also used as flavouring for candy, and a liquor known as Buchu brandy in South Africa. We are yet to try Buchu brandy!

History: Buchu’s earliest documentation was in 1652, when the Cape’s resident Khoisan pastoralists introduced the Dutch colonists as a healing herb. 

It was an extremely scarce and expensive commodity in those days – a mere thimbleful could be exchanged for a sheep.  When these same colonists took Buchu back to Europe, it was named “Noble’s Tea” because only the exceptionally wealthy could afford it. (Fun fact: Eight bales of Buchu were on board the Titanic, according to the cargo manifest.)

In the late 1800’s, leaves were dried, baled and exported to Europe and America.

Appearance: Buchu is an evergreen shrub growing to 2m tall. The leaves are opposite, rounded, about 20 mm long and broad. The flowers are white or pale pink, with five petals; the fruit is a five-parted capsule which splits open to release the seeds.

We picked Buchu primarily for its flavour; when you burry your head in the dried leaves you enter a world of fruity, berry, musty, catty notes with vegetative and fruity nuances of peach and apricot…Try it and let us know what you think!