Boldo is a medicinal plant that is used in many home remedies for treatment of liver issues, as it contains many digestive and hepatic properties. It also contains diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions, which can help with the treatment or prevention of other problems like gastritis, atherosclerosis and cancer.
The two most common types of boldo are Peumus boldus (which can be found in natural health stores as dry leaves, in tea bags or capsules) and Plectranthus barbatus (which can be planted and cultivated).
Although it has many health benefits, it is also associated with many side-effects when taken in excess or used for prolonged periods. It may also be contra-indicated for use by some people. Therefore, this plant should only be used under supervision of a healthcare professional who specializes in the medicinal plants.
The main health benefits of bold depend on the type that is used. These benefits include:
1. Stimulate liver function
Bolidine, which is an antioxidant that is especially seen in Peumus boldus can stimulate the production of bile in the liver. Forskolin and barbatusine, which are found in Plectranthus barbatus can also have the same action. With increased bile production, liver function can be more efficient and require less effort.
Other antioxidants in the plant can also be liver-protective, and can help to prevent fatty liver, as well as associated symptoms like headache, nausea and general malaise.
2. Weight loss aid
Glycosylated flavonoids are a component of Peumus boldus and contain a diuretic effect. This can help with the elimination of excess body fluid, making it a good complement to a weight loss program.
3. Complement treatment of gallbladder problems
Boldo stimulates the release of bile from the gallbladder, which is a compound that helps with the digestion of fat. Therefore, this plant may be beneficial for treating gallbladder problems. In addition, boldo can regulate gallbladder function.
When considered for gallbladder problems, use should be supervised by a healthcare professional. Depending on the severity of symptoms or type of presenting problem, boldo may also be contraindicated.
4. Improve digestion
Both types of boldo can improve digestion and decrease gas, especially when taken as a tea before or immediately following a meal. In addition, boldine can improve the action of bile release by the gallbladder, which helps with the digestion of fats and relieve indigestion.
5. Help with the treatment of gastritis
Alkaloids that are present in both types of boldo can neutralize stomach acid, making it a useful as a complementary treatment for gastritis. In addition, the astringent properties of boldo can reduce stomach acid production, which may help to relieve heartburn.
6. Relieve symptoms associated with food intolerance
Boldo contains digestive, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties that can help relieve symptoms of some food intolerances, like bad digestion, abdominal cramping and excessive production of gas.
7. Improve intestinal function
Boldin, an alkaloid present in Peumus boldus, acts as a relaxant that regulates intestinal function. This can especially be useful for the treatment of constipation. Bold also reduces the production of gas and helps to treat intestinal infections.
8. Eliminate fungi and bacteria
Boldo can help to eliminate bacteria like:
- Streptococcus pyogenes which causes throat infections or erysipela (a skin infection)
- Staphylococcus aureus which causes lung, skin and bone infections
Essential oil made from Peumus boldus also has antifungal properties and is especially effective against Candida sp which causes skin mycosis. Boldo should not, however, substitute treatment with antibiotics and should only be used under supervision of a doctor.
9. Antioxidant action
Boldo is rich in phenolic compounds like polyphenols and alkaloids (especially Peumus boldus), rosmarinic acid, barbatusine, and forskolin (which is found in Plectranthus barbatus). All of these compounds contain antioxidant action, which fight free radicals and reduce cellular damage.
Boldo can help to delay early aging and can prevent illnesses caused by excess free radicals, like Alzheimer's, atherosclerosis and cancer.
10. Relieve a hangover
Boldo can help to clean-up ethanal, which is a substance produced by the liver after consuming alcohol. Most hangover symptoms (like dry mouth, headache and general malaise) are a result of high ethanal levels. In a addition, boldin is liver-protective and helps to support liver function.
11. Calming effect
Boldo is an aromatic plant with a similar smell to mint. It has a calming and relaxing effect when used as a tea or in a bath.
Boldo tea for COVID-19
Boldo tea has become recently popular for its likely ability to fight off a COVID-19 infection. There are no studies, however, that support that its effectiveness for treatment of this virus.
