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Plant Part Used

Gum resin.


Boswellia, or olibanum, is a close relative of the Biblical incense frankincense and has been used historically in the Ayurvedic medical system of India for a variety of ailments. Supplement makers derive a boswellia extract from the gum resin of the stem bark of the plant. Modern scientists are now focusing their study of this remedy on its ability to manage arthritis and inflammation.

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

200-400mg (standardized extract), 3 times daily.

Topically: Apply as directed.

Most Common Dosage

400mg (standardized extract), 3 times daily.

Topically: Apply as directed.


[span class=doc]Standardization represents the complete body of information and controls that serve to enhance the batch to batch consistency of a botanical product, including but not limited to the presence of a marker compound at a defined level or within a defined range.[/span]

The most current available medical and scientific literature indicates that this dietary supplement should be standardized to 65-75% organic acids and/or 20-25% boswellic acids.

Reported Uses

Research indicates that boswellia can improve symptoms of arthritis in ways similar to drugs like ibuprofen. Animal studies suggest that boswellia relieves pain and swelling without the harmful side effects commonly associated with ibuprofen and similar drugs. (1) , (2)

Data from medical trials done in humans with arthritis are limited. One placebo-controlled trial evaluated only 37 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Whereas most participants had no change in disease status, one participant in each group responded positively, and 4 in each group worsened. (3) Another trial evaluated patients with osteoarthritis. The unique formula used in this trial contained various supplements including Withania somnifera, Boswellia serrata, Curcuma longa, and zinc. Though the number of patients involved in the study was small, the formula demonstrated a drop in pain severity and a drop in the measured disability score. (4) The results of a randomized double blind placebo controlled crossover study consisting of 30 patients with osteoarthritis were that all patients receiving Boswellia reported decrease in knee pain, increased knee flexion, increased walking distance, and a decrease of swelling in the knee joint. (5)

Scientists have also suggested that boswellia’s ability to reduce inflammation may be helpful to those who suffer from respiratory illnesses like asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis. (6) A recent double blind, placebo-controlled study of forty patients with bronchial asthma, reported that 70 percent of patients showed improvement when administered boswellia. (7)

In human studies, a boswellia extract was compared to sulfasalazine (1gm tid) in individuals with ulcerative colitis. Patients on the boswellia extract showed similar improvements as patients on sulfasalazine. (8) Another human trial compared Boswellia serrata to mesalazine (5-aminosalicylic acid or mesalamine) for the symptomatic treatment of Crohn's disease. Both agents improved patient scores on the Crohn Disease Activity Index (CDAI). The investigators believe that when both the safety and efficacy profile of the Boswellia serrata extract is considered, it offers superiority to mesalazine in terms of a benefit-risk-evaluation. (9) Other human studies continue to support the use of Boswellia in patients with chronic colitis and other bowel disorders. (10)


Toxicities & Precautions


[span class=alert]Be sure to tell your pharmacist, doctor, or other health care providers about any dietary supplements you are taking. There may be a potential for interactions or side effects.[/span]


This dietary supplement is considered safe when used in accordance with proper dosing guidelines. (11)

Pregnancy/ Breast Feeding

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects related to fetal development during pregnancy or to infants who are breast-fed. Yet little is known about the use of this dietary supplement while pregnant or breast-feeding. Therefore, it is recommended that you inform your healthcare practitioner of any dietary supplements you are using while pregnant or breast-feeding.

Age Limitations

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects specifically related to the use of this dietary supplement in children. Since young children may have undiagnosed allergies or medical conditions, this dietary supplement should not be used in children under 10 years of age unless recommended by a physician.


  1. View Abstract: Redini F, et al. Modulation of Extracellular Matrix Metabolism in Rabbit Articular Chondrocytes and Human Rheumatoid Synovial Cells by the Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug Etodolac. II: Glycosaminoglycan Synthesis. Agents Actions. Nov1990;31(3-4):358-67.
  2. View Abstract: Boswellia serrata. Altern Med Rev. Aug1998;3(4):306-07.
  3. View Abstract: Sander O, Herborn G, Rau R. Is H15 (resin extract of Boswellia serrata, "incense") a useful supplement to established drug therapy of chronic polyarthritis? Results of a double-blind pilot study. Z Rheumatol. Feb1998;57(1):11-6.
  4. View Abstract: Kulkarni RR, Patki PS, Jog VP, Gandage SG, Patwardhan B. Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. J Ethnopharmacol. May1991;33(1-2):91-5.
  5. View Abstract: Kimmatkar N, Thawani V, Hingorani L, Khiyani R. Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee--a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. Jan2003;10(1):3-7.
  6. View Abstract: Safayhi H, et al. Inhibition by Boswellic Acids of Human Leukocyte Elastase. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. Apr1997;281(1):460-63.
  7. View Abstract: Gupta I, et al. Effects of Boswellia serrata Gum Resin in Patients with Bronchial Asthma: Results of a Double-blind, Placebo-controlled, 6-week Clinical Study. Eur J Med Res. Nov1998;3(11):511-14.
  8. View Abstract: Gupta I, Parihar A, Malhotra P, et al. Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with ulcerative colitis. Eur J Med Res. Jan1997;2(1):37-43.
  9. View Abstract: Gerhardt H, Seifert F, Buvari P, Vogelsang H, Repges R. Therapy of active Crohn disease with Boswellia serrata extract H 15. Gastroenterol. Jan2001;39(1):11-7.
  10. View Abstract: Gupta I, Parihar A, Malhotra P, Gupta S, Ludtke R, Safayhi H, Ammon HP. Effects of gum resin of Boswellia serrata in patients with chronic colitis. Planta Med. Jul2001;67(5):391-5.
  11. PDR for Herbal Medicines, 2nd ed. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 2000:319.








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