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Indian Frankincense, Shallaki (Boswellia serrata) - Uses, Health Benefits, Dosage, Medicinal Properties

boswellia serrata natural herbs

English: Indian olibanum tree
Hindi: Salai
Sanskrit: Sallaki

The plant has been used for cosmetic purposes since ancient times. It was associated with longevity and memory and burnt as an incense to drive away evil spirits. In the Bible, the gum exudate from the tree was offered to Adam as a consolation for losing the Garden of Eden. It is sometimes referred to as myrrh, although this in fact comes from Commiphora abyssinica. Frankincense comes from the related B. sacra.


The plant grows in the drier parts of India, including the Deccan, central India, the eastern states and north of Gujrat.

Botanical description

It is a deciduous branching tree reaching 4-5 m in height and 1-1.5 m in girth (Plate 14). The leaves are opposite and sessile, variable in shape but usually ovate or lanceolate, obtuse, with a serrate margin and rounded base. The flowers are in racemes with long, ovate, cream-coloured petals. The oleo-gum resin is exuded by cuts made in the bark of the trunk.

Parts used

Oleo-gum resin, bark.

Traditional and modern use

The gum resin is used as a stimulant, antirheumatic, diaphoretic, in nervous and skin diseases, urinary disorders, obesity and scrofulous affections. The oil obtained from the resin is used as a demulcent, in colic, chronic and aphthous ulcers and for ringworm, dysmenorrhoea and bone disorders. Both the gum and oil have been used as a diuretic, astringent and emmenagogue and to treat gonorrhoea.

Ethnoveterinary usage

The gum resin is used in pox, rinder pest and diarrhoea.

Major chemical constituents

The gum resin contains a mixture of triterpene acids known as boswellic acids (a, ?, y-boswellic acids) and their derivatives. It also yields a volatile oil (about 0.6%), containing anisaldehyde, a-pinene, a-phellandrene and sesquiterpene alcohols.


The gum contains arabinose, galactose, xylose, galacturonic acid and digitoxose. The main constituents isolated from the leaves are D-fructose, D-Iactose, D-glucose, L-sorbose, raffinose, rhamnose and D-galactose.

Medicinal and pharmacological activities

Antiinflammatory and antiarthritic activity: B. serrata is valued for its well-documented antiarthritic action, which is attributable to the boswellic acids. These acids inhibited leukotriene synthesis via 5-lipoxygenase, but did not affect either 12-lipoxygenase or cyclooxygenase. Boswellic acids did not impair the peroxidation of arachidonic acid by iron and ascorbate, indicating they are specific, non-redox inhibitors of leukotriene synthesis either interacting directly with 5-lipoxygenase or blocking its translocation. The boswellic acids possessed varying degrees of activity in dose-related acute and chronic test models. In acute tests at a dose range of 50-200 mg/kg administered orally, an activity of between 26% and 43% was observed in rats and 20-34% in mice with carrageenan-induced oedema. In chronic tests using the developing adjuvant polyarthritis, doses of 50-200 mg/kg produced an antiarthritic activity of 32-50%.8 A human clinical study involving 175 patients of both sexes and a mean age of 35 (about 70% of whom were bedridden), with duration of illness between 1 and 6 years, has f been carried out. Parameters assessed were morning stiffness of joints, pain, loss of grip strength and difficulty in performance of routine jobs. Results were as follows: 67% , showed a good or excellent effect, with 30% . showing some improvement and 3% little or none.

Analgesic activity: An extract of the gum resin showed sedative and analgesic properties in Cholesterol-lowering effect: In vitro and in vivo experiments showed a dose-dependent fall in the cholesterol biosynthesis. Inhibition in vivo was at a dosage of 100 mg/kg.

Immunomodulatory activity: A single doseo! boswellic acids (50-200 mg/kg) inhibited the expression of the delayed hypersensitivity reaction and primary humoral response to sheep erythrocytes (SRBC) in mice. The secondary response was appreciably enhanced at lower doses. Prolonged oral administration of boswellic acids (25-100 mg/kg/day for 21 days) increased the body weight, total leucocyte counts and humoral antibody titres in rats.'2 Boswellic acids were also found to possess anticomplementary activity in both the classic and alternative complement pathways. A significant reduction in immunohaemolysis in vitro was observed at concentrations of 0.005-0.1 mM, with an ICso value of about 10 .

Antitumour activity: 3-0-Acetyl-11-keto-?-boswellic acid, isolated from gum resin, inhibited the synthesis of DNA, RNAand protein in human leukaemia HL-60 cells ina dose-dependent manner. It showed pronounced inhibitory effects, with ICso values of 0.6,0.5 and 4.1 11M respectively.

Antiasthmatic activity: In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 40 patients of both sexes in the age range 18-75 years, and with a mean duration of bronchial asthma of 9.58 years, were treated with a preparation of gum resin (300 mg thrice daily) for a period of 6 weeks. Seventy percent of patients showed some improvement as evidenced by the disappearance of physical symptoms such as dyspnoea and number of attacks. There was an improvement in biochemical parameters including a decrease in eosinophil count and ESR. The control group of 40 patients were treated with lactose (300 mg thrice daily) for 6 weeks and of these, 27% showed some improvement.

Antifungal activity: The essential oil showed a significant antifungal activity against plant pathogens such as Phytophthora parasitica. It exhibited a weak antifungal action against human pathogens.

Safety profile

During preclinical toxicological studies, primates and rats were fed with an ethanolic extract of gum resin for over 6 months, during which no adverse effects were observed.15 The maximum tolerated doses in rats of the 50% ethanolic extracts of root, fruit and stem were 50 mg/kg, 500 mg/kg and 250 mg/kg body weight respectively given IP.'6 The boswellic acids have not been found to exhibit any toxic effects.'


  • Gum resin: 2-3 g
  • Oil: 1-1.5 ml
  • Bark decoction: 56-112 ml

Arthritis Support

Total Heart Support

The word 'arthritis' means 'inflammation of the joints'. It is derived from two Greek words: athron, meaning joints; and itis, meaning inflammation. It is, generally, a chronic disease process.

Arthritis occurs in various forms, the most frequent being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease which usually occurs in the older age-group. Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious disease which affects not only the joints of the fingers, wrists, hips, knees, and feet, but also the muscles, tendons and other tissues of the body. Read more Arthritis Support

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