What Is It?
Health Benefits

Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use

General Interaction

Possible Side Effects



Evidence Based Rating Scale 

What Is It? 

Boswellia, also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," comes from the Boswellia serrata tree that grows in the dry hills of India. For centuries, traditional Indian healers have taken advantage of the anti-inflammatory properties of the tree bark's gummy resin, called salai guggal. Modern preparations made from a purified Extract of this resin and packaged in pill or cream form are used to reduce inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike conventional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen—the accepted treatments for joint inflammation—Boswellia doesn't seem to cause stomach irritation. It also may be effective for back pain and certain chronic intestinal disorders. 

Health Benefits 

Research has identified specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients in this Herb that are commonly referred to as boswellic acids. In animal studies, these acids have been shown to significantly reduce inflammation in several ways: they deter inflammatory white cells from infiltrating damaged tissue; they improve blood flow to the joints; and they also block chemical reactions that set the stage for inflammation to occur in chronic intestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. 

Specifically, Boswellia may help to:

  • Ease osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Boswellia can be taken internally as well as applied topically to affected joints to relieve inflammation associated with these joint disorders. This may lessen morning stiffness and increase joint mobility. However, research has been conflicting. In an early study of 175 patients with rheumatic disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, a crippling joint disease, 122 participants experienced reduced stiffness and inflammation two to four weeks after starting on a Boswellia regimen. Out of the 122 patients who indicated improvement, 17 noted recurrence of symptoms within 10 days of being switched to placebo treatment. (1-4) Studies indicate some forms of Boswellia have shown efficacy in improving osteoarthritis symptoms such as pain, motility and mobility compared to conventional medication or placebo, but the herb did not produce measurable improvements in degree of disease. (5-7) A 2007 review of 15 studies examining the use of herbal formulations to treat osteoarthritis found the evidence for Boswellia serrata gum resin is insufficient to rate for this use at this time. (8)

  • Decrease back pain. Boswellia's anti-inflammatory properties may help to reduce aching and stiffness, especially when associated with low back pain and sports injuries. However, research is limited and inconclusive. The 2007 review described above also examined the use of the same herbal formulations to treat lower back pain, and results for Boswellia were insufficient to rate for this use as well. (8) Although the limited research indicates that Boswellia is best taken orally for this purpose, creams may be soothing as well.

  • Control inflammatory bowel diseases. Boswellia appears to reduce the inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, both of which are chronic painful intestinal disorders. It seems to accomplish this without the risk of further gut irritation associated with many conventional pain relievers. In a 1997 study of ulcerative colitis sufferers, 82% of those who took Boswellia extract (350 mg three times daily) experienced a complete remission of disease. (9) And, a 2001 study found treatment with Boswellia (300 mg three times daily for six weeks) to be more effective than the conventional treatment sulfasalazine in ulcerative colitis, particularly in the ability to induce remission: 70% of patients treated with Boswellia went into remission, compared to only 40% in the sulfasalazine group. (10) Boswellia also has been shown to be as effective as the conventional medication mesalazine in reducing symptoms and treating Crohn's disease. (11) A 2006 review indicated that while scientific evidence in this area is limited, Boswellia is increasingly prescribed for this use and small studies confirm potential efficacy, but more controlled trials and safety guidelines need to be established. (12)

  • Reduce symptoms of asthma. Preliminary evidence indicates the ability of Boswellia to stabilize mast cells and prevent the release of histamine may play an important role in treating asthma. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study indicates taking Boswellia (300 mg three times daily for six weeks) reduced bronchial asthma symptoms in 70% of 40 patients, compared to 27% in the control group. Taking Boswellia orally seemed to help improve forced expiratory volume (FEV), reduce the number of asthma attacks, and decrease wheezing and associated shortness of breath during asthma attacks in these patients. (13) More research is needed to confirm efficacy. 


