Boswellia serrata, also called Indian frankincense, is a tree native to India, North Africa and the Middle East. The resin of the tree contains special ingredients, the so-called boswellic acids and essential oils. Because of these components, extracts have been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for their anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent effects.
Recent scientific findings also point to positive effects of Boswellia serrata. In osteoarthritis patients, for example, an improvement in pain and walking distance was observed after 8 weeks of administration of a Boswellia extract (1). These effects could be confirmed in further studies and significant improvements in pain sensation and mobility of affected joints were described (2,3).
The resin of Indian frankincense consists of 16 percent essential oils, and also contains 4 different triterpenes, the boswellic acids, these have been identified as the most important ingredients (4). In laboratory experiments, these bowellic acids were found to reduce the formation of proinflammatory leukotrienes (5) and appear to be a specific inhibitor of 5-lipoxigenase, a pro-inflammatory enzyme (6).
Based on these findings, Boswellia serrata is also used as a herbal support for dogs and cats.
(1) Kimmatkar et al. (2003): Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee - a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 10:3–7.
(2) Karlapudi et al. (2018): A placebo-controlled double-blind study demonstrates the clinical efficacy of a novel herbal formulation for relieving joint discomfort in human subjects with osteoarthritis of knee. J Med Food. 21:511–20.
(3) Majeed et al. (2019): A pilot, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to assess the safety and efficacy of a novel Boswellia serrata extract in the management of osteoarthritis of the knee. Phytother Res. 33(5):1457-1468.
(4) Monograph (2008): Boswellia serrata. Altern Med Rev. 2008; 13:165–7. PubMed PMID: 18590352.
(5) Ammon et al. (1991): H. Inhibition of leukotriene B4 formation in rat peritoneal neutrophils by an ethanolic extract of the gum resin exudate of Boswellia serrata. Planta Med. 57:203-207.
(6) Safayhi et al. (1992): Boswellic acids: novel, specific, nonredox inhibitors of 5-lipoxygenase. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 261:1143-1146