Boldo is an evergreen shrub that develops unhurriedly and often grows to a height of 6 m to 8 m. The shrub is native to South America, especially in the Andean expanses of Chile and Peru, and is also indigenous to different regions in Morocco.
While boldo have bee used as a cooking spice and a therapeutic herb for ages, it is still one of the most familiar and widely used medicinal plant in Chile. The boldo shrub is usually grown between December and February. Unfortunately, despite its numerous medicinal properties and utilization, till recently, not much research was undertaken to ascertain the benefits of boldo.
The bark of this herb is used in tanning, while the wood is exploited in producing charcoal. Presently, boldo is commercially cultivated in Brazil, Italy and North Africa. On the other hand, by tradition, the leaves of the boldo herb have been utilized for treating rheumatism as well as bladder and liver disorders.
The leaves of the herb have also been used for treating an assortment of other disorders such as earache, headache, congestion, syphilis and menstrual pain. Findings of some researches undertaken recently have hinted that boldo can possibly defend the liver from toxins, invigorate the gallbladder, as well as alleviate inflammation.
The boldo produces broad waxy leaves and petite fruits that have resemblance to berries. The flowers of the herb too are small having a bell-like shape and yellowish hue. Interestingly, the aromatic flowers of boldo have only one sex – either male or female, and even the plants are unisexual in nature.
Owing to this unique characteristic of the boldo, it is essential to grow the male and female plants of the species close by with a view to facilitate their reproduction.
The boldo bears large, rubbery leaves that are easily recognizable owing to the copious tiny wart-like lumps or outgrowths on the exterior façade or upside, while their edges are somewhat curved inwards. The leaves of the boldo grow opposite to each other on the stems and are compact.
Usually the leaves grow to a length of 2 inches and have a reddish-brown hue when dried, have a leathery appearance with a midrib that is sticking out. The leaves have a strange scent and when mashed their odor is extremely unpleasant, something akin to the oil of Chenopodium or the wormseed.
Following refinement, the boldo leaves yield around 2 per cent of scented oil that is very unstable by nature and related to the oil of Chenopodium from the chemical point of view. The small green fruits of boldo, which contain plenty of
sugars, are very delicious as well as nutritious.
Dried leaves and fruits.
Since ancient times, the boldo has been put to numerous home-grown uses and all these original utilities of the shrub have been recognized extensively. Going by the myths, the therapeutic benefits of boldo were revealed by mere accident. According to fables, a
Chilean shepherd observed that his sheep were in a better physical shape and seldom suffered from liver disorders when they nibbled on the local boldo shrubs growing in his pastures. Following such a remarkable breakthrough by the shepherd, more and more natives of Chile were encouraged to use the plant to treat bowel, liver and gallbladder disorders.
In the traditional herbal medicine of Chile, the boldo is also utilized to cure insomnia, cystitis, rheumatism, colds, constipation, hepatitis, flatulence, indigestion or lack of appetite and also to force out intestinal worms. In addition, this herb, which is deemed to be an useful general tonic or energizer, is also said to be effective in treating earaches and gallstones.
In addition to these therapeutic uses of the herb, natives of Chile and neighboring regions have been consuming the fruits of boldo as a spice, while the wood of the shrub has been utilized to make charcoal and the bark to tan animal hides. Native tribes in several regions of Peru make use of the boldo leaves to cure gallstones, liver ailment and also as a diuretic.
Herbal medical practitioners as well as the common people across the world have recognized and acknowledged the numerous traditional therapeutic benefits of boldo.
All over the globe, herbal as well as homeopathy medicine practitioners use the plant or its extracts to treat different digestive problems, liver disorders, as a laxative, a diuretic, and also to enhance bile production in the gallbladder.
The boldo leaves are exploited to eradicate intestinal worms, alleviate inflammations in the urogenital region, cure jaundice, rheumatism, dyspepsia, earaches, head colds and also sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea.
Similarly, conventional herbal medical practitioners in Brazil use boldo to cure an assortment of maladies, including liver clogging, hepatitis, flatulence, constipation, pains and cramps in the stomach and intestines, gallstones, giddiness, sleep disorders, including insomnia, rheumatism or arthritis and poor digestion or absence of desire for food.
In all other regions of South America, boldo is extensively used to cure gonorrhea along side treating gallbladder, liver and digestive problems.
In Germany, boldo is a major topic of medical dissertation that enables the use of the plant as an herbal drug to cure minor gastrointestinal seizures and also dyspeptic complaints.
German herbal medical practitioners also exploit the plant to cure several other disorders, including gallbladder and liver ailments, gastric problems, as well as to invigorate the release of digestive enzymes, particularly enhance production of bile as well as the release of enzymes in the liver and gallbladder.
Basically, the medicinal use of the herb is more or less same all over the world. In all the European regions, people use this herb for similar uses as the Germans do. In addition to what has been discussed above, the German herbal medicine practitioners also use boldo to cure lack of appetite or poor digestion and also as an antispasmodic to relieve muscle cramps.
