Peumus boldus

Another in the series on white-flowered medicinal plants written by Katherine, today’s entry has an illustration from Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen (in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons). Katherine writes:

Peumus boldus was described and published by Molina in 1782. Synonyms include Ruizia fragrans and Boldoa fragrans. Among its many common names are boldo, boldu, boldina, and baldina. This Chilean endemic species is the only representative of the genus.

Mature plants of this dioecious (individual plants are either male or female) evergreen tree attain about 6-8m (15-25 ft) in height. Shown in the illustration with pink-tinged white flowers, photographs of living material range from white to a pale yellow colour. The Plants for a Future database entry on Peumus boldus notes: “The small fruits are dried and used as beads in necklaces. When warmed by the body or the sun they release the scent of cinnamon”. The leaves are the primary part of the plant used, however.

Wikipedia touches on some of the uses of the leaves: “In Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay boldo is frequently mixed with yerba mate or other teas to moderate its flavor. In Brazil and Paraguay, many families keep a boldo plant at home for this purpose, although boldo teabags are readily available in nearly all supermarkets. It is believed in Southeastern Brazil that the leaves of the boldo plant can be used as an effective hangover and upset stomach cure.” A longer list of traditional medicinal uses is available from Plants for a Future (linked above), including: treatment of gallstones, liver pain, gonorrhoea, urinary tract infections, intestinal parasites and rheumatism.

The European Medicines Agency, in its Evaluation of Medicines for Human Use, noted in its final assessment report on Peumus boldus (PDF): “[Assessor’s Overall Conclusions] Sufficient data are available to develop a Community herbal monograph on the traditional use of Peumus boldus Molina, folium provided the indications are suitable for self-medication. The proposed indications are in accordance with the Commission E monograph (Blumenthal, 2000): Traditional herbal medicinal product for symptomatic relief of dyspepsia and mild spasmodic disorders of the gastrointestinal tract.”

but cautioned:

“Duration of use should be limited to 2 weeks. Use of boldo leaf is not recommended in children and adolescents and should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. Boldo leaf is contra-indicated where there is obstruction of the bile duct, cholangitis liver disease, gallstones or any other biliary disorder that would require medical supervision.
The use of comminuted herbal substance as such and of ethanolic extracts of boldo leaf are not considered acceptable for traditional herbal medicinal products in view of the potential risks associated with the toxic ascaridole (see Health Issues) constituent”.

Peumus boldus

5 responses to “Peumus boldus”

  1. Mary Wilson

    Interesting plant. Are there more references that discuss the toxic effects and why it cannot be used by pregnant women? Wish I had a degree in organic chemistry…I want some seeds. Any ideas on how to purchase the plant.I live in Minnesota. Any information on climate range?

  2. amanda

    When I lived in Paraguay, “te de Boldo” was very commonly used for a digestive. We did give it to the children as a vermifuge also. (along with yerba buena and papaya seeds)

  3. Irma in Sweden

    Stunning botanic illustration in which you can see every detail. Thanks

  4. elizabeth a airhart

    really fine write up thank you
    i have a book called mr marshall’s flower book
    alexander marshall 1620-1680 i like the old botanicals drawings
    then go on line see if any of the plants exist now

  5. Katherine

    Glad the series is being enjoyed so far.
    For Mary, I believe its because it is a uterine relaxant. These would be used to delay preterm birth. I’m unsure of its effects if taken accidentally, but can find out for you.

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