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Botanical Name: Boswellia serrata

Family Name: Burseraceae

Common Name: Shallaki, Indian olibanum tree

Part Used: Bark, Gum Resin 



 Shallaki (Boswellia serrata) is a moderate to large size branching tree that grows in dry mountainous regions of India, Northern Africa and the Middle East. The oleo gum-resins contain 30-60% resin, 5-10% essential oils. The resinous part of Boswellia serrata contains mainly; diterpenes; triterpenes; pentacyclic triterpenic acids (boswellic acids).

 Boswellia serrata is one of the ancient and most valued herbs in Indian Traditional Medicine Ayurveda. Three scientific ancient texts of classical Ayurvedic Science, Charaka's Charaka Samhita (c .B.C. 700), the first fundamental medical text; Susruta's Susruta Samhita (c .B.C. 600), Astanga Samgraha and Astanga Hridaya (c.130-200 A.D.), which described the antirheumatic (antiarthritic) activity of  resins of these trees. In addition to its beneficial use for arthritis, this gummy resin is also mentioned in traditional Ayurvedic and Unani texts as an effective remedy for fever (antipyretic), skin and blood diseases, cardiovascular diseases, mouth sores, bad throat, bronchitis, asthma, cough, vaginal discharges, hair-loss, jaundice, hemorrhoids, irregular menses and stimulation of liver. Recently pharmacological and clinical researches of this plant resin and extract lends strong credence to the most of traditional medical uses including anti-arthritic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-relieving) and hepatoprotective (protects the liver) actions. With indigenous safe usage, novel studies recommend this drug for safe human usage for long term basis.

Experimental and clinical studies

In vitro studies on animal models show that boswellic acids were found to inhibit the synthesis of pro-inflammatory enzyme, 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) including 5-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (5-HETE) and leukotriene B4 (LTB-4), which cause bronchoconstriction, chemotaxis, and increased vascular permeability [1]. Other anti-inflammatory plant constituents, such as quercetin, also block this enzyme, but they do so in a more general fashion, as an antioxidant, whereas boswellic acids seem to be specific inhibitor of 5-LO [2].   Pure compound from Boswellia serrata extract exhibits anti-inflammatory property in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and mouse macrophages through inhibition of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), NO and mitogen activated protein (MAP) kinases [3]. Boswellic acids are direct 5-LO inhibitors that efficiently suppress 5-LO product synthesis in common in vitro test models [4]. Clinical trials and case studies have shown that the extract of the plant, Boswellia serrata, can reduce pain and considerably improve knee-joint functions, in some cases providing relief even within seven days. These studies evaluated the efficacy of the extract enriched with a form of boswellic acid on osteoarthritis [5, 6].



1.  Ammon HP, Mack T, Singh GB, Safayhi H. Inhibition of leukotriene B4 formation in rat peritoneal neutrophils by an ethanolic extract of gum-resin exudates of Boswellia serrata. Planta Med. 1991;57:203–7.

2. Ammon HP. Salai guggul-Boswellia serrata from a herbal medicine to a specific inhibitor of leukotriene biosynthesis. Phytomedicine. 1996;3:67–70.

3. Gayathri B, Manjula N, Vinaykumar KS, Lakshmi BS, Balakrishnan A. Pure compound from Boswellia serrata extract exhibits anti-inflammatory property in human PBMCs and mouse macrophages through inhibition of TNF alpha, IL-1beta, NO and MAP kinases. Int Immunopharmacol. 2007;7:473–82. [PubMed]

4. Siemoneit U, Pergola C, Jazzar B, Northoff H, Skarke C, Jauch J, et al. On the interference of boswellic acids with 5-lipoxygenase: Mechanistic studies in vitro and pharmacological relevance. Eur J Pharmacol.2009;606:246–54.

5. Anonymous. Indian herb hope for arthritis relief. The Telegraph Calcutta. 2008. Aug 4, [Last accessed on 2011 May 18]. p. 7. Available from:,

6. Perera PK, Perera KMSP. Effect of Sri Lanka Ayurveda Medicine on Pain and Range of Movement of Osteoarthritis of Knee Joint Accompanied by Exostoses. 1st International Conference on Unanai, Ayurveda, Siddha and Traditional Medicine, Abstract proceeding book 19th -21st of December 2001.

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