Boldo Leaves: An Ancient Andean Herb

Boldo leaves have been used in South American folk medicine for centuries. The boldo plant is native to parts of Chile and Peru.

Archaeologists have found evidence that people in Southern Chile were using boldo leaves more than 12,000 years ago. They used it mostly for its medicinal benefits, especially for its ability to treat parasitic intestinal worms. In Peru, boldo leaves were used to treat liver ailments and gallstones. Practitioners of Peruvian traditional medicine also used boldo leaves as a diuretic.

Europeans began examining boldo leaves’ medicinal benefits in the late 1800s. By 1875, boldo was being used in Britain and France to treat stomach and liver problems. Boldo was sometimes used as a quinine alternative for treating malaria.

Today, boldo plants are cultivated in parts of Europe and North Africa as well as in the parts of South America from which it came.

Boldo leaves flavor profile

Boldo leaves are known for having a markedly bitter flavor. The flavor is accompanied by a woody aroma that makes it similar to bay leaves.

Health benefits of boldo leaves

It is said that boldo’s health benefits became widely known after Andean shepherds noticed that their sheep had fewer problems related to their intestinal health. The health benefits of boldo leaves may come from nutrients like:

  • Antioxidants: Boldo leaves are rich in antioxidants that can fight damage from free radicals and protect you from serious diseases as a result.
  • Boldine: Boldine is an alkaloid in boldo leaves that has anti-inflammatory properties and which can also promote gastric health.

You can start consuming boldo leaves if you want to treat or prevent conditions like these:

  • Inflammation: The antioxidant action of boldo leaves may prevent or alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory diseases including arthritis.
  • Foodborne illness: One of the traditional uses for boldo leaves is to combat dangerous microbes. Boldo leaves may be effective for treating infections caused by bacteria in food.
  • Liver damage: Researchers theorize that the boldine in boldo leaves can protect the liver from the effects of toxins.
  • Gallbladder problems: Because boldo leaves can stimulate bile production, they may help to prevent gallstones and jaundice among other problems.
  • Constipation: Some of the compounds in boldo leaves act as laxatives, so you can use it to make the passage of waste through the digestive system easier.
  • Stomach ailments: Boldo leaves can be used to enhance appetite and another of its benefits is that it stimulates the production of bile. Improved bile production can mean better digestion.

Health concerns

Boldo leaf tea should be consumed in moderation since large doses can cause serious health issues and may even be fatal. Large doses of boldo can cause serious kidney damage. Boldo leaves should not be taken by pregnant women since there is some evidence that it can cause miscarriage.

Common uses

The traditional way to consume boldo leaves is to make tea with them. Boldo tea is made by pouring a cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of dried boldo leaves and leaving it to steep for about 10 minutes. It is common to combine boldo leaves with yerba mate to dilute the intense bitterness.

Boldo leaves are also sometimes used to flavor slow-cooked dishes that feature lamb and other meats. In some parts of South America, it is common to wrap fish in boldo leaves.