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Boswellia Serrata – Medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties

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Although we are used to identifying as plants all those that have medicinal potentials, there are also shrubs and trees, such as Boswellia serrata, which is characterized by having an essential oil potential that is accepted to cure multiple problems.

As always, we are going to show you a little bit of this plant, delving into its properties and how to squeeze the most out of its potential.

History of Boswellia serrata

Boswellia is a tree that can reach several meters in height and is typical of India, North Africa and the Middle East. From it is extracted an incense well known in Asia called Salai.

Belongs to the family Burseraceae which includes about 600 species of woody, elastic trees that mostly contain a kind of very odorous latex. There are about 25 known species belonging to the genus Boswellia and many of them share the same properties (with differences in the concentration of some of their components).

However, within popular beliefs, of these 25 species, only 3 or 4 are considered to be the true producers of the resin that cures inflammation and muscle problems:

  • Boswellia sacra (grows in southern Arabia)
  • Boswellia carterii Birdw (grows in Somalia)
  • Boswellia frereana Birdw (also from Somalia)
  • Boswellia serrata Roxb (specific to India and marketed under the name of Shallaki)

Cultivation and care

We always dedicate a space to know the agronomic characteristics of the plant or crop of which we speak. In this case, although there is not much information collected, we give some tips on its cultivation.

Boswellia Serrata is a species adapted to warm environments, with very mild winters and summers of high temperatures. It grows wild in places like India, Somalia and countries in Arabia.

It is accustomed to drought conditions and has powerful exploratory roots that allow it to survive under months of intense heat and without water availability.

We must choose a place to full sun during its first years of life, although later it will reach several meters in height.

The soil type it must be alkaline.

The multiplication it can be done through seeds (although it is not a simple task because it has a very low germination rate) or through cuttings. In the case of seed, it can have in good condition a germination rate of 5-10% or even less. Although techniques such as stratification, cold or humidity prior to planting can improve these percentages.

Cultivation and properties of boswellia serrata

Cosmetic properties

Some of the varieties of Boswellia they are producers of incense. For example Boswellia carteri. This sacred substance for many countries has great cosmetic properties.

It reduces states of anxiety and improves the turgor of the skin, giving it clarity, softness and acting as an antiseptic.

To do this, there is a wide variety of frankincense oils which come from subtypes of this genus. In fact, we can even get it in the form of a shower gel or shampoo, since it has great moisturizing properties for the hair.

Medicinal properties of Boswellia serrata

Composition of its essential extracts

The characteristics that determine the effects that Boswellia have are due to the concentration of these elements:

  • Phenylpropanoids (10-11%) – Estragol
  • Monoterpene hydrocarbons (α-thujene, δ-3-carene, α-pinene)
  • Sesquiterpenes (α-terpineol)
  • Oxygenated benzenoids
  • β-Boswellic
  • Acetyl-β-boswellic acid
  • Estragol

Some of these compounds have high antioxidant activity, antimicrobial and antifungal, and are currently under investigation.

The resin of the species Boswellia herself it has been used as incense in religious and cultural ceremonies and medicines since time immemorial.

Gum resin extracts from Boswellia serrata they have been traditionally used in folk medicine for centuries to treat various chronic inflammatory diseases.

Anti-inflammatory power

This property is one of the best known and most studied of Boswellia serrata. Some of its compounds, such as quercetin, have anti-inflammatory properties since they block the pro-inflammatory enzyme, 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO).

This compound also has antioxidant activity. Boswellic acids have been shown to significantly reduce the degradation of glycosaminoglycans, so they do not accelerate joint damage under arthritic conditions when their consumption is long-term.

Therefore, it is effective against:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Improved knee joint
  • Antiseptic effects
  • Sciatic pain
  • Drop

Although you have to read the label carefully and consult with a medical specialist, the oral dose is usually between two and three capsules per day.

From the scientific point of view, it is very interesting to discover a mechanism of action, typical of Boswellia it appears to be different from aspirin and steroid drugs, and therefore reduces the well-known side effects of these drugs.

