The fragrance of buchu is strong, wild and I would like to call it an “inner male” or animus aroma. Carl Jung described the animus (or a woman’s inner male) as positive energy that represents empowerment, the capacity to engage in and fight for what she wants, and the assertion of the live force.
My initiation into buchu was facilitated by the late Eps Joubert, an eccentric and passionate mathematics teacher and nature lover from Bredasdorp. He is also known as the “father” of the Foot Of Africa Marathon and his lasting gift to athletes from over the world is the fynbos route in the Bredasdorp mountain.
If I had to select one plant for introducing a visitor to South African fynbos fragrance, it would be the green, minty and fruity aroma of the Agathosma species. Agathosma betulina or round-leave buchu played an important role in the Khoisan culture, and have been used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes since early days. Brandy tinctures (“boegoebrandewyn”) for stomach problems and vinegar infusions for washing and treating wounds are early Cape remedies.
The Khoisan’s close relationship with buchu includes this fragrant plant being an agent of both physical and mental transformation. During initiation rites for girls reaching puberty, buchu was sprinkled on standing water to pacify the “watersnake” or “rainbull”. Its invigorating and stimulating properties were also utilized in rituals to “wake up the body”. For an interesting article about buchu as presenting the “life force” in the Khoisan tradition, please visit africanaromatics.com.
Buchu essential oil with its intense and overpowering fragrance should be used with care, but in times when you want a strong, blackcurrant or Bourgenons de Chassis flavour in you home or life, it is perfect. As a men’s cologne or facial wash for teenagers it may create a balance between “pacifying” and “lifting up”!
After experimenting with buchu essential oil in soap making and solid perfume, I came to the conclusion that this fragrance I would keep close to my body (as in a Khoisan tortoiseshell powder compact) but not directly on my skin. And used daily in an exfoliation soap, it might keep the “inner man” alive and happy!
Eriocephalus africanus / Cape snowbush / Wild rosemary / Kapokbos (Afr) Photo from anniesannuals.com
In Cape Town the closest you will get to snow in December will be the fluffy cotton-like seeds of Cape snowbush or wild rosemary (Kapokbos in Afrikaans). At this time of year we need to be gentle with ourselves but it is almost impossible with everything that must be done before Christmas. Holidays can be extremely stressful for some people, and especially for those who struggle with being out of their comfort zone. This is an excellent time to wrap yourself in the sedative, restorative and mood enhancing fragrance of the essential oil distilled from this aromatic plant.
Cape snowbush is a pale yellow oil with a unique combination of bitter, spicy and aromatic notes. If you need to allow yourself time to heal, or if recovering from depression of addiction this warm fragrance may help by “warming your emotions”. It can also help with letting go and clearing the mind of negative thoughts.
Kapokbos have been used in South African households as a hair tonic as well as a muscle relaxant. I’ve created a bath oil that may help you to “cotton” yourself against the pressures of the “silly season”!
Snowbush bath oil
Add to 50 ml of carrier oil like sweet almond oil: 8 drops of cape snowbush essential oil, 8 drops of cape chamomile essential oil and 8 drops of lavender essential oil in a dark container. Gently shake and try to spend more time in your bathroom than in shopping malls!
This aromatic herb with its grey woolly leaves and persistent flower heads is one of the many everlasting species. It is said that the oil that keeps the flowers “lasting forever” will also stop your skin’s aging process, which makes it a must have for your vanity case.
A dried bundle of this strongly aromatic herb is called Imphepho (Zulu) and is burned to invoke the goodwill of the ancestors. The smoke is reported to be sedative and inhaled by traditional healers to induce a trance.
The Khoisan stuffed mattresses with this herb, therefore the Afrikaans name Kooigoed or Hottentotskooigoed. This everlasting is also used as cosmetic and perfume and is effective in keeping insects and parasites away.
For survival in veld this should be your number one emergency plant: it can provide fragrant bedding without parasites, you can burn it to relieve insomnia and the oil from the crushed leaves may protect your skin against the harsh conditions. You might just return with a Botox from nature…