Boswellia serrata Monograph

Boswellia serrata Monograph

This section was compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   Alternative Medicine Review 2008 (Jun);   13 (2):   165167 ~ FULL TEXT

Boswellia serrata (frankincense) is a moderate-to-large branching tree (growing to a height of 12 feet) found in India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. Strips of Boswellia bark are peeled away, yielding a gummy oleo-resin. Extracts of this gummy exudate have been traditionally used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine as an anti-arthritic, astringent, stimulant, expectorant, and antiseptic.

Active Constituents

Boswellia contains oils, terpenoids, sugars, and volatile oils. 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.

Mechanisms of Action

Animal studies performed in India show ingestion of a defatted alcoholic extract of Boswellia decreased polymorphonuclear leukocyte infiltration and migration, decreased primary antibody synthesis, [1,2] and almost totally inhibited the classical complement pathway. [3] In an in vitro study of the effects of beta-boswellic acid on the complement system, the extract demonstrated a marked inhibitory effect on both the classical and alternate complement pathways. [4] An investigation of Boswellia's analgesic and psychopharmacological effects noted marked sedative and analgesic effects in animal models. [5]

In vitro testing reveals boswellic acids, isolated from the gum resin of Boswellia, in a dose-dependent manner block the synthesis of proinflammatory 5-lipoxygenase products, including 5-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (5-HETE) and leukotriene B4 (LTB4), [6] which cause bronchoconstriction, chemotaxis, and increased vascular permeability. [7]

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