Boswellia serrata and its anti-inflammatory Properties

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata): Boswellia serrata is commonly known as Indian frankincense or Salai. A gum resin extract of the tree has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years in the treatment of arthritis. In the Ayurvedic tradition of medicine, any resin that is collected by tapping the trunk of a tree is called guggul (or guggal). Many different trees of Indian have resin extracts used in Ayurvedic medical treatments

Boswellia extracts have also been used traditionally to treat arthritis, ulcerative colitis, coughs, sores, snakebite, and asthma. The major bioactive component of Boswellia extracts is boswellic acid, which was shown in animal studies to be a potent 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) inhibitor with anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic effects. For more information on the activities of 5-LOX please visit The Medical Biochemistry Page. When tested in humnas boswellic acid appears to have fewer adverse effects than steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs. However, its long-term effects on humans are currently unknown. Because bowellic acid is contained in a typical Ayurvedic guggul extract it can thus, be considered a guggul but it should not be confused with guggul or myrrh. The latter extracts represent the guggul extracted from the Mukul myrrh tree of India (see below).

Since extracts from Boswellia have been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory activities varies studies have been undertaken to assess the mechanism of action. In one study a crude methanolic extract as well as a purified compound (12-ursene 2-diketone) from the extract were analyzed for their inhibitory effect on tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα), interleukin-1beta (IL-1β) and IL-6 when added to cultures of immortalized mouse macrophage cells as well as human peripheral blood mononuclear leukocytes (PBMCs). Results of theses studies demonstrated that all three cytokines are down regulated when cells are cultured in the presence of crude extract or 12-ursene 2-diketone at various time points. The extract and 12-ursene 2-diketone also showed considerable inhibition of nitric oxide (NO) production in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated mouse macrophages, possibly via suppression of inducible NO synthase (iNOS) mRNA expression. These results demonstrated that 12-ursene 2-diketone inhibits the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and mediators via inhibition of phosphorylation of the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 while no inhibition was seen in ERK phosphorylation in LPS-stimulated PBMCs. The study results indicate that the crude methanolic extract and 12-ursene 2-diketone are capable of carrying out a natural anti-inflammatory activity at sites where chronic inflammation is present by switching off the pro-inflammatory cytokines and mediators, which initiate the process.

Given the observed ability of Boswellia extracts to inhibit 5-LOX and thus, impart anti-inflammatory effects, a novel formulation has been generated and is referred to as 5-Loxin. This Boswellia extract is enriched in a form of boswellic acid (3-O-acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid, AKBA) and has been tested for efficacy in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Patients in this trial were given two different doses of 5-Loxin once daily for 90 days and then monitored for pain and range of movement of their osteoarthritic knees. Both doses of 5-Loxin conferred clinically and statistically significant improvements in pain scores and physical function scores in the test patients. Of significance there were observable improvements in pain score and functional ability in the treatment group supplemented with the higher dose (250mg) of 5-Loxin as early as 7 days after the start of treatment. In addition to the improvements in pain scores in treatment groups, it was also noted that there was a significant reduction in synovial fluid matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3). The results of this study indicate that 5-Loxin reduces pain and improves physical functioning significantly in osteoarthritic patients and is safe for human consumption. 5-Loxin likely exerts its beneficial effects by controlling inflammatory responses through reducing proinflammatory modulators, and it may improve joint health by reducing the enzymatic degradation of cartilage.

Boswellic acid has also been tested for its efficacy in treating the clinical manifestations of photoaging of the facial skin. A cream containing 0.5% boswellic acid was tested on 15 females by application once daily for 30 days. In this study there was a statistically significant measureable change in tactile roughness and fine lines on the side of the face treated with the boswellic acid containing cream compared to the side of the face treated with the same cream lacking boswellic acid.