Boswellia serrata, also known as Indian frankincense, has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of arthritis, diarrhoea, dysentery, ringworm and pulmonary disease.

It is known as a giggal – a collective term used for gum resins. More recently the herb has attracted much scientific interest thanks to its anti-inflammatory actions, which appear to be equally effective in the treatment of arthritis as prescription medicine, without the associated side effects.

Parts used

The Boswellia tree is found in the hilly areas of India and the gummy resin it exudes, is purified for use is modern herbal preparations. The preparation takes the form of a powder extract containing a mixture of Boswellic acids (BA), which are the active constituents.

What is it used for?

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Soft tissue rheumatism
  • Low back pain
  • Bursitis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

How does it work?

BA are believed to suppress proliferating tissue found in inflamed areas and prevent the breakdown of connective tissue.

The mechanism involved has been described as similar to the action of non-steroidal groups of anti-arthritic drugs, but Boswellia does not yield the same gastric irritation and ulcerogenic activity.  

Research studies have confirmed the herb’s potent anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic activity, and ability to improve blood supply to the joints and restore the integrity of vessels weakened by spasm.

The non-acid part of the Boswellia gum has pain-relieving and sedative qualities, and in high doses can lower blood pressure. Observed benefits of Boswellia include reduction in joint swelling, increased mobility, less morning stiffness, improved grip strength, and general improvement in quality of life, for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


The recommended dosage in cases of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis is one 150 mg to 250 mg capsule, three times per day. Treatment should endure for approximately eight to twelve weeks.

Precautions and possible side-effects

Rare side effects can include diarrhoea, skin rash, and nausea but Boswellia does not appear to have any major ill effects which may necessitate withdrawal. At this point there is insufficient data on possible drug interactions.

- (updated by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, March 2010)

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