(Boswellia serrata)

Part Used: Exudate


Boswellia serrata is known as ‘Indian olibanum’, ‘Indian frankincense’, ‘dhup’ and ‘salai’ or ‘salai guggul’ is found in the middle and northern parts of Eastern India. In ancient times, people firmly believed that when plant resins like B. serrata materials get in contact with fire, the smoke and the fragrance they produce, not only soothe their souls but also please their gods.

Salai, an oleo gum-resin, is plant exudates of B. serrata. It is tapped from the incision made on the trunk of the tree, which is then stored in specially made bamboo basket. The semi-solid gum-resin is allowed to remain in the basket for about a moth during which its fluid content locally known as ras’ keeps flowing out. The residue, semi-solid part, is the gum-resin which hardens slowly into amorphous, tear-shaped products with an aromatic scent. Then it is broken into small pieces by wooden mallet or chopper and during this process all impurities including bark pieces etc. removed manually. The gum-resin is then graded according to its flavor, colour, shape and size. The fresh gum obtained from the tree is hot with pleasant flavor and slightly bitter in taste. It had been the ‘frankincense’ of ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans who used it as prized incense, fumigant as well as a multipurpose aromatic. It is generally used in making incense powder and sticks.

B. serrata is one of the ancient and most valued herbs in Ayurveda, “Gajabhakshya”, a Sanskrit name sometimes used for Boswellia, suggests that elephants enjoy this herb as a part of their diet.
Indian J Pharm Sci. 2011 may-Jun; 73(3):255-261

Mechanism of Action:
Boswellia, blocks the synthesis of proinflammatory 5-lipoxygenase product which cause bronchoconstriction, chemotaxis, and increased vascular permeability. Other anti-inflammatory plant constituents, such as quercetin, also block this enzyme, but they do so in a more general fashion, as an antioxidant; whereas, boswellic acids seem to be specific inhibitors of 5-lipoxygenase.
Alternative Medicine Review Volume 13, Number 2 2008

Pharmacological Actions:

Arthritis – Boswellia helps in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthiritis, in relieving pain, swelling and increasing the range of motion.
Alternative Medicine Review Volume 13, Number 2 2008

Anti-inflammatory & Analgesic Action - The oleo gum-resin from B. serrata has anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity due to the inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase enzyme.
Sharma et al. International Journal of Phytomedicine 2 (2010) 94-99

Clinical Studies:
According to a randomized, placebo controlled, clinical trial published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 2014, Boswellia serrata has significant analgesic effect. This has significantly reduced knee pain and improved knee function which were equivalent to glucosamine and celecoxib in a 6-month controlled study of knee osteoarthritis.
Indian J Pharmacol, 2014 Sep-Oct; 46(5):475-479

Boswellia serrata has been used since ancient time as incense, fumigant and for people with arthritis. This reduces pain and swelling. The effect is so powerful that it is considered as a natural NSAID to relieve pain and inflammation.