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Where Tradition Meets The Lab: Boswellia

The Cabinet — 11.04.19
by Nina Mullen

Hilma ingredient: Boswellia


Boswellia is a lesser-known known herb produced by Boswellia serrata trees native to Africa and the Middle East. It is an interesting and multi-faceted plant, used in essential oils, incense, and for its medicinal properties.  

The History

The Boswellia serrata tree has been used as a resource dating far back in history. Some even think that the ancient herb frankincense is actually the resin from Boswellia. It was originally used as a resource for food, shelter, clothing, flavors, fragrances and medicines. The resin has also been used as an adhesive, as well as an ingredient for cosmetics, fragrances for religious ceremonies, and coating materials. There is a history of Hindus, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Chinese and Greeks using this plant. The largest grower, and user, of this plant today is India. 

The Science & Benefits   

Boswellia contains naturally occurring triterpenoids, called ‘boswellic acid’, which is a compound that can reduce inflammation. Triterpenoids are considered a precursor to steroids. 

So how does boswellic acid actually work? As Memorial Sloane Kettering explains, the anti-inflammatory activity is the result of the inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase-1. Both are enzymes that contribute to inflammatory responses in our bodies. Boswellia also has potential analgesic (pain relief) properties as it has been shown to inhibit nuclear transcription factor KappaB (NF-KappaB) signaling.

In summary, clinical trials have demonstrated that boswellic acids have anti-inflammatory action similar to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). However, unlike NSAIDS, long-term use of boswellia does not appear to lead to irritation or ulceration of the stomach


This information is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a physician before treating any disorder. 


  1. http://www.medicinehunter.com/boswellia
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3309643/
  3. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/boswellia
  4. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/boswellia
  5. https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/herbs/boswellia/
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