Boldo

Boldo, a traditional herb from South America, has an interesting health profile. Find out more about the research on this herb and its medicinal action.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Boldo, boldo do Chile, boldus, folo
  • Scientific namePeumus boldus
  • Geographic distributionMainly Chile and Peru. Also found in Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, and Morocco.
  • Plant typeTree
  • Native regionNorth Africa/Middle East, South America
  • Main producer(s)Chile
  • Main Economic UseMedicinal
Boldo

Boldo is an ancient crop in South America, having been domesticated in Chile thousands of years ago. Native South Americans have been using boldo for its medicinal purposes for centuries, before it was eventually introduced to both North America and Europe, where it continued to be used as a herbal remedy for certain ailments. Its use has continued throughout the centuries, its medicinal purposes remaining its primary use, though its flavor is now appreciated by many cultures as well.

Boldo Medicinal Properties

Quick Facts (Medicinal Properties)
  • Medicinal actionCholeretic, Hepatoprotective
  • Key constituentsBoldine
  • Ways to useCapsules, Hot infusions/tisanes, Essential oil
  • Medicinal rating(2) Minorly useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe

Health Benefits of Boldo

In its native area, where it is most often consumed as a tea, boldo has been traditionally used to treat hangovers, gout, stomachache, and urogenital inflammation. Emerging research has revealed several promising medicinal uses for the plant in modern day:

  • Preventing peptic ulcers. Boldo may increase the amount of bile produced by the liver. This may interact with peptic ulcers.

  • Treating stomach infections. Boldo has the ability of increasing bile production and inhibiting the bacteria that cause gastrointestinal infections.

How It Works

The proanthocyanidins in boldo have been shown to inhibit Helicobacter pylori bacteria by preventing them from adhering to the stomach lining. They can also stop urease, the enzyme produced by bacteria that causes ulcers.

In addition, boldine, proanthocyanidins, and catechins show antioxidant activity, meaning they scavenge free radicals that can cause damage to cells. However, the health implications of this medicinal action are not yet clear.

Boldo leaves contain 17 distinct alkaloids, most notably boldine.

Cranberry is another useful herb that can help treat stomach ulcers, and chicory also possess choleretic properties.

Boldo Side Effects

In the U.S. boldo is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) as a natural flavoring substance. However, it is not recommended to exceed the average daily doses of 3 g in any preparation. Ascaridole, a naturally occurring compound found in boldo, can have dangerous side effects, including liver damage. When consumed in high dosages, boldo can be fatal.

Cautions

When taken in excess, boldo increases the flow of bile, a fluid produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Moreover, the ascaridole found in boldo can worsen the condition of those with liver disease and - if consumed in excess - can cause liver damage in healthy individuals.

People with obstruction of the bile ducts should not use boldo, and doctor's advice is recommended for those who suffer from gallstones before consuming the herb in any form.

Additionally, boldo can slow blood clotting. Because of this, those who are about to undergo surgery should not use boldo in medicinal doses.

Because of its emmenagogue properties, ascaridole can trigger menstruation. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use boldo, since it can cause miscarriages and birth defects.

Products containing boldo leaf should not be ingested continuously for more than four weeks.

How to Consume Boldo

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsLeaves
  • Edible usesBeverage
  • TasteMildly bitter, Earthy

Despite some of its potential risks, the healing properties of boldo can be highly effective if the herb is consumed in limited amounts. The most effective way of obtaining the health benefits from boldo is in medicinal forms, where the ascaridole was likely filtered out.

Natural Forms

  • Raw. While it is rarely consumed in this form, raw boldo, when consumed in small quantities, can treat stomach infections by increasing bile production.

  • Infusions. In its most popular medicinal form, boldo infusions can help prevent and treat peptic ulcers.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Essential oil. In this concentrated form, which should be diluted in water before consumption, boldo can help protect the liver against infections and it is great for aiding digestion.

