Boldo ( Peumus boldus) is an evergreen shrub native to South America. It grows about 6 to 20 feet high and has thick waxy leaves. Although boldo has a long history of use as a culinary spice and medicinal herb, and is still one of the most common medicinal plants used in Chile, it has only recently become the subject of scientific research.

The leaves of the boldo plant have traditionally been used as a treatment for liver and bladder disorders as well as rheumatism. They have also been used for a wide variety of other ailments, including headache, earache, congestion, menstrual pain, and syphilis. Recent research suggests boldo may protect the liver from toxins, stimulate the gallbladder, and reduce inflammation.1–4

Germany's Commission Ehas approved boldo for "spastic gastrointestinal complaints and dyspepsia."5Dyspepsia is a rather vague term that corresponds to the common word "indigestion," indicating a wide variety of digestive problems including stomach discomfort, lack of appetite, and nausea.

In Europe, dyspepsia is commonly attributed to inadequate flow of bile from the gallbladder. Although this connection has not been proven, boldo has been used as a treatment for dyspepsia based on how it affects the gallbladder. Boldo does not seem to increase bile production, but it may cause gallbladder contraction.6,7,8

Boldo taken alone has not been well evaluated as a treatment for dyspepsia; however, a combination herbal treatment containing boldo (along with other herbs thought to stimulate the gallbladder) has been studied. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 60 people given either an artichokeleaf/boldo/celandine combination or placebo found improvements in symptoms of indigestion after 14 days of treatment.9 How this combination might be effective for treating dyspepsia is unclear.

Note:Celandine may present significant risk of liver toxicity.10,11,12

Studies on animals have found that boldo may have some ability to protect the liverfrom toxins,13,14,15 perhaps due to the antioxidanteffects of a boldo constituent called boldine.16,17,18

Boldo also has anti-inflammatory properties,19,20,21 and, in addition, may act as a laxative.22 Finally the essential oilsfound in boldo have antimicrobial properties;23 this is true of many essential oils, however, and does not indicate that boldo can act as an antibiotic.