Botanical name: Boswellia serrata
Parts used and where grown
Boswellia is a moderate to large branching tree found in the dry hilly areas of India. When the tree trunk is tapped, a gummy oleoresin is exuded. A purified extract of this resin is used in modern herbal preparations.
Historical or traditional use
In the ancient Ayurvedic medical texts of India, the gummy exudate from boswellia is grouped with other gum resins and referred to collectively as guggals. Historically, the guggals were recommended by Ayurvedic physicians for a variety of conditions, including osteo-arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diarrhea, dysentery, pulmonary disease, and ringworm.
The gum oleoresin consists of essential oils, gum, and terpenoids. The terpenoid portion contains the boswellic acids that have been shown to be the active constituents in boswellia. Today, extracts are typically standardized to contain 37.5-65% boswellic acids. Boswellia inhibits pro-inflammatory mediators in the body, such as leukotrienes. As opposed to NSAIDs, long-term use of boswellia does not appear to cause irritation or ulceration of the stomach.
Boswellia is generally safe when used as directed. Rare side effects can include diarrhea, skin rash, and nausea. A physician should closely monitor any inflammatory joint condition.