  • Capsules. Boldo capsules can treat stomach infections and prevent peptic ulcers because of its high concentration of proanthocyanidins.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySpecialized health stores, Online herb stores

Natural Forms

Prepared boldo teabags, which contain dried boldo leaves, can be found in specialized health stores, and are also available to be purchased through many online retailers.. Purchasing raw boldo is much less common, but is it available from specialized growers.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

In medicinal forms, such as oil and capsules, boldo is easier to be found online, where herbal retailers stock a wide variety of brands.

THERE IS A VARIETY OF BOLDO SUPPLEMENT CHOICES AVAILABLE THROUGH SPECIALIZED HEALTH SHOPS AND ONLINE STORES.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsLeaves
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • SoilLoamy sand
  • Soil pH5.6 – 6.0 (Moderately acidic), 6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic), 6.6 – 7.3 (Neutral)
  • Growing habitatMediterranean region, Andean region

In order to cultivate a boldo tree, it is important to pay attention to its environment.  

Growing Guidelines

  • Fertile, sandy soil is needed, and a good drainage is crucial; boldo trees should not be planted in soil that is too moist.

  • Boldo requires full sun exposure and enough space to grow. Proper irrigation is crucial.

  • Boldo grows best in temperate regions, which a tolerance of occasional light frost.

  • It should be grown indoors or in a greenhouse during its first winter, especially if it is grown in colder regions, since seedlings are vulnerable to bad weather.

  • During their first winter it is outside, boldo plants should be protected from snow and frost, possibly with a tarp or some sort of barrier to protect it from harsh wind and snow.

  • Boldo leaves can be gathered year round.

Additional Information

Plant Biology

A perennial tree native to Chile, boldo can be male and female, and in both cases is easily identified by its distinguishable flowers. This evergreen can grow up to 20 feet (6 m) high, and produces edible, nutritional, small green spherical fruits. Not particularly well-known beyond its native regions, every part of a boldo tree has a sweet aroma, even the leaves.

  • Classification

    Boldo is a member of the Monimiaceae family, which contains around 220 flowering plant species across 25 genera. The members of this family are native to the Southern Hemisphere. The first recorded fossil from this family dates back to the Cretaceous period.

  • Varieties and Subspecies of Boldo

    Peumus boldus is the only species in its genus. Obsolete botanical synonyms for this species include Boldea fragans and Peumus fragrans.

Historical Information

Boldo was a traditional remedy used by the Araucanians of Chile as a tonic because of its ability to stimulate bile flow. Some South American tribes used boldo as a remedy for insomnia, rheumatism, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

Economic Data

Boldo's main economic importance is in the tea industry, where it is produced as an herbal medicine. Boldo teabags are sold in some specialized grocery stores. Boldo is occasionally studied due to its active compounds. Chile continues to be the biggest producer of boldo.

Other Uses

Boldo also has insecticidal properties, and studies have shown that its essential oil is very effective as a natural herbicide.

Bibliography

  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, p. 245
  • Medicinal Plants of the World, p. 236
  • Germplasm Resources Information, Taxon: Peumus boldus Molina
  • Phytotherapy Research, Effect of boldo (Peumus boldus Molina) infusion on lipoperoxidation[...],2009 ; Catechin-based Procyanidins from Peumus boldus Mol. Aqueous Extract Inhibit Helicobacter pylori Urease [...], 2014
  • ESCOP Monographs: The Scientific Foundation for Herbal Medicinal Products, pp. 52 - 55
  • Issues in Life Sciences-Molecular Biology: 2012 Edition, p. 426
  • The University of Texas at El Paso, University of Texas System, Herbal Safety, Boldo
  • Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals, p. 93
  • Free Radical Research, Free-radical scavengers and antioxidants from Peumus boldus Mol., 2003
  • Pharmacological Research, Boldo and boldine: an emerging case of natural drug development, 1994
  • European Medicines Agency, Assessment Report on Peumus boldus