Reduces respiratory diseases

Recent studies have found that boswellic acids stimulate mucus secretion, so Boswellia play a role in cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

It is being investigated with positive results to treat diseases related to chronic asthma. Without emabargo, it seems not to be as effective in situations of acute asthma attacks.

Against prostate tumor

Acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid inhibits prostate tumor growth by suppressing vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-mediated angiogenesis.

Action against arthritis

Several important investigations have been developed relating the extract of this plant with a curative action against osteoarthritis.

It was established that, with a dose of between 100 mg and 250 mg daily and over a period of 3 months, there was a notable improvement of between 45 and 65% respectively of the population subjected to the study. The improvement and reduction of pain occurred within 7 days of starting treatment.

In people suffering from this problem, it can be combined with other species and medicinal plants, like turmeric.

Reduction of ulcerative colitis

From the boswellic acid and other compounds present in Boswellia Serrata, significant improvement has been seen in ulcerative colitis treatment.

With a used dose of 350 mg of concentrated extract, taken 3 times a day, a high efficacy with remission of ulcerative colitis was established in 82% of individuals.

With a dose reduction of 300 mg 3 times a day, treatment success occurred in 70% of the studied population.

Antibacterial action

Studies carried out in vitro against a large catalog of bacteria that affect humans have given very good results, inhibiting their development and multiplication. This is the main step in moving on to clinical trials on animals or humans.

What has been seen is a great antibacterial effect of the extract of Boswellia Serrata against Gram positive bacteria.

How to take this anti-inflammatory plant?

Boswellia it is usually taken as a capsule, tablet, or decoction of bark orally.

The recommended dose is based on historical practice or available trials. However, the exact dose applied to each of the patients has yet to be defined, depending on their initial conditions.

In the market we can find different products based on Boswellia serrata and other related species.

  • In the form of tablets and adaptable to vegans
  • Compress1200 mg
  • Soaps and resins
  • Decoction of the bark for oral use
  • Cream for external application

In the latter case, the cream for local use and anti-inflammatory activity, can go alone or accompanied by other herbal extracts such as arbutin, licorice extract and coriander seed oil.

Keep in mind that it reduces the activity of the enzyme tyrosinase within the skin, thus decreasing the production of melanin, resulting in the reduction of dark skin formation.

Here are some product formats to take Boswellia Serrata.

How to take Boswellia serrata depending on the disorder or disease

Against ulcerative colitis: 350 mg of extract 3 times a day until remission.

Against rheumatoid arthritis: 200 mg of extract, noticing improvement within a few days. Treatment can be combined with turmeric root (100 mg) or zinc lozenges (100 mg).

Against Crohn’s disease: take 1200 mg 3 times a day, previously consulting with a medical specialist.

In asthmatic people: 300 mg of extract, 3 times a day. The dose can also be reduced to 2 doses a day of 350 mg, depending on the asthmatic state.

Against osteoarthritis: depending on the degree of incidence, between 250 and 300 mg of Boswellia serrata per day.

Contraindications of the incense tree

Some of the contraindications detected of Boswellia serrata refer to allergic effects of any of its components. These effects occur very infrequently with skin rashes and diarrhea or nausea when ingested in tablet form.


  • Bhuchar VM, Agarwal AK, Sharma SK. Rubber constituents obtained from exudates of Boswellia serrata . Indian J Technol. nineteen eighty-two; 20:38.
  • Gangwal ML, Vardhan DK. Carbohydrate content of Boswellia serrata . Asian J Chem. 1995; 7 : 677.
  • Sharma S, Thawani V, Hingorani L. Pharmacokinetic study of 11-keto-beta-boswellic acid. Phytomedicine. 2004; 11 : 255-60
  • Hostanska K, Daum G, Saller R. Cytostatic and apoptosis-inducing activity of boswellic acids towards malignant cell lines in vitro.
  • El-Khadem H, El-Shafei ZM, Elsekeify MA, Abdel Rahman MM. Boswellic acid derivatives. Plant Med. 1972; 22 : 157-9.

About Laurie Cullen

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