COMMON NAME(S): Boldo, Boldus, Boldoa, Boldina, Molina
FAVORITE USE(S): Used as an incense and tea for helping to reach a trance state by the Mapuche Indians of Chile
FAVORITE TIME(S): 3 cups of tea during the day
PARTS USED: Dried leaves
Boldo tea is commonly used in various Latin American countries as a cure for digestive and liver complaints. It’s also used as a hangover cure, partly because it is believed to be an effective liver detoxifier. What interests us most here is the fact that it was also used (and still is used) as a remedy for insomnia and sleeplessness. Those having difficulty sleeping reportedly not only were able to achieve restful sleep, but those who consume a day’s dose of Boldo tea had “increased dreaming activity” at night as well.
Even more curious, is that the Mapuche Shaman of Chile used Boldo leaves as in incense that helped them to reach a trance state. According to “Marginalities: Diamela Eltit and the Subversion of Mainstream Literature “, the vast majority of machis (Mapuche shaman) were women. The female shaman distinguishes herself from regular Mapuche women because of her ability to relate with the supernatural world through trance. And, although all Mapuche women are knowledgeable in the use of medicinal herbs, machis pride themselves in having methods of healing revealed to them through peuma or dreams.
Dreams and visions constitute an important aspect of Mapuche life, so naturally, the quest for herbs that help induce visions and dreams would be highly regarded. Like many African cultures, its through the oneiric realms that messages about both personal and social, positive and negative events are revealed, as well as connections to ancestral spirits. Unlike Christians, the Mapuches do not need churches to worship in because their religion is rooted in the unconscious. But, just like spirit possession and speaking in tongues of some Christian sects, under a trance state a machi purportedly communicates with the supernatural.
In one archaeological dig, a number of pipes were found. When they were sent off for analysis, it turns out that the pipes contained Cebil Seeds. This confirms the use of psychoactive plants in the Mapuche culture, as well as the existence of practices with psychoactive plants. It’s not known if the consumption of these pychoative plants were limited to machis, but this is exciting to consider. It’s no great leap to think that Boldo was used for its psychoactive properties. For the Mapuche, plants with psychoactive properties were linked with the world of ancestors. So sleep, delirium and dreams were pathways to visit this world, while the door was typically shaped like an herb such as cebil, tobacco and boldo.
I read elsewhere that some machis took heavy internal doses in order to induce visions and a strong trance state. BUT, in the “New American Herbal”, Boldo is listed under “Controversial Herbs” because the plant contains ascaridole. Boldo has Generally Recognized As Safe status (GRAS) for use in foods in the United States, and as long as Boldo is used as a tea instead of an extract, and when used orally, it is safe for consumption as a food.
An aromatic and curious tasting tea can be made from 2 teaspoons of dried leaves infused and steeped for 10 minutes in a cup of boiling water. An average daily dose should not exceed 3 grams of the dried herb for ultra safety. It also makes a nice tincture with an alcohol base. Indigenous uses of boldo has been widely documented. According to “The Healing Powers of Rainforest Herbs”:
Legend has it that the medicinal uses of the plant were discovered by chance: a Chilean shepherd noticed that his sheep were healthier, and had fewer liver problems, when they grazed on native boldo plants growing in his fields.
Boldo is an aromatic, richly branched shrub or a small tree that often grows over 20 feet tall. It’s an evergreen with leathery leaves. Both the flowers and fruits are small, and the berries are edible. They are harvested all year round, dried and used in herbal tea (often in conjunction with other herbs) and liqueurs. But, for dreaming, only the leaves are used, and typically in a tea. I would be very interested to know of anyone’s experience with this curious plant with such a rich, lost history.
- “Boldo” Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Therapeutic Research Faculty, 06 Mar. 2013. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
- Hoffmann, David: Medicinal Herbalism. The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Healing Art Press 2003.
- Herreros, Carmen Gloria Olivos: PSYCHOACTIVE PLANTS SYMBOLIC EFFICIENCY: INQUIRIES IN HERBAL MAPUCHE, Website.
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- Norat, Gisela. Marginalities: Diamela Eltit and the Subversion of Mainstream Literature in Chile. Newark: U of Delaware, 2002. Print.
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