Buchu and Rooibos

“Buchu and Rooibos”  is a newly launched product by Robert Roberts that was sent to me a couple of weeks ago to taste. I have a huge interest in South African herbs but had never heard of Buchu so Google had to step in to help.

Agathosma-betulina

Buchu flowers (Source: Go South Online)

The most common varieties of the plant are Agathosma betulina and Agathosma crenulata. However, these are just two of the 150 varieties in the Agathosma family that thrive in the climate of the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The plant is a member of the citrus family but has a strong flavor of blackcurrant. The seeds can be planted from April to June with harvesting 18 months later between the months of October and April.

Buchu tea seems to have many applications. The essental oil from the buchu plant is recommended for arthritis, bloating, indigistion, hypertension and lots of other ailments but its strongest association is with soothing and strengthining the urinary system and relieving the symptoms of urinary tract infections.

buchu stamp

Buchu: SA stamp (Source)

Little research has been carried out to establish its effectiveness as a medicine so most people refer to what are thought to be its original uses by native South Africans: ingested for bladder problems and rheumatism and applied topically as an as an insect repellent. Steeping the leaves in brandy produces an alcoholic buchu brandy (known as boegoe-brandewyn). Several websites note that Buchu should be avoided in pregnancy because traditionally it was known to stimulate uterine contractions. Breastfeeding women should also avoid Buchu.

For more information on planting and harvesting there is a good brochure here on Buchu from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Republic of South Africa

Note: I did not buy this tea – it was sent to me to taste. I have no affiliation with Robert Roberts and have not been paid or compensated for writing this post.

Chamomile: German and Roman

The chamomile harvest is in full swing over here. This year I have the two varieties of the herb that are grown for medicinal use: German (Matricaria chamomilla) and Roman (Chamaemelum nobile).

The chamomilGerman Chamomile2e plant is used for making herb beers and for the treatment of toothaches, earache, neuralgia as well as swelling and skin conditions. In general the “inhalation of the vaporized essential oils derived from chamomile flowers is recommended to relieve anxiety, general depression”. However, if you wanted to pick a plant for a task, the extract of German chamomile contains a higher proportion anti-inflammatories (chamazulene) while Roman is considered better for soothing skin conditions.

I partly grow chamomile to harvest the flowers but the chamomile plant itself is like a tonic for the garden. It is pest and disease free and boosts the health of all crops that it grows alongside but improves the flavour of brassicas and onions. I have them interspersed with other plants to encourage insects and improve the overall health of the garden.

The German variety is native to Europe and western Asia and is an upright annual that can grow to 1 metre tall. The Roman variety is native to western Europe and north Africa. In theory it is a low-growing perennial at about 20cm in height. However, for me, the roman chamomile seeds have produced a plant that is almost as tall as the German chamomile. Both produce small, daisy-like white flowers with yellow centres. This yellow centre is flat on the German variety and raised in the Roman variety (see pictures below).

German Chamomile

German Chamomile

Roman Chamomile

Roman Chamomile

At the start I was picking the blossoms daily to get them just when they open for best flavour. However they need to be dried immediately after harvesting and for this they need to be laid out flat on a mesh screen in a warm place indoors, out of direct sunlight. This is causing a space issue as it takes several weeks for the flowers to dry completely. Lately I’ve started cheating with the microwave and oven to speed up the drying. Hopefully that won’t affect the power of these little flowers too much.

For more information on chamomile there is an interesting article published here: Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Report. 2010;3:895–901.