On the other hand, boldo finds its utility in the American herbal medication scheme as a stimulant that enhances saliva secretion, activity of the liver and flow of bile. This herb is valued for its effectiveness in curing liver disorder, gallstones as well as alleviating pain of gallbladder.
It is interesting to note that several hundred years back, the boldo was an insignificant plant growing in most of the Chilean farmer’s fields. People were unaware of the plants multifarious therapeutic benefits and it remained neglected for centuries.
However, once people became aware of the benefits of the boldo, it was grown extensively and at present, the plant is commercially cultivated in large fields all over the globe and is supplied to the markets according to specific therapeutic demands or as general herbal medications for treating gallstones and alleviating gallbladder inflammations.
In addition, it is marketed as an herbal remedy for stomach, liver and other digestive problems. Here is a word of caution for all those suffering owing to gallbladder stones. It is essential for people enduring this problem to consult qualified and competent healthcare professions prior to endeavoring self-medication using boldo.
Administration of this herb has such a powerful impact on the gallbladder that it not only unloads the stones, but also breaks them down into smaller pieces. In turn, this may even cause an obstruction in the bile ducts positioned beneath the gallbladder.
In addition, uncontrolled use of boldo may even result in the damage of the pancreas. In order to stay away from such complexities, boldo needs to be used in mild dosages and preferably in combination with other herbs.
It may be mentioned here that the majority of the digestive problems are a result of the absence of bile and other digestive enzymes secreted by the gastric system. This eventually leads to slow digestion and often gives rise to bloating as well as an awkward sense of fullness following a meal even though the person may not have eaten sufficiently.
It also leads to the formation of gases in the intestines, fermentation and belching, inadequate absorption of the nourishing substances in the stomach and bowel.
In such situations, boldo is considered to be among the excellent natural cures that help us to get rid of such disorder and, at the same time, kindles the manufacture as well as release of bile and other essential digestive enzymes in the gallbladder, liver and stomach. In this way, usually boldo not only helps to make the most of, but also accelerate the digestive processes.
Most importantly, majority of the herbal fitness practitioners exploit boldo as the first herbal medication to help in getting the liver free of all toxic elements as well as thwart any possible injury to the liver from the venomous substances and drugs that have the potential to have a poisonous impact on the liver.
Nevertheless, it needs to be reminded once again that the users ought not to go beyond the approved dosage for boldo, as it is a very potent and vigorous herb that should be used with care and caution.
Presently, a number of boldo products are available in the market in the United States and in different forms, such as capsules, tablets as well as liquid extracts. Some of these liquid extracts offer a consistent and homogenous amount of boldo.
In Europe, such homogenous or standardized boldo extracts are only available by prescription. On the contrary, they are sold as over-the-counter drugs in the United States and the users do not require any prescription to avail them.
Habitat and cultivation
Although boldo is indigenous to South America, particularly Chile where its remedial characteristics were first discovered, over the years, the plant has been naturalized in Brazil, Peru, parts of North America and Europe. Today it is cultivated in different parts of South America, North America and Europe, but only to some degrees.
Hardly any research was undertaken with boldo till the first half of the 20th century. It was only in the 1950s and 1960s that the scientists first endeavored to verify the conventional therapeutic utilities of the boldo leaves.
During the course of their studies on animals, the scientists discovered that the extracts obtained from the boldo leaves possessed the aptitude to stimulate diuretic, digestive as well as bile production.
While most researches ascribed these properties to boldine, a vigorous alkaloid present in the plant, one laboratory study conducted on rodents found that an alcohol extracted from the boldo leaves was more vigorous compared to only boldine.
The scientists discovered that when an ethanol extracted from the boldo leaves was administered on mice, it demonstrated the aptitude to protect the liver and save it from any type of injury owing to exposure to external compounds.
According to a latest study on humans, boldo has shown to possess the characteristic to lighten up the soft muscle tissues and also draws out the food passage period in the intestines. This particular feature of the boldo leaves authenticates the conventional medical uses of the herb to cure digestive problems.
While the researchers have also identified the antioxidant characteristics of boldo, studies on animals have validated that the leaves of boldo also function as an anti-inflammatory agent.
A dissertation prepared by researchers in the United States testifies that boldo is a potent durative and has the potential to enhance the output of urine by as much as 50 per cent and this again confirms the herb’s conventional use as a diuretic since ages.
As boldo is a very potent herb, when taken in high doses or without the recommendation of a qualified and trained healthcare professional, the medication may result in serious repercussions. In fact, several toxicity studies conducted with the boldo has shown the herb to be highly powerful and may have serious side effects.
Hence, medical practitioners advise that the herb must not be taken chronically or for a long duration continuously and all care and caution should be adopted while using the medication. The essential oils present in boldo contain a chemical known as asaridole, which is anti-parasitic and has the ability to expel worms from the intestines.
As the same time, asaridole is said to have toxic effect on the liver and, hence, one should be careful while consuming it for treating any disorder. Hence, any products containing purified essential oils of boldo should only be applied externally.
As mentioned earlier, consuming boldo or boldo products in high doses may have toxic effect and also prove to be detrimental for the health.
