Articles

Boswellia serrata

Author

Date

8/1998

Journal

Altern Med Rev

Abstract

Boswellia serrata is a moderate to large branching tree found in India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. Strips of bark are peeled away, yielding a gummy oleo-resin which contains oils, terpenoids, and gum. Up to 16 percent of the resin is essential oil, the majority being alpha thujene and p-cymene. Four pentacyclic triterpene acids are also present, with beta-Boswellic acid being the major constituent. Extracts of this gummy exudate have been traditionally used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine as an anti-arthritic. In vitro testing revealed Boswellia specifically, and in a dose-dependent manner, blocks the synthesis of pro-inflammatory 5-lipoxygenase products, including 5-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (5-HETE) and leukotriene B4 (LTB4), 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, Boswellia seems to be a specific inhibitor of 5-lipoxygenase. Human clinical studies are woefully lacking for this substance, and need to be conducted to better elucidate its effects in humans, as well as to determine optimal dosing. Animal and in vitro studies suggest it is useful for many inflammatory and bronchoconstrictive conditions.