Medicinal benefits of Boswellia Serrata

Pharmacological Activities of Boswellia serrata (Salai Guggal)

Boswellia serrata (Family: Burseraceae) is a deciduous middle sized tree, which is mostly concentrated in tropical; parts of Asia and Africa. In India it occurs in dry hilly forests of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Assam, Orrisa as well as central penisular regions of Andhra Pradesh, Assam etc. The gum is tapped from the incision made on the trunk of the tree which is then stored in specially made bamboo basket and converted into different grades of material according to flavor, color, shape and size.

Medicinal benefits of Boswellia Serrata

The fresh gum obtained from the tree is hot dry with a pleasant flavor and slightly bitter in taste. It is 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. 

The oleo gum resin of Boswellia serrata is used in various Unani and Ayurvedic preparation. It is reported to be useful in the treatment of bronchitis, asthma, cough, bad throat and various intestinal problems. It is a diaphoretic and astringent prescribe in various syphilitic and pulmonary diseases. It acts as both internal and external stimulant, expectorant, diuretic and stomachic. The gum is also prescribed in cases of jaundice, diahhroea, dysentery, dyspepsia and hemorrhoids. It is also recommended in weak and unhealthy kind of ulceration.

Pharmacological activities

Anti-inflammatory Activity on New Papaya Latex Model

The Boswellic acid from B. serrata when tested  on new model i.e Papaya Latex Model, showed significant activity of mean 35% inhibition of inflammation. Since the new model is reported to be sensitive to slowly acting, remission inducing drugs. Its effectiveness on boswellic acid throws some light on its mechanism of action which seems to be unlike aspirin and steroidal drugs ( Gupta, O. P., Sharma, N and Chand, D,1992. A sensitive and relevant model for evaluating anti-inflammatory activity – papaya latex induced rat paw edema, J. Pharmacol Toxicol Methods, 28(1), 15-9)


Leukotriene Inhibition    

Ethanol extract of the gum resin inhibits the formation of Leukotriene B4 in rat peritoneal neurophils. Leukotriene such as LTB4 is recognized as one of the important mediators of inflammatory reactions. Leukotrienes are synthesized by stimulated phagocytes cells, particularly the neutrophills. The production of chemostatic factors by these cells attracts more phagocytes to sites of inflammation. Most other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs act through the inhibition of prostaglandins produced by stimulated phagocytes. Boswellic acid, therefore, is different from other known non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in its mode of action and relatively free from side effects.  (

Analgesic and Psychopharmacological effects 

Menon et al, revealed that the gum resin of B. serrata possess marked analgesic activity in experimental animals in addition to its sedative effect. They have found that it produces reduction in the spontaneous motor activity and caused plosis in rats (  M.K. Menon and A. Kar.1970. Analgesic and psychopharmacological activity of gum resin of Boswellia serrata. Planta Med. 19: 51-4 ).

Anti inflammatory and Anti-arthritic activity’s

Extract of salai guggal caused inhibition of the Carrageenan induced rat hind paw oedema by 39.75% and 65-73%, administered orally (p.o.) in dose ranges of 50-200 mg per kg -1 and interaperitoneal (i.p.) in does rang of 50-100 mg per kg-1 respectively compared to 47% inhibition seen with phenylbutazone (50mg/kg -1 p.o.). In the anti-arthritic study on the mycobacterium adjuvant-induced poly-arthritic in rats, salai guggal showed 34% and 49% inhibition of paw swelling with 50 and 100 mg per kg -1 (p.o.) doses respectively as compared to controls. ( Vernon, R., 1969, Lymphocyte to macrophages transformations in the peritoneal cavity proceeding the mobilization of peritoneal macrophages to inflamed areas, Nature, 222, 12681288. )

Singh et al studied the anti-inflammatory activity of mixture of Boswellic acid (Composed of 5 acids with a-Boswellic acid as the major component). This showed 25-46% inhibition of paw oedema in rats and mice. In chronic test of formaldehyde arthritis it exhibited 45-67% antiarthritic activity in a similar dose range. The fraction was effective in both adjuvant arthritis (35-59%) as well as established arthritis (54-84%) It also showed antipyretic effect, with no ulcerogenic effect and well tolerated in as high a dose as 2 gm/kg p.o, mice. (Singh, G. B and Atal, C. K.,1984, Pharmacology of an extract of salai guggul ex- Boswellia serrata, Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 16, 51)

Immunomodulatory activity

Extract of gum resin of B. serrata containing 60% acetyl 11-keto beta boswellic acid (AKBA) along with other constituents such as 11-keto beta-boswellic acid (KBA), acetyl betaboswellic acid and beta-boswellic acid has been evaluated for antianaphylactic and mast cell stabilizing activity using passive paw anaphylaxis and compound 48/80 induced degranulation of mast cell methods. The extract inhibited the passive paw anaphylaxis reaction in rats in dosedependant manner. 