Although boldo contains many health benefits, boldo tea should not be used for treatment of COVID-19, especially without any medical supervision.
How to differentiate and find the different types
There are some characteristics that help to differentiate the two most common types of boldo:
These leaves have smooth borders, and are longer, rougher and rounder.
This type of boldo can be purchased in supermarkets, pharmacies or natural health stores.
These leaves are larger and are also round. They tend to have a velvet texture and contain jagged borders.
This type of boldo is not as commercially available, and is usually sold in its plant form at garden centers.
How to use boldo
Boldo can be consumed in capsule form or in tea, juice or tinctures. Peumus boldus is more commonly used as dry leaves, while Plectranthus barbatus is more used with fresh leaves.
Boldo tea can be prepared immediately before taken, and the leaves should not be boiled in the water, as it tend to have a strong bitter taste.
- Peumus boldus tea: Add 1 tablespoon of leaves to 150 mL of boiled water. Allow to soak for 5 to 10 minutes, strain, and drink immediately after. This tea can be taken 2 to 3 times per day before or after meals. Another option is to drink one cup before bedtime to help with dinner digestion to promote a restful sleep.
- Boldo juice: Add 1 teaspoon of chopped boldo leaves,1 cup of cold water and a half cup of lemon juice to a blender. Mix until combined, strain and drink immediately after.
- Boldo capsules (Peumus boldus): Each capsule contains 200 to 400mg of dry boldo. Usually, dosing is indicated as 1 capsules once or twice a day.
- Tinture (Plectranthus barbatus): Mix 20g of the fresh plant in 100 mL (or 3 oz) of ethyl alcohol 70%. Drink 2.5 mL of this tincture diluted in 75 mL (or 2.5 oz) of water 3 times per day.
Another way to use boldo is in a soaker tub to relax and improve symptoms of fatigue and stress. The smell of boldo is similar to that of mint, therefore it promotes wellness. To use in a bath, you can boil 1 liter of water with some boldo leaves for 15 minutes, then pour this infusion into the tub. You can soak in the water for 10 minutes.
Possible side effects
Both types of boldo are safe for most adults when consumed for short periods of time. Nonetheless, if Peumus boldus is used in excessive doses or if used for over 30 days, it can lead to liver intoxication, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. This type of boldo can also increase uterine contractions and lead to abortion or impede with fetal development, especially when used during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Taking Peumus boldus can also cause anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction. Therefore, it is important to monitor for symptoms like a swollen tongue, difficulty breathing or swallowing. You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the symptoms.
Plectranthus barbatus, when taken in high doses or for over 30 days, can also cause stomach burning or pain and diarrhea. If you need to use this plant for longer than 30 days, you should take a 7 day break from it before continuing. In some people, Plectranthus barbatus can cause a skin reaction.
Who should not use it
Peumus boldus is not recommended for use by children, people with gallstones or biliary duct inflammation, people with liver disease, people with kidney disease, or with a history of gallbladder or pancreatic cancer. This type of boldo is also contraindicated for pregnant women (especially in the first 3 months) or women who are breastfeeding. If you suspect pregnancy, you should complete a pregnancy test before using boldo, as this plant can increase risk for abortion and increased uterine contractions.
Plectranthus barbatus should also not be used for children, pregnant women and breastfeeding women. It should also not be used in people with a history of high blood pressure, gallstones, renal disease or hepatitis.
In its tincture form, Plectranthus barbatusis contraindicated for diabetics and people with a history of alcohol abuse. This type of boldo should also not be used in conjunction with medications like metronidazole, disulfiram, sedatives, antihypertensives, anti-arrhythmics, digoxin and hormonal therapy for thyroid conditions. Because of its anti-acidic action, this type of boldo can decrease the effect of some medication that require stomach acid to be absorbed.
You should always use boldo under medical supervision, no matter the type that is used. Otherwise, its use should be guided by a health care professional that specializes in medicinal plants.