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Boldo

Boldo has been used in South America as culinary spice and as a folk medicine for injuries and pain. There is evidence that people may have started using boldo as a medicine over 12,500 years ago.

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Health benefits

Native tribes of South America have been using the leaves of boldo for hundreds of years both as a culinary spice and as herbal medicine to treat gout and ailments of the liver, bladder and prostate.

Additionally, it was used as a remedy for insomnia, rheumatism, cystitis, gonorrhea, syphilis, colds, constipation, indigestion and earache. The plant has been traditionally used to get rid of intestinal worms. The toxic compound ascaridole found in the essential oil has vermicidal properties that explains this use.

The herb was first introduced in 1875 in England and the U.S and then used to treat ailments related to the stomach, liver and bladder, but also as a mild nerve tonic and sedative.

Today, boldo is primarily used for:

  • The treatment of gallstones and gallbladder inflammation.The alkaloid boldin found in the herb has liver protective property and stimulates the production and secretion of bile.
  • It is considered one of the best medicinal herbs for many digestive disorders, such as bloating, heartburn, and poor absorption of nutrients in the stomach and intestines.

Botanical characteristics

Boldo is an evergreen tree or shrub that grows up to six metres high. It belongs to the monimiaceae family, which is closely related to the laurel family.

It is dioecious, meaning that there are male and female organs in separate plants. Boldo's light grey-green leathery leaves are elliptical-oval, have smooth edges, and light-coloured tubercles on the surface. They have a characteristic odour and a burnt-spicy, slightly bitter taste.

The intensely fragrant radial flowers are white or yellowish and arranged in clusters. The oval, aromatic pitted fruits are edible. Boldo flowers throughout the year.

Preparation

A.Vogel/Bioforce uses the dried, shredded leaves to produce an alcohol extract.

Infusions of the dried, shredded leaves are also common. In Chile, the Boldo bark is also used medicinally, where it is thought to be more effective than the leaves, which are used as seasoning.

The essential oil is used in the perfume industry.

The Boldo tree also provides a bark dye and hardwood also known by the name of Boldo.

Interesting facts about Boldo

  • Boldo is a tree that grows in the Andes mountains in South America. Interestingly, fossilized boldo leaves dating from over 13 000 years ago have been found in Chile. These fossils have the imprints of human teeth, suggesting that boldo has a long history of dietary or medicinal use.
  • While boldo has been 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.
  • Local fables tell of a Chilean shepherd who 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.

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