Ingredient review

Boswellia serrata

Description

What is it?

Boswellia serrata is a branching tree and member of the Boswellia genus native to India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. (43) Its active ingredient, known as boswellic acid (BA), is derived from the gum resin of Boswellia plants and has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Unani medicines. BA targets multiple physiological signal transduction cascades providing anti-inflammatory, expectorant, anti-septic, anxiolytic, anti-neurotic, analgesic, tranquilizing, and anti-bacterial properties. (37

Six major α and β-boswellic acids have been identified, including:

  • 3-acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA)
  • 11-keto-β-boswellic acid (KBA)
  • α-boswellic acid (αBA)
  • β-boswellic acid (βBA)
  • 3-acetyl-α-boswellic acid (AαBA)
  • 3-acetyl-β-boswellic acid (AβBA) (15)

Of these BAs, AKBA and KBA possess the most powerful inhibitory effects on pro-inflammatory enzymes and on the production of inflammatory cytokines, which has led to their widespread therapeutic application in chronic inflammatory conditions. (24)(37)(43)

Not be confused with: 

  • Frankincense (olibanum resin/oil produced by Boswellia trees including Boswellia serrata, Boswellia carteri, Boswellia frereana, and Boswellia sacra) (14)
  • Guggul (resin from Commiphora wightii, Commiphora mukul, Commiphora gileadensis, Boswellia serrata, Boswellia carterii, Boswellia sacra, Boswellia ovalifoliolata, Boswellia dalzielii, Boswellia frereana, and Boswellia thurifera) (28)
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Main uses

Inflammatory disorders, including: musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and dermal

Formulations

Form
Standardization
Non-formulated Boswellia serrata extracts
Non-formulated extracts used in research have ranged in total BAs >35-80% (29)(36)
Contains AKBA: 3.3-4.4%, KBA: 0.45-0.58%, αBA: 0.87-1.6%, βBA: 5.4-25%, AαBA: 3.8-19.3%, and AβBA: 3.8-19.3% (16)(49)
Note that extracts may fall outside of this range, and can vary with respect to the proportion of individual BAs
5-Loxin®, BE-30
Standardized to AKBA: >30% (38)(40)
ApresFLEX®, Aflapin®
Standardized to AKBA: >20% in a non-volatile oil formulation (40)(48)
Bioavailability: ~52% more bioavailable than 5-Loxin® in rats (39)
Boswellin®
Standardized to total BAs of >50% - AKBA: 30%, KBA: 1.5%, AβBA: 3.5%, and βBA: 7.5% (30)
BSE-18
Standardized to total BAs of >55% - AKBA: 3.7%, KBA: 6.1%, αBA: 13.2%, βBA: 18.2%, AαBA: 3.3%, and AβBA: 10.5% (1)(46)
Cap Wokvel™
Standardized to total BAs of >40% - AKBA: 2%, KBA: 6.44%, αBA: 6.93%, βBA: 18.51%, AαBA 1.853%, and AβBA: 8.58% (25)(45)
H15 Gufic™, Sallaki™
Standardized to total BAs of >30% - AKBA: 1.9-2.8%, KBA: 2.6-3.5%, and AβBA: 8% (1)(21)(26)
Phytosome®
Standardized to total BAs of >33% in a 1:1 ratio of soy lecithin formulation (Casperome™) to Boswellia serrata extract (22)(36)
Bioavailability: ↑ absorption speed by 1.5-2 hours for all BAs; ↑ plasma Cmax AKBA (4-fold), AβBA, βBA, αBA, and AαBA (2-fold) (36)
S. Compound™
Standardized to contain AKBA: 0.7%, KBA: 0.63%, and 1.5% AβBA/βBA (1)

Dosing & administration

Adverse effects

Generally considered to be safe. The most commonly reported side effects include gastrointestinal reflux, pain, and/or nausea. (5)(6)

Pharmacokinetics

Absorption

  • Stable plasma levels are achieved after 30 hours. (42)
  • All six major BAs may be found in the plasma, however the principle acid, AKBA, is not always detectable. All of the acids show high variability. (16)
  • BAs have low intestinal absorption due to BAs lipophilic properties. (41) AKBA, AαBA, and AβBA have particularly low absorption as shown in rats. (1)(4)(15)(27)
  • Bioavailability can be increased when consumed with fatty food (44)(46) or in soy lecithin formulations. (22)(36) Phosphatidylcholine or phospholipid formulations may also increase bioavailability as shown in rats. (23)(41)

Distribution

  • BAs are distributed to the brain, eyes, liver, kidney, and skeletal muscle as shown in rats. (15)(22)

Metabolism

  • Phase 1: KBA, αBA, and βBA are metabolised via intestinal and hepatic CYP3A4 mediated oxidation to form hydroxylated metabolites. AKBA, AαBA, and AβBA are not extensively metabolized. (1)(4)(15)(27)
  • Phase 2: No major role identified (15)

Excretion

  • BAs have a half-life of approximately six hours. (42)

References