Common name: Salai guggal
Botanical name: Boswellia serrata
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
Boswellia is a moderate to large branching tree found in the dry hilly areas of India. When
the tree trunk is tapped, a gummy oleoresin is exuded. A purified extract of this resin is
used in modern herbal preparations.
Boswellia has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
In the ancient Ayurvedic medical texts of India, the gummy exudate from boswellia is
grouped with other gum resins and referred to collectively as guggals. Historically, the
guggals were recommended by Ayurvedic
physicians for a variety of conditions, including
osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diarrhea, dysentery, pulmonary disease, and
The gum oleoresin consists of essential oils, gum, and terpenoids. The terpenoid portion
contains the boswellic acids that have been shown to be the active constituents in
boswellia.1 Today, extracts are typically standardized to contain 37.5–65%
Studies have shown that boswellic acids have an anti-inflammatory action2
—much like the conventional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used for inflammatory conditions. Boswellia
inhibits pro-inflammatory mediators in the body, such as leukotrienes.3 As opposed
to NSAIDs, long-term use of boswellia does not appear to cause irritation or ulceration of the
stomach. One small, controlled, double-blind trial has shown that boswellia extract may be
helpful for ulcerative
How much is usually taken?
The standardized extract of the gum oleoresin of boswellia is recommended by many doctors.
For rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, 150 mg of boswellic acids are taken
three times per day.5 As an example, if an extract contains 37.5% boswellic acids,
400 mg of the extract would be taken three times daily. Treatment with boswellia generally
lasts eight to twelve weeks. In the one clinical trial to date, people with ulcerative colitis used 550 mg of boswellia extract
three times per day.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Boswellia is generally safe when used as directed. Rare side effects can include diarrhea, skin rash, and nausea. Any inflammatory
joint condition should be closely monitored by a physician.
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
1. Safayhi H, Sailer ER, Amnon HPT. 5-lipoxygenase inhibition by
acetyl-11-keto-b-boswellic acid. Phytomed 1996;3:71–2.
2. Safayhi H, Mack T, Saieraj J, et al. Boswellic acids: Novel, specific,
nonredox inhibitors of 5-lipoxygenase. J Pharmacol Exp Ther
3. Singh GB, Atal CK. Pharmacology of an extract of salai guggal
ex-Boswellia serrata, a new non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent. Agents
4. Gupta I, Parihar A, Malhotra P, et al. Effects of Boswellia
serrata gum resin in patients with ulcerative colitis. Eur J Med Res
5. Etzel R. Special extract of Boswellia serrata (H15) in the treatment
of rheumatoid arthritis. Phytomed 1996;3:91–4.