The boswellia, an emblematic tree of Indian medicine, is a recognized ayurvedic plant

-Boswellia, a recognized Ayurvedic plant

Geographical origin of Boswellia

Boswellia is a small tree typical of desert regions. There are different varieties of which Boswellia serrata originates from India. This tree has been used in Indian and Chinese pharmacopeia for thousands of years.

The fame of this tree does not come from its flowers or its fruits, but its resin. Each tree produces about 10 kg of resin per year. This resin contains powerful compounds known for their health benefits. In addition, this resin has aromatic characteristics that are used to produce incense.

Due to the properties of its resin, many scientists are working and studying this popular ingredient in traditional medicines, but rather absent in the West and Europe.

Composition of Boswellia resin

At the health level, boswellia resin is mainly used for its anti-inflammatory effects. Thus, the effectiveness of this resin is demonstrated at the joint, intestinal, and respiratory levels.

The compounds responsible for its benefits are called boswellic acids, which are present in 30% of the pure resin. These boswellic acids act synergistically to exert an anti-inflammatory action and an analgesic activity, i.e., to reduce or eliminate pain sensitivity.

Boswellia is a natural ingredient with multiple benefits

The problem of opioids

Today, 1.5 billion people worldwide are treated for chronic pain. These pains come from multiple causes such as obesity, genetic factors, or a sedentary lifestyle.

To reduce or eliminate this pain, doctors prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids. The latter must be used for short periods to avoid intestinal and cardiovascular side effects. In addition, opioids confer an addiction that represents a real danger to public health. Thus, in 2018, 46 802 people died because of these opioids.

The boswellia resin, by its composition, also provides an anti-inflammatory remedy to fight against chronic inflammation, but without side effects or addiction. 

An anti-inflammatory action of boswellia

Boswellia resin extracts reduce inflammation in several ways. The boswellic acids present in the resin interact at different levels of the inflammatory cascade. For example, they prevent the synthesis of molecules responsible for chronic inflammatory responses in certain digestive diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Effectiveness in the treatment of chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is defined as a degenerative joint disease. The cartilage present in the joints deteriorates until it disappears and causes the bones to rub against the joint.

Many scientists are studying the effects of boswellia resin on various pathologies. Thus, clinical studies show a decrease in knee pain and the frequency of swelling of the knee joint in the case of treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee with boswellia. Other studies show and confirm the effectiveness of boswellia in significantly reducing pain and stiffness.

Bioavailability of boswellia

The major concern with boswellia is its bioavailability. The latter is defined as the effective quantity of a compound to reach the blood. For boswellia resin, bioavailability is highly variable.

Thus, diets very rich in fats increase the bioavailability of boswellia by a factor of 4 to 5 in humans. The effects of the resin also depend on the dose administered.


Boswellia grows in arid areas, particularly in India and Asia. This small tree produces a resin used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Very well known in Indian and Chinese pharmacopeia, boswellia resin is gaining more and more fame in Europe. Numerous studies have proven its effects in reducing chronic inflammation, particularly in the case of pain caused by osteoarthritis or digestive diseases. 


Key take-home messages

  • Boswellia produces a resin-rich in compounds with anti-inflammatory properties
  • Boswellia resin acts at the joint, intestinal, and respiratory levels
  • Boswellic acids prevent the synthesis of molecules responsible for chronic inflammatory responses
  • Boswellia resin significantly reduces pain and stiffness in the joints, especially in the knees
  • A high-fat diet improves the effectiveness of boswellia resin


Abdel-Tawab et al., Boswellia serrata, An overall assessment of in Vitro, Preclinical, Pharmacokinetic and Clinical Data, 2011

Galea et al., Chronic Pain and the Health of Populations, School of Public Health, 2017

Kulkarni et al., Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 1991

Majeed et al., A pilot, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to assess the safety and efficacy of a novel Boswellia serrate extract in the management of osteoarthritis of the knee, 2019

Sterk et al., Effect of food intake on the bioavailability of Boswellic acids from a herbal preparation in healthy volunteers, Planta Medica, 2004

Wilson et al., Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths-United States, 2017-2018, Centers for Disease control and Prevention, 2020

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