Boswellia Introduction

Boswellia is a gum resin extracted from Boswellia serrata, a native tree that grows in the mountainous and arid regions of India. Also known as Indian frankincense, boswellia has traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as a remedy for a variety of health problems, including arthritis, liver diseases, obesity, and dysentery. Current research imparts scientific credence to its traditional use, indicating that boswellia is especially useful as an anti-inflammatory for conditions such as arthritis, asthma, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease. [1-10] Boswellia appears to be a safe and effective herbal alternative to arthritis drugs.

Studies have found that boswellic acid, the active component of the Boswellia resin, relieves inflammation by limiting the infiltration of white blood cells (an immune system response to inflammation) into tissues and blocking the destructive enzymes that form leukotrienes (inflammatory compounds). In addition, boswellic acid has been reported to inhibit 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX), a key enzyme in the inflammation pathway, that is involved in the formation of pain and leukotrienes. [11-15] Boswellic acid relieves pain and swelling and protects arthritic joints without the adverse side effects associated with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). NSAIDs are also thought to promote the acceleration of cartilage degradation, while boswellia actually protects joint proteins (glycosaminoglycans) from destruction. [1, 13, 14]

Boswellia Uses

Parts Used

Gum resin from the stem bark of Boswellia serrata.

Boswellia Uses

Boswellia is used for its anti-inflammatory benefits, which are similar to that of NSAIDs [13, 14]. Studies suggest that boswellia supplementation may improve the symptoms of arthritis without the harmful side effects associated with NSAIDS and other arthritic drugs. Specifically, one study found a decrease in pain and disability in 42 osteoarthritis patients treated with an herbomineral formula containing boswellia. [3] Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 30 osteoarthritis patients reported a significant decrease in knee pain and disability when treated with boswellia. [4]

Boswellia supplementation has been reported to reduce inflammation and help treat respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, as well as bowel disorders like ulcerative colitis, chronic colitis, and Crohn’s disease. [5-10] A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 40 bronchial asthma patients demonstrated therapeutic effects in 70% of the patients when treated with boswellia. [6] Another study comparing boswellia to sulfasalazine treatment in patients with ulcerative colitis found similar therapeutic benefits with patients administered boswellia, as compared to patients taking sulfasalazine. [8] Studies have also been done to compare boswellia to mesalazine treatment in patients with Crohn’s disease. In these tests, participants showed improved patient scores on the Crohn Disease Activity Index (CDAI) for both boswellia and mesalazine. [10]

Boswellia Contraindications and Interactions

Boswellia Contraindications

Although adverse effects have not been reported when used in accordance with dosage guidelines, pregnant, lactating women, and children should not take supplemental boswellia, unless recommended by a health care provider. [15-19]

Boswellia Interactions

Although interactions have not been reported when boswellia is used in accordance with dosage guidelines, always inform your health care provider about the dietary supplements you are taking, since there may be a potential for drug interactions. [15-19]

Boswellia Dosages

Typical dosages range from 200 - 400 milligrams of a standardized extract of 20-25% boswellic acids, administered 2-3 times daily. Apply topically as directed.

Delivery Forms: Capsules, topical cream. [15-19]

Boswellia Toxicities

Side effects resulting from the use of boswellia are rare, but may include; nausea, diarrhea, and skin rash. Allergy has not been reported when boswellia is used in accordance with dosage guidelines. Always inform your health care provider about the dietary supplements you are taking, since there may be a potential for side effects or allergy. [15-19]


1. Boswellia serrata. Altern Med Rev. Aug1998;3(4):306-307.

2. Sander O, Herborn G, Rau R. Is H15 (resin extract of Boswellia serrata, “incense”) a useful supplement to established drug therapy of chronic polyarthritis? Results of a double-blind pilot study. Z Rheumatol. Feb1998;57(1):11-6.

3. Kulkarni RR, Patki PS, Jog VP, Gandage SG, Patwardhan B. Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. J Ethnopharmacol. May1991;33(1-2):91-5.

4. Kimmatkar N, Thawani V, Hingorani L, Khiyani R. Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee–a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. Jan2003;10(1):3-7.

5. Miller AL. The Etiologies, Pathophysiology, and alternative complementary treatment of asthma. Altern Med Rev 2001 Feb;6(1):20-47\

6. Gupta I, et al. Effects of Boswellia serrata Gum Resin in Patients with Bronchial Asthma: Results of a Double-blind, Placebo-controlled, 6-week Clinical Study. Eur J Med Res. Nov1998;3(11):511-14.

7. Safayhi H, et al. Inhibition by Boswellic Acids of Human Leukocyte Elastase. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. Apr1997;281(1):460-63.

8. Gupta I, Parihar A, Malhotra P, et al. Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with ulcerative colitis. Eur J Med Res. Jan1997;2(1):37-43.

9. Gupta I, Parihar A, Malhotra P, Gupta S, Ludtke R, Safayhi H, Ammon HP. Effects of gum resin of Boswellia serrata in patients with chronic colitis. Planta Med. Jul2001;67(5):391-5.

10. Gerhardt H, Seifert F, Buvari P, Vogelsang H, Repges R. Therapy of active Crohn disease with Boswellia serrata extract H 15. Gastroenterol. Jan2001;39(1):11-7.

11. Wagner H. Search for New Plant Constituents with Potential Antiphlogistic and Antiallergic Activity. Planta Med. Jun1989;55(3):235-241.

12. Ammon HP. Salai Guggal - Boswellia serrata: From an Herbal Medicine to a Non-redox Inhibitor of Leukotriene Biosynthesis. Eur J Med Res. May1996;1(8):369-370.

13. Ammon HP, et al. Inhibition of Leukotriene B4 Formation in Rat Peritoneal Neutrophils by an Ethanolic Extract of the Gum Resin Exudate of Boswellia serrata. Planta Med. Jun1991;57(3):203-207.

14. Ammon HP, et al. Mechanism of Anti-inflammatory Actions of Curcumin and Boswellic Acids. J Ethnopharmacol. 1993;38: 113.

15. Safayhi H, et al. Boswellic acids: novel, specific, nonredox inhibitors of 5-lipoxygenase. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1992 Jun;261(3):1143-6

16. Boswellia, Dietary Supplement Information Bureau:

17. Boswellia capsules, Life Extension Foundation:


18. Boswellia, PDR Health:

19. Pizzorno JE and Murray MT, eds. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, revised 2nd edition, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998: 704


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