When the herb is taken in excess measures, more than the normal conventional dosages of the natural boldo leaf, it may lead to side effects such as spasms, muscle cramps, paralysis of the muscles that may eventually result in respiratory paralysis. Laboratory tests conducted with boldo on rats showed an intoxicant effect on the uterine.
An experiment conducted with rodents in 2000 demonstrated that an extract from dehydrated boldo leaves and a vigorous chemical enclosed by it called boldine had an abortive effect on pregnant rats as it killed the fetus and also reduced the intensity of cholesterol, glucose, bilirubin, alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and urea in the blood vessels.
Nevertheless, surprisingly enough, these researchers stated that despite the chronic usage of normal dosage of the boldo leaf extract as well as boldine of more than 90 days there was no noxious consequence on the rats.
Boldo encloses several chemicals that are organically vigorous. Thus far, scientists have identified the presence of as many as 17 alkaloids in boldo and many of these are considered to be the major vigorous elements of boldo. Nevertheless, scientists have ascribed a solitary alkaloid called boldine for the majority of the biological actions of the boldo plant.
Apart from boldine, the chemical composition of boldo includes several other vital elements. Stating in their alphabetical order, the other constituents of boldo are:
- gamma terpinene
- trans verbenol
In addition to these, boldo also encloses little quantities of flavonols and their glycosides, such as boldoglucin and isorhamnetin.
Numerous researches undertaken during the last several years have demonstrated that boldine has the ability to look after the liver, kindle the secretion of bile in the liver and also to motivate appetite and assimilation of the ingested food by the body, enhance the release of vital gastric enzymes as well as the manufacture of bile and its release from the gallbladder.
Several other laboratory examinations have helped scientists to ascertain the diuretic, fever lowering and anti-inflammatory characteristics of boldine along with the alkaloid’s aptitude to lessen the surplus uric acid in our system.
Findings of the studies conducted on animals showed the anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic (ability to alleviate muscle cramps) features of boldine.
In addition, these studies also established that boldine possesses the aptitude to shield from colon injuries as well as tenderness in induced colitis (a chronic digestive disease characterized by inflammation of the colon) and colon soreness among animals.
Additional studies conducted on boldine hints that the alkaloid produces a well-built cellular defensive as well as antioxidant result in the blood and is able to regulate gluey blood by slowing down the intensification of platelets. Findings of a research conducted in 2002 reported that boldine also had an impact on the cardiovascular system too.
According to the scientists who undertook the research, the alkaloid enhanced the flow of blood in the coronary system, slowed down cardiac force and the tempo of the heart beat as well as demonstrated vasorelaxant activity.
It is interesting to note that nearly all the studies undertaken on boldine have corroborated the conventional remedial uses of the plant in treating several kinds of digestive disorders and purging troubles, liver ailments as well as gallbladder disorders.
And going by the number of researches conducted on boldine so far, the reason behind the majority of the boldo herbal medications that are marketed in Europe being regularized for the content of this significant and vigorous alkaloid may be well understood by anyone.
To prepare a choleretic tea, or an infusion that stimulates the liver to increase the bile production in the liver, you require one to two grams of sliced boldo leaves. It produces results when drunk twice or thrice daily – the approximate dosage of the medication is three grams daily. Alternately, one can also make use of homogenous preparations and teas with the herb.
The oil extracted from boldo leaves is effective in curing genitor-urinary tenderness or inflammation. To obtain best results use five-drop dosage of the oil each time (use externally). In South America, the boldo has been used conventionally to treat sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea.
Side effects and cautions
While boldo has been found to be effective in curing numerous digestive, liver and gallbladder disorders, the herb has its downsides too and may result in serious aftereffects. People who desire to use the herb should essentially seek the advice of competent and trained herbal medical practitioners.
Besides, a dose in excess to what has been prescribed by the herbal medical practitioners may prove to be detrimental for the overall health. Hence, the herb should always be taken under the guidance and advice of experienced herbal physicians.
During researches and also otherwise, the plant has shown to affect pregnancy by resulting in abortions. Studies conducted on animals have demonstrated fetal birth deaths and, hence, boldo should never be used during pregnancy or lactation. The other side effects of boldo include thinning of blood.
This is owing to the chemicals enclosed in the herb and, therefore, people taking drugs to make the blood thinner, for instance, Warfarin®, or people who have been suffering from ailments that tend to thin the blood, for instance, hemophilia or thrombocytopenia, ought not to take the herb unless it is prescribed by their healthcare professionals.
In fact, the herb has the aptitude to make the effect of drugs like Warfarin® more potent and, hence, it should never be used while taking the drug. In addition, boldo has demonstrated to possess diuretic properties and hence it is advisable not to use the herb chronically or for an extended period.
An in vivo clinical examination (an experimentation done in or on the living tissue of a whole) indicates that boldo and/ or boldine has the aptitude to diminish the metabolic start and/ or absorption of venomous substances, medications and compounds in the liver. In effect, boldo, in itself, has the potential to diminish the impact or lessen the half-life of specific drugs that ought to be absorbed in the liver.