Presented by: UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation


Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.

Scientific Name:


Other Common Name:

Boldo do Chile, boldus, folo

Common names in Spanish:

Boldo, limoncillo.

Where is it found?

This aromatic evergreen shrub or small tree has greenish fruits and is indigenous to South America, mainly Chile and Peru. It is also found in Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, and Morocco, among other countries (Carretero-Accame et al., 2016; Jiménez, 2012; Mostacero-León et al., 2011).

Parts of the plant used:

The leaves and sometimes the bark of the tree.

How is it used?

The leaves are steeped in water to make tea. Some authors mention that grinding the leaves prior to steeping gives better results (Jiménez, 2012).

What is it used for?

The tea made from the leaves is taken principally for liver and gall- bladder problems, including gall bladder stones. The leaves are also antioxidant, carminative (anti-flatulent), anthelminthic (eliminates gastrointestinal worms), diuretic, laxative, cholagogue (stimulates the flow of bile), to promote digestion, to lower blood glucose, against gout, central nervous system sedative, to treat rheumatism, to eliminate skin blemishes, as an antiseptic, to treat syphilis and gonorrhea, as a liver protectant, to treat cystitis, and for kidney problems (Veitch et al., 2013; Quattrocchi, 2012; Jiménez, 2012; Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011; Mostacero-León et al., 2011; Berdonces, 2009; Duke et al., 2009; Alonso, 2007).

An ethanol extract made from boldo leaves was used simultaneously with cisplatin, to assess its ability to reduce cisplatin's cytotoxicity without affecting its anticancer effects. The results from the study showed that a low dose of the boldo extract could be used beneficially in conjunction with cisplatin in order to reduce the latter’s toxicity, without interfering with the drug's anticancer activity. (Mondal et al., 2014).

Although more than 20 alkaloids have been identified in boldo, boldine is the most important and abundant alkaloid found in the leaves and bark. This compound has been found to possess various positive health benefits including its action against oxidative stress via the inactivation of free radicals, also known as reactive oxygen species. Boldine possesses potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, anti-diabetic, and cytoprotective effects (Carretero-Accame et al., 2016; Lau et al., 2015, 2013). This alkaloid acts on the gall bladder, stimulating the secretion and production of bile (Van Wyk and Wink, 2014; Veitch et al., 2013; Mostacero-León et al., 2011).

An aqueous extract obtained from boldo leaves was shown to be neurotoxic in an animal experimental model (Mejía-Dolores, et al., 2014).

Safety / Precautions

  • Avoid ingestion during pregnancy and lactation, as well as in children (Carretero-Accame et al., 2016; Veitch et al., 2013; Garner and McGuffin, 2013).
  • Chaboussant et al. (2014) reported a case of abnormal behavior and hallucinations in a twelve-year-old girl who drank tea made with boldo leaves.
  • Boldo essential oil contains an antihelminthic compound known as ascardiol, which is very toxic (Carretero-Accame et al., 2016; Veitch et al., 2013; Duke et al., 2009; Alonso, 2007; Mills and Bone, 2005).
  • Boldo is contraindicated in people with gall bladder stones, severe hepatic problems (e.g. liver cancer) or obstruction of the biliary duct (Carretero-Accame et al., 2016; Garner and Mc Guffin, 2013; Veitch et al., 2013; ANVISA, 2011; HPMC, 2009;  Mills and Bone, 2005).
  • There is a documented case of anaphylaxis due to ingestion of boldo tea (Monzón, et al, 2004).
  • Products containing boldo leaf should not be ingested for extended periods of time (i.e. not more than 4 weeks, in discontinued treatments) (Veitch et al., 2013; Mills and Bone, 2005; Vanaclocha and Cañigueral, 2003).
  • A possible interaction between boldo and the drug tacrolimus in a renal transplant patient was reported by Carbajal et al. (2014).
  • Taken in high doses, boldo’s alkaloids could cause paralysis, hallucinations, and disturbances of the central nervous system (Van Wyk and Wink, 2014; Alonso, 2007).


Alonso J. Tratado de Fitofármacos y Nutracéuticos.
Rosario, Argentina: Corpus; 2007; pp. 212-215.

ANVISA (Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária). Formulario de Fitoterapicos da Farmacopeia Brasileira: Brasilia, Governo Federal do Brasil; 2011.

Berdonces JL. Gran Diccionario de las Plantas Medicinales.
Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Oceano; 2009; p. 224.

Carbajal R et al. Case report: boldo (Peumus boldus) and tacrolimus interaction in a renal transplant patient. Transplant Proc. 2014; 46(7):2400-2.

Carretero-Accame et al. Fitoterapia para la colestasis, las alteraciones hepáticas, las náuseas y los vómitos. Capítulo 19. En: Castillo-García E. y Martínez-Solis I. (Editoras). Manual de Fitoterapia 2da ed. Barcelona: Elsevier España; 2016; pp. 295-298.

Chaboussant PJ et al. [Behavioural impairments and hallucinations after consumption of boldo leaf infusions][Article in French]. Therapie; 2014; 69(5):465-7.

Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC). Assessment Report on Peumus boldus Molina, Folium; 2009; retrieved March 28, 2016.

Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, Ottensen R. Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2009; pp. 519-521.

Gardner Z, McGuffin M (Editors). Botanical Safety Handbook 2nd ed.
Boca Raton, FL; CRC Press; 2013; pp. 641-643.

Jiménez A. Herbolaria mexicana 2a ed.
Madrid: Mundi-Prensa; 2012; p. 90.

Lau YS et al. Boldine Ameliorates Vascular Oxidative Stress and Endothelial Dysfunction: Therapeutic Implication for Hypertension and Diabetes.
J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2015 ; 65(6):522-31.

Lau YS et al. Boldine protects endothelial function in hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress through an antioxidant mechanism. Biochem Pharmacol. 2013;85(3):367-75.

Mejía-Dolores JW et al. Efecto neurotóxico del extracto acuoso de boldo (Peumus boldus) en un modelo animal. Rev Peru Med Exp Salud Publica. 2014; 31(1):62-8.

Mendoza-Castelán G, Lugo-Pérez R. Plantas Medicinales en los Mercados de México.
Chapingo, Estado de México: Universidad Autónoma Chapingo; 2011; pp. 192-193.

Mills S, Bone K. Essential Guide to Herbal Safety
St. Louis, MO: Churchill-Livingstone/Elsevier; 2005; pp. 290-292.

Mondal J et al. Low doses of ethanolic extract of Boldo (Peumus boldus) can ameliorate toxicity generated by cisplatin in normal liver cells of mice in vivo and in WRL-68 cells in vitro, but not in cancer cells in vivo or in vitro. J Integr Med. 2014; 12(5):425-38.
Monzón S et al. Anaphylaxis to boldo infusion, a herbal remedy.
Allergy. 2004; 59(9):1019-20.

Mostacero-León J. et al. Plantas Medicinales Del Perú.
Trujillo, Perú: Asamblea Nacional de Rectores; 2011; Pp. 460-461.

Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants, Vol. 4.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; pp. 505-506.

Van Wyk E, Wink M. Phytomedicines, Herbal Drugs, and Poisons.
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press: 2014; p. 216.

Vanaclocha B, Cañigueral S. Fitoterapia: Vademécum de Prescripción 4ª ed.
Barcelona: Masson; 2003; pp. 142-143.

Veitch N, Smith M, Barnes J, Anderson L, Phillipson D. Herbal Medicines 4th ed.
London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2013; pp. 105-107.