Common Name


Botanical Name

Peumus boldus


Peumus boldus
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What Is It?

Boldo is a shrubby evergreen tree whose leaves have a history of medicinal use for general indigestion, and in formulas to relieve constipation. Boldo is used throughout Europe, South America and to a lesser extent in North America, as a remedy for gallstones and gallbladder inflammation, and for various types of liver disorders. Boldo is used in tonic and diuretic preparations, and for flatulence, and heartburn.

Boldo leaves are most commonly used in fluid extracts and as infusions. Additionally, both the bark and the leaves undergo extraction to yield purified boldine. Boldine shows up in several European preparations for the liver.5

Medicinal History

An excavation of Monte Verde in Southern Chile revealed the use of medicinal plants by people who inhabited that region 12,500 years ago. Archaeologists found boldo wrapped in seaweed.

In Chile boldo has been used as an anthelmintic against worms. This activity has been attributed to the presence of the anti-parasitic ascaridole, part of the essential oil found the the leaves. In Peru the leaves have been employed by indigenous tribes against liver diseases and to treat gallstones as well as a diuretic.

Boldo was first investigated for medicinal uses by a French physician in 1869. From that time, its anti-parasitic and liver-stimulating properties became better known. Boldo was used for a time as a substitute for quinine in cases of malaria. 7 In 1875 boldo was introduced to British and American pharmacists for the treatment of stomach, liver and bladder disorders. Studies since that time confirm these uses, and explain them on the basis of various phytochemicals found in the plant.

Habitat & Cultivation

Boldo is a shrubby evergreen tree growing 6 to 8 meters in height. Boldo is native to Chile, grows in Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru, and is naturalized in the Meditteranean. 2,6 Boldo is cultivated in parts of Italy, Brazil and North Africa to meet market demand for its medicinal leaves. 1 According to the French Pharmacopoeia, the leaves should contain at least .2% boldine.

How It Works

Boldo is naturally rich in an alkaloids (up to .7%), including one called boldine, which stimulates gastric activity, is anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic, specifically protects the liver, stimulates bile production, and provides antioxidant protection. 2,3,8 Boldo also contains several other anti-inflammatory compounds, including at least one laxative agent, p-cymene. 8 The leaf also contains a volatile oil which destroys parasites. Boldo is mildly diuretic, and is a urinary antiseptic. 7 These compounds and their activities both corroborate and explain the traditional and current digestive and laxative uses of boldo. Boldo also appears rich in other antioxidant compounds, providing further protection to cells.

Contemporary Uses Approved by Authoritative Bodies

Germany’s Commission E approves the use of Boldo for:

• Mild spastic complaints of the gastrointestinal tract.
• Dyspepsia (general indigestion).

HerbalMedicine cites further uses for boldo:
• Treatment for gallstones, liver ailments, cystitis, and rheumatism.

ESCOP approves the use of Boldo for:
• Minor hepatobiliary dysfunction (problems relating to the liver and bile).
• Symptomatic treatment of mild digestive disturbances.
• As an adjuvant in constipation.

Safety issues and concerns
• There are no safety issues or concerns related to boldo.

Contraindications – based on conditions and medication intake, etc.
• Boldo is not to be used in cases of obstructed bile ducts, or severe liver diseases.
• Those with gallstones should consult a physician before using boldo.

Potentially harmful drug interactions
• There are no known harmful drug interactions associated with boldo.

Allergy precautions
• There are no allergies associated with boldo.

Usage Tips

Boldo products will vary from powdered and encapsulated, to fluid exrtracts. Follow directions for use specified on various labels.

Traditional use of boldo is as an infusion (steeped tea), one cup 1-2 times daily. Use approximately 2 – 3 grams of boldo leaves per cup.

Product Choosing/Buying Tips

Choose certified organic boldo whenever the option exists. Also, keep an eye out for boldo products which come from a sustainable harvesting program.

Science Update

Boldo Increases Intestinal Transit Time

Twelve volunteers received 2.5 g of a dry boldo extract or a placebo during two successive periods of four days. On the fourth day, oro cecal transit time (the time it takes from food to travel from mouth to colon)was larger after dry boldo extract administration, compared to placebo. Dry boldo extract prolongs oro cecal transit time, a possible explanation for some of its medicinal use.

Studies in animals also show that boldo relaxes smooth muscle and prolongs gastric transit time.

Dyspepsia, or common indigestion, is often attributed to inadequate release of bile from the gallbladder. Boldo has been used as a treatment for dyspepsia , due to its bile-releasing properties.