Boldo leaves (Boldo folium, from Peumus boldus Mol.) are very frequently used
as a medicinal herb in Chile and are exported to many countries to be used in teas or as extracts
included in herbal remedies, primarily as an aid to digestion and as a mild sedative.
Scientific support for these uses is scanty, and boldine, an alkaloid viewed as characteristic
of the tree and present in high concentration in the bark, is extracted by specialized companies
and sold as the supposed main active constituent. Consequently, boldine has been the
subject of a considerable number of research papers, while some of the other alkaloids present
to a greater extent in the leaves have been relatively neglected except when found in
large amounts in other species. These studies range from assays of antioxidant activity to
anti-inflammatory, antineoplastic and other medical applications. The essential oil, usually
containing a large percentage of the toxic ascaridole, was once used as a vermifuge and is
now regarded with caution, but is still of interest as a possible natural insecticide, fungicide,
antiparasitic and herbicide. The last decade has seen an explosive increase in papers pointing
to possible uses of boldo and its constituents. This review attempts to bring these publications
together in a comprehensive way with the purpose of stimulating and orienting further
research into the useful properties of this Chilean endemic tree.