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What is boldo? What is it used for?

Boldo is a small shrub similar to an evergreen tree. Native to Chile, it was brought to Europe hundreds of years ago, where it grows in abundance, especially in the Mediterranean region. The leaves are used medicinally.

Boldo contains several active ingredients, including alkaloids, flavonoids and volatile oils. The major alkaloid found is called boldine, which is believed to stimulate the production of bile and act as a diuretic. Another compound found in the plant’s oil, ascaridole, has been used to fight parasites but is also quite toxic.

In South America, boldo has been used as a liver tonic and treatment for gallstones. When used in conjunction with other herbs such as cascara, rhubarb and gentian, some studies have found that boldo improves symptoms related to loss of appetite.

How much boldo should I take?

Many herbal practitioners recommend infusions of dried boldo leaf taken at a rate of three grams per day. Other practitioners recommend a boldo tincture (1ml three times per day, for no greater than three weeks). If possible, only products free of ascaridole should be used.

What forms of boldo are available?

Some South American markets sell dried boldo leaves; other stores sell boldo tinctures and extracts. Essential and volatile oils should not be taken.

What can happen if I take too much boldo? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

The German Commission E recommends that only ascaridole-free boldo preparations be used, and that it should not be taken for more than three to four weeks continuously. Because it contains a compound known as terpene-4-ol, boldo should not be taken by people with kidney disorders. It should also be avoided by people who are pregnant or nursing, or who have liver problems.

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  • Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998;93—4.
  • Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Publications, 1997;26.
  • Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996;95—6.
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  • Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Tyler’s Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicines. New York: Haworth Press, 1999;74—5.





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