However, the standard dexamethasone (0.27 mg/kg, p.o) revealed maximum inhibition of edema as compared to the extract. A significant inhibition in the compound 48/80 induced degranulation of mast cells in dose-dependant manner was observed thus showing mast cell stabilizing activity. The standard disodium cromoglycate (50 mg/kg, ip) was found to demonstrate maximum per cent protection against degranulation as compared to the extract containing 60% AKBA ( Pungle P, Banavalikar M, Suthar A, Biyani M and Mengi S.2003. Indian J Exp Biol. 41 (12):1460-2.)

Anticancer Activity

Alcoholic extract of salai guggal (AESG) for anti-carcinogenicity in mice with ehrlic ascites carcinoma and S-180 tumor, found inhibition of tumor growth by inhibiting cell proliferation and cell growth due to the interference with biosynthesis of DNA, RNA and proteins (T. Tsukada, K. Nakashima and S. Shirakewa.1986. Archidonate 5-lipoxygenase inhibitors show potent antiproliferative effects on human leukemia cells. Biochemical Biophysical Research Communication. 140: 812-6). 

Topical application of Boswellin with 5 nmol TPA twice daily for 16 weeks to mice previously treated with dimethylbenz-anthracene caused 87- 99% inhibition in the number of tumor ( M.T. Huang, V. Badmaev, J-G. Xie, Y-R Lou, Y. P. Lu and C. T. Ho. 1997.Inhibitory effect of an extract of the gum resin exudate Of Boswellia serrata on 12-Otetradecanoylphorbol13-acetate (TPA)-induced skin tumor promotion in mice. Proceedings in American Association of Cancer Research 38: 368. ). 

Boswellic acids induce concentration dependent inhibition of glioma cell proliferation and show anti-edema effect in glioblastoma patients (   D.K. Boker and M. Winking. 1997.Die Rolle von Boswellia sauren in der therapie maligner glione. Deutsches Arzteblatt. 94: B958-60. ). It was also revealed that Boswellic acids induced apoptosis is protein synthesis dependent and not associated with free radical scavenging activity. 

Hypolipidemic and Hepatoprotective activity  

Water soluble fraction of B. serrata extract decreased total cholesterol (38-48%) and increased HDL in rats fed on atherogenic diet, thus proving its hypolipidemic potential (U. Zutsi, P.G. Rao and S. Kaur. 1986. Mechanism of cholesterol lowering effect of Salai guggal ex-Boswellia serrata Roxb. Indian J Pharmacol 18: 182-3). alcoholic extract of salai guggal (AESG) causes hepatoprotection in galactosamine/endotoxin induced liver damage in mice which was reflected by reduced titre of SGOT, SGPT, aminotransferase and serum enzymes (U. Gerlach, Sorbitol dehydrogenase In: Methods of enzymatic analysis. 112-7 (1983). ).


Hypoglycemic Activity 

Herbal formulation containing B. serrata oleo-gum-resin as one of the ingredients has been reported to produce significant anti-diabetic activity on non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus in streptozocin induced diabetic rat model where reduction in blood-glucose level was comparable to that of phenformin (  F. al-Awadi, H. Fatania and U. Shamte. 1991.The effect of a plants mixture extract on liver gluconeogenesis in streptozocin induced diabetic rats. Diabetes Res. 18(4): 163-8 ).


Boswellia serrata extract (BSE) was found effective in treating diarrhoea in patient with inflammatory bowel syndrome without causing constipation. It was also found effective against acetylcholine and barium chloride induced diarrhoea by inhibiting contraction of intestinal smooth muscles. The extract also inhibited gastrointestinal transit in croton and castor oil induced diarrhoea in mice. However, intestinal motility remained unaffected in control mice by BSE

Antimicrobial activity 

Essential oil from the bark of B.serrata was tested against Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria. The essential oil exhibited significant inhibitory activity against S.aureus OGSUTH 108, E.coli LASUTH 54 and Proteus mirabilis UCH 28 ( Kasali, A. A., Adio, A. M., Kundayo, O. E., Oyedeji, A. O., Adefenwa, A. O. E. M., Adeniyi, B. A. Antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of Boswellia serrata Roxb. (Fam. Burseraceae) bark Journal of Essential Oil-Bearing Plants.).


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