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Boldo tea is an herbal infusion made from leaves of the boldo plant, a shrub native to Central and South America. The infusion is primarily used as a medicinal treatment. Herbalists and natural medicine practitioners often prescribe it for liver dysfunction, digestive problems, and rheumatism. Side effects are generally rare in low doses, but extensive and prolonged boldo ingestion is believed by many medical professionals to lead to kidney failure, convulsions, and intestinal damage. For this reason, sale of the herb is restricted in some countries.
The dried leaves of the boldo plant are often marketed as a tea, but the plant is not genetically related to tea plants at all. Boldo "tea" is usually made in the same way as a more traditional black or green tea, however, which makes the “tea” name widely accepted. Leaves are plucked from the plant, then set out to dry. They are then crumbled and infused in hot water to create a potent brew.
In some South American communities, boldo tea is also made from fresh leaves that have been crushed and strained. This is most common in communities where the plant grows wild, as commercially selling fresh leaves is often challenging. Fresh boldo tea preparations are usually much stronger and more potent, which means that fewer leaves are required, and their boil time is relatively short.
Boiled boldo leaves, whether fresh or dried, are usually very bitter, and can be unpleasant to drink. It is not uncommon for herbalists to blend the leaves with other true tea leaves to create a more palatable brew. Most of the time, only a small amount of baldo tea is required to achieve the desired effect.
Boldo tea is usually only consumed for medicinal purposes, in large part because of its bitterness. The plant has been revered in South America for centuries as having strong detoxifying and pain relieving principles. Key uses of baldo are for treatment for ongoing digestive problems, particularly ailments related to the liver. Some people also self-prescribe the tea for pain, particularly headaches related to the over-consumption of alcohol.
Most medical professionals discourage the self-prescription of any herbal remedy, even one as seemingly innocuous as boldo tea. While it is true that the herb has been actively used by people in boldo growing regions for hundreds of years, this does not necessarily make it safe for everyday consumption. Side effects of boldo are usually mild, but they can be serious, particularly in women who are pregnant. It is usually a good idea to talk to a doctor or herbalist about any problems before deciding to self-treat with boldo tea.
In some countries, the distribution of boldo is restricted or even illegal. Governments have different stances on herbal supplements, and different restrictions on how they can be used, distributed, or prescribed. Boldo is not usually characterized as a dangerous herb, but its potency and potential for abuse is concerning to some national leaders.