Botanical Name: Boswellia serrata.
Other Common Names: Indian frankincense, salai guggal (guggul), shallaki.
Habitat: Boswellia serrata is endemic to India and Pakistan.
Description: The plant is a deciduous branching medium-sized tree of the Burseraceae family.
The bract is gray and papery and the leaves are green and alternate. The tree produces white flowers.
There are sixteen known species in the genus Boswellia, including Boswellia sacra and Boswellia carteri but it is Boswellia serrata that is mostly used in herbal medicine, mainly for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Plant Parts Used: The tree trunk produces resin (oleoresin) which is purified and then used as an extract in medicinal applications.
The hardened resins are called tears.
Therapeutic Uses, Benefits and Claims of Boswellia Serrata
In herbal medicine, boswellia is best known for its use in treating arthritis. The active ingredient, boswellic acid, in the resin is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
It has also been said to have pain relieving properties.
Boswellia serrata extract has also shown promise in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood and liver. This makes it an effective agent in lowering overall cholesterol levels.
The extract also has a mild sedative effect, as well. This effect is a welcome side effect and aids in the pain relief effect on arthritic joints.
Asthma has been treated successfully using boswellia serrata extract. It helps to relax the bronchial passageways.
It has also been used to treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis effectively, as well.
Some research shows promise in the immunity boosting properties of boswellia extract use.
A study made by Colorado State University indicates that boswellia could be helpful for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) by reducing inflammation in the bowels. [Reference]
Dosage and Administration
Boswellia is available in tablets, capsules, or in a liquid form of the extract from the gum resin. The liquid form can be made into an ointment to be applied topically.
Customary daily dosages are usually between 300 and 500 mg of the extract three times daily. The actual recommended dosage of boswellic acid is 150 mg three times per day.
Since many herbal remedies are standardized to different percentages of active ingredients (especially boswellic acid) it is important to follow manufacturer recommendations.
The topical application can be used as needed to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints, not to exceed 5 applications in a 24 hour period.
Potential Side Effects of Boswellia Serrata
Side effects from boswellia use are rare, but occasionally nausea, diarrhea, or skin rash may occur.
There are no confirmed documented contraindications or drug interactions but the herb might increase the effects or toxicity of some.
It should not be used by pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding.
Kamboj, V. P.: A Review of Indian Medicinal Plants with Interceptive Activity. Indian J Med Res 1988
Pole S: Ayurvedic Medicine – The principles and traditional practice. Churchill Livingstone 2006
Anon: The Useful Plants of India. India. Publications & Information Directorate, CSIR, New Delhi 1996.
Luna, R.K.: Plantation Trees. Dehra Dun, India. International Book Distributors 1996.
Singh, R.V.: Fodder Trees of India. New Delhi, India. Oxford & IBH Co.1982.