Boldo ( Peumus boldus ) is an evergreen shrub native to South America. It grows about 6 to 20 feet high and has thick waxy leaves. Although boldo has a long history of use as a culinary spice and medicinal herb, and is still one of the most common medicinal plants used in Chile, it has only recently become the subject of scientific research.
The leaves of the boldo plant have traditionally been used as a treatment for liver and bladder disorders as well as rheumatism. They have also been used for a wide variety of other ailments, including headache, earache, congestion, menstrual pain, and syphilis. Recent research suggests boldo may protect the liver from toxins, stimulate the gallbladder, and reduce inflammation. 1–4
Germany's Commission E has approved boldo for "spastic gastrointestinal complaints and dyspepsia." 5Dyspepsia is a rather vague term that corresponds to the common word "indigestion," indicating a wide variety of digestive problems including stomach discomfort, lack of appetite, and nausea.
In Europe, dyspepsia is commonly attributed to inadequate flow of bile from the gallbladder. Although this connection has not been proven, boldo has been used as a treatment for dyspepsia based on how it affects the gallbladder. Boldo does not seem to increase bile production, but it may cause gallbladder contraction. 6,7,8
Boldo taken alone has not been well evaluated as a treatment for dyspepsia; however, a combination herbal treatment containing boldo (along with other herbs thought to stimulate the gallbladder) has been studied. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial , 60 people given either an artichoke leaf/boldo/celandine combination or placebo found improvements in symptoms of indigestion after 14 days of treatment. 9 How this combination might be effective for treating dyspepsia is unclear.
Note: Celandine may present significant risk of liver toxicity. 10,11,12
Boldo also has anti-inflammatory properties, 19,20,21 and, in addition, may act as a laxative . 22 Finally the essential oils found in boldo have antimicrobial properties; 23 this is true of many essential oils, however, and does not indicate that boldo can act as an antibiotic.
Germany's Commission E recommends 3 g of the dried leaf or its equivalent per day for digestive complaints.
Although comprehensive safety studies have not been completed, boldo leaf appears to be safe at normal doses. No side effects were reported in any of the animal studies . However, the plant's essential oils are very toxic and can cause kidney damage if taken in purified form, or if very large amounts of the leaf are ingested. The safety of long-term use is also questionable.
Individuals with gallstones should only take boldo under a physician's supervision due to the risk of gallstones being expelled and becoming lodged in a bile duct or the intestines. Those with obstruction of the bile ducts should not use boldo at all, due to the risk of rupture.
Warning: Animal studies suggest that boldo can cause birth defects and spontaneous abortion. For this reason, pregnant women should not use boldo. 24 Safety in nursing women, young children, and individuals with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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