Boldo Tea Benefits and Side Effects

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Boldo tea is an herbal tea made from the leaves of the South American boldo tree. Boldo is a popular herbal treatment for ailments including digestive disorders, constipation, headaches, and other conditions. But you may experience side effects if you use this tonic and they may outweigh any boldo tea benefits.

What Is Boldo Tea?

Boldo (Peumus boldus) is an aromatic, evergreen shrub that is native to Chile, particularly the Andes Mountains.

The tree is also commonly found in other areas including Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, and Morocco.

Scientists believe that the leaves of this small tree have been consumed as a health tonic for ages. Fossilized boldo tree leaves have been recovered that contain human teeth marks, leading researchers to believe that boldo has been consumed for medicinal and/or dietary reasons for over 13,000 years.

While the bark of the boldo shrub might be consumed, it is usually the leaves that are consumed for health reasons. The leaves are steeped in hot water to make boldo tea, or the leaves are ground first then combined with water to make a beverage.

Boldo tea is not usually consumed on a daily basis. However, some sources suggest that consumers dilute boldo tea with yerba mate so that it can be consumed as a daily drink to prevent disease. Yerba mate—sometimes called mate—is an herb that is rumored to aid in weight loss and cancer prevention.

However, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center advises that "Regular use of mate is linked to increased risk of developing prostate, lung, bladder, esophageal, and head and neck cancers."

How to Make Boldo Tea

Boldo herbal tea bags can be purchased online and in some health food stores. The quickest and simplest way to make boldo tea at home is to use a high-quality tea bag and add hot water.

However, you can also buy dried boldo tea leaves and steep them to make the beverage.

How to Make Boldo Tea at Home

  • Place one to two tablespoons of dried, crushed boldo leaves in the bottom of a teacup.
  • Heat water to 90-95º Celsius or 194-205º Fahrenheit. If you don't have a temperature-controlled teapot, bring water to a boil and then let sit for a minute to reduce the temperature just slightly.
  • Pour eight ounces of water over the tea leaves.
  • Let tea leaves steep for as long as desired, usually 5-15 minutes
  • Strain loose leaves from the cup before drinking

You can also use a stove-top method with whole boldo leaves. Simply fill a small saucepan with water and add 2-3 leaves. Heat to boiling, then reduce and simmer for five minutes. Allow to cool slightly before drinking.

Does Boldo Tea Contain Caffeine?

Boldo tea is an herbal tea, not a "tea" in the traditional sense. That means it is not made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, like black tea or green tea. It is brewed just using parts of the boldo tree, which does not contain any caffeine. Therefore boldo tea is completely caffeine-free.

However, if you combine boldo tea with black tea, white tea, or green tea—as is often recommended—then you will get a boost of caffeine when you drink it.

Boldo Tea Health Benefits

There are many rumored health benefits of boldo tea. Most commonly the herbal drink is credited with detoxing the liver, eliminating gallstones, and boosting gallbladder health. But it is also promoted as a health tonic for other conditions including:

  • upset stomach
  • rheumatism/achy joints
  • cystitis
  • liver disease
  • gonorrhea
  • fluid retention
  • sleep problems
  • anxiety
  • constipation

Boldo has also been promoted as an antiseptic, as a bile stimulant, and as a weight loss aid.

According to several health sources, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of boldo tea for any of these conditions.

Furthermore, boldo may be unsafe for medicinal use.

Boldo Tea Side Effects

Boldo is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration when consumed in amounts typically found in food.  However, boldo leaf contains ascaridole, a volatile oil (also called an essential oil) that is toxic to the liver. According to several health sources, if you use boldo for health purposes, only ascaridole-free preparations should be used. Also, boldo applied directly to the skin may cause rashes.

It is also important to be aware that consuming boldo may put you at risk for certain side effects, especially if you are on certain medications. These are just some of the concerns noted by medical sources:

  • Boldo may be unsafe during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Boldo may be harmful to people with blocked bile ducts
  • Boldo should not be taken with alcohol
  • Boldo should not be consumed for at least two weeks prior to surgery
  • Boldo may not be safe for people taking lithium
  • Boldo should not be consumed if you are taking any medication that can harm the liver including Tylenol, Diflucan, Zocor, and several others.
  • Boldo should not be taken with medications that can slow blood clotting (Advil, Motrin, warfarin, and others)

Because boldo can interact with many different medications and may interfere with the treatment or management of medical conditions, you should speak to your doctor before consuming boldo tea.

Sources:

Boldo. Michigan Medicine. University of Michigan https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2051007

Boldo. Therapeutic Research Center. Natural Medicines Database. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=593

Boldo. Herbal Safety. UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation http://www.herbalsafety.utep.edu/herbal-fact-sheets/boldo/