  • tablet
  • cream
  • capsule  

Dosage Information 

  • For arthritis: 300mg of boswellic acids three times a day has been used.

  • For asthma: 300mg three times daily has been used.

  • For back pain and other areas of aching or stiffness: Take 300 mg boswellic acids three times a day. Or rub a pea-sized amount of cream into the area where the pain is concentrated every four to six hours. Continue as long as needed.

  • For Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis: 300 mg of Boswellia gum resin three times daily has been used.  

Special tip: 

Look for products standardized to 60% boswellic acids. 

Be sure to check out our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Boswellia, which lists therapeutic dosages for specific ailments at a glance. 

Guidelines for Use 

Traditionally, Boswellia has been taken internally for eight to 12 weeks. There are no data on safety with longer use. The cream has been used as long as needed. 

General Interaction 

There are no known drug or nutrient interactions for this herb. 

Possible Side Effects 

Boswellia doesn't typically cause side effects when taken at recommended dosages. 

Rare side effects include diarrhea, nausea and skin rash. 


  • All inflammatory joint conditions should be closely monitored by a doctor.

  • Only take more than the recommended daily dosage under a physician’s supervision.

  • Safety in pregnancy beyond amounts normally found in food has not been established.  


1. Pachnanda, VK, et al. Ind J Pharm. 1981;13:63.
2. RRL News Letters. Jammu, 1982;9(3):9-11.
3. Graduates Pharmaceutica. 1982;5(2):76.
4. Sharma, ML, et al. Symposium – "Recent Advances in mediators of inflammatory agents." (Abstract). RRL Jammu. November 1984:40, 49.
5. Kulkarni RR, Patki PS, Jog VP, et al. Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. J Ethnopharmacol. 1991 May-Jun;33(1-2):91-5.
6. 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. 1998;57:11-6.
7. Kimmatkar N, Thawani V, Hingorani L, Khiyani R. Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee – randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2003 Jan;10(1):3-7.
8. Chrubasik JE, Roufogalis BD, Chrubasik S. Evidence of effectiveness of herbal antiinflammatory drugs in the treatment of painful osteoarthritis and chronic low back pain. Phytother Res. 2007 Jul;21(7):675-83.
9. Gupta I, Parihar A, Malhotra P, et al. Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with ulcerative colitis. Eur J Med Res. 1997;2:37-43.
10. Gupta I, Parihar A, Malhotra P, et al. Effects of gum resin of Boswellia serrata in patients with chronic colitis. Planta Med. 2001;67:391-5.
11. Gerhardt H, Seifert F, Buvari P, et al. [Therapy of active Crohn disease with Boswellia serrata extract H 15]. Z Gastroenterol. 2001;39:11-17.
12. Langmead L, Rampton DS. Review article: complementary and alternative therapies for inflammatory bowel disease. Ailment Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Feb 1;23(3):341-9.
13. Gupta I, Gupta V, Parihar A, et al. Effects of Boswellis serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical study. Eur J Med Res. 1998;3:511-4.

Evidence Based Rating Scale

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies and what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice into a visual and easy to interpret format. This tool is meant to simplify the information on supplements and therapies that demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions.








Evidence is conflicting. More research is needed to confirm or refute efficacy. (1-8)

Preliminary evidence indicates potential efficacy in reducing frequency and severity of attacks. More research is needed to confirm or refute efficacy. (13)
Back pain  
Evidence is limited and inconclusive. More high quality studies are needed to determine efficacy. (8)

Chronic Pain


 May be used for up to 12 weeks
Crohn's disease  
Small studies indicate Boswellia is as efficacious as conventional medication in treating symptoms and inducing remission in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. (9-12)

Rheumatoid Arthritis  
Evidence is conflicting. More research is needed to confirm or refute efficacy. (1-8)
Sports Injuries  
Evidence is limited and inconclusive. More high quality studies are needed to determine efficacy. (8)


Date Published: 04/18/2005
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