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Ethnobotanical Leaflets 13: 766-74, 2009.
Pharmacological Activities of Boswellia serrata Roxb. - Mini Review
Aman Upaganlawar
1
* and Balu Ghule
2
1
Department of Pharmacy, The M.S.University of Baroda, Gujarat, India
2
Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Wardha, India
*Corresponding author: amanrx@yahoo.com
Issued 01 June 2009
Abstract
Boswellia serrata (Salai Guggal) is one of the most ancient and respected herbs in Ayurveda.
Gajabhakshya a Sanskrit name sometimes used for Boswellia suggests that elephants enjoy
this herb as a part of their diet. Historically Boswellia serrata is recommended for osteoarthritis,
juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, soft tissue fibrosis and spondilytis without any side effect. Present
review focuses on pharmacological activities of Boswellia serrata Roxb.
Keywords : Pharmacological activities, Boswellia serrata, Oleogum resin.
Introduction
Boswellia serrata (Family: Burseraceae) is a deciduous middle sized tree, which is mostly
concentrated in tropical; parts of Asia and Africa. In India it occurs in dry hilly forests of
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Assam, Orrisa as well as central penisular regions
of Andhra Pradesh, Assam etc. The gum is tapped from the incision made on the trunk of the
tree which is then stored in specially made bamboo basket and converted into different grades
of material according to flavor, color, shape and size. The fresh gum obtained from the tree is
hot dry with a pleasant flavor and slightly bitter in taste. It is the frankincense of ancient
Egyptians, Greeks and Romans who used it as prized incense, fumigant as well as a
multipurpose aromatic. It is generally used in making incense powder and sticks.
The oleo gum resin of Boswellia serrata is used in various Unani and Ayurvedic
preparation. It is reported to be useful in the treatment of bronchitis, asthma, cough, bad throat
and various intestinal problems. It is a diaphoretic and astringent prescribe in various syphilitic
and pulmonary diseases. It acts as both internal and external stimulant, expectorant, diuretic and
stomachic. The gum is also prescribed in cases of jaundice, diahhroea, dysentery, dyspepsia and
hemorrhoids. It is also recommended in weak and unhealthy kind of ulceration (1, 2, 3, 4).
Chemistry
The essential oil of B. serrata predominantly comprised monoterpenoids, of which
-
pinene (73.3%) was the major constituent. Other monoterpenoids identified included
-pinene
(2.05%), cis-verbenol (1.97%), trans-pinocarveol (1.80%), borneol (1.78%), myrcene (1.71%),
verbenone (1.71%), limonene (1.42%), thuja-2,4(10)-diene (1.18%) and p-cymene (1.0%),
while
-copaene (0.13%) was the only sesquiterpene identified in the oil.(8). Higher terpenoids
constitute the major fraction (25-35 %) of the oleo-gum-resin. The first terpenoids isolated is
boswellic acid in1898 by Tschirh et al (5). Since then a number of chemists have worked on
the structural elucidation of boswellic acid. Structure of methyl ester of acetyl- β -boswellic
acid has also been confirmed by single crystal X-ray studies recently (6).
Besides boswellic acid several other triterpenoids have also been isolated from the gum
resin, these, compounds include α -amyrins, 11-keto-a-boswellic acid, 3 hydroxyl urs-9, 11
dien-24-oic acid, 3-acetoxy urs-9, 11-dien-24-oic- acid (Fig. I). Tetracyclic triterpenoic acids
have, also been reported by Pardhy et. al., these compounds are 3- hydroxyl-tirucall-8, 24-dien-
21-oic acid 3- hydroxyl-tirucall-8, 24-dien-21-oic acid, 3-keto-tirucall-8, 24-dien-21-oic acid
3-hydroxy-tirucall-8, 24-dien-21-oic acid 3-keto-tirucall-8, 24-dien-21-oic acid, and 3-
acetoxy tirucall-8, 24-dien-21-oic acid (Fig.2) Besides, these authors have also reported the
isolation of a new diterpene alcohol serratol (7).
Fig. 1. Structures of different boswellic acids.
Pharmacological Activities
Anti-inflammatory Activity on New Papaya Latex Model
The Boswellic acid from B. serrata when tested on new model i.e Papaya Latex Model,
showed significant activity of mean 35% inhibition of inflammation. Since the new model is
reported to be sensitive to slowly acting, remission inducing drugs. Its effectiveness on
boswellic acid throws some light on its mechanism of action which seems to be unlike aspirin
and steroidal drugs (9).
Leukotriene Inhibition
Ethanol extract of the gum resin inhibits the formation of Leukotriene B
4 in rat peritoneal
neurophils. Leukotriene such as LTB
4 is recognized as one of the important mediators of
inflammatory reactions. Leukotrienes are synthesized by stimulated phagocytes cells,
particularly the neutrophills. The production of chemostatic factors by these cells attracts more
phagocytes to sites of inflammation. Most other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs act
through the inhibition of prostaglandins produced by stimulated phagocytes. Boswellic acid,
therefore, is different from other known non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in its mode of
action and relatively free from side effects (10).
Analgesic and Psychopharmacological effects
Menon et al, revealed that the gum resin of B. serrata possess marked analgesic activity in
experimental animals in addition to its sedative effect. They have found that it produces
reduction in the spontaneous motor activity and caused plosis in rats (11).
Anti inflammatory and Anti-arthritic activitys (12)
Extract of salai guggal caused inhibition of the Carrageenan induced rat hind paw oedema
by 39.75% and 65-73%, administered orally (p.o.) in dose ranges of 50-200 mg per kg -1 and
interaperitoneal (i.p.) in does rang of 50-100 mg per kg-1 respectively compared to 47%
inhibition seen with phenylbutazone (50mg/kg
-1
p.o.). In the anti-arthritic study on the
mycobacterium adjuvant-induced poly-arthritic in rats, salai guggal showed 34% and 49%
inhibition of paw swelling with 50 and 100 mg per kg -1 (p.o.) doses respectively as compared
to controls.
Singh et al (13) studied the anti-inflammatory activity of mixture of Boswellic acid
(Composed of 5 acids with a-Boswellic acid as the major component). This showed 25-46%
inhibition of paw oedema in rats and mice. In chronic test of formaldehyde arthritis it exhibited
45-67% antiarthritic activity in a similar dose range. The fraction was effective in both adjuvant
arthritis (35-59%) as well as established arthritis (54-84%) It also showed antipyretic effect,
with no ulcerogenic effect and well tolerated in as high a dose as 2 gm/kg p.o, mice.
Effects on leucocytes migration
Ammon, et al, (14) carried out studies on leukocytes migration into the inflammatory
exudates caused by Carrageenan. It was found to exert marked inhibitory effect on both the
volume and leucocytes population of pleural exudates. In acute test model of Carrageenan
induced pleurisy in rats. Extract of salai guggal in a dose of 100 mg per kg orally showed
significant reduction of pleural exudates volume (47.93%): P<0.001) and leucocytes population
(26.42% P <0.001). The effects on these parameters were more pronounced when animals were
treated with Extract of salai guggal in a dose of 100 mg per kg p.o. for 10 days before the test
performance.
Immunomodulatory activity
Extract of gum resin of B. serrata containing 60% acetyl 11-keto beta boswellic acid
(AKBA) along with other constituents such as 11-keto beta-boswellic acid (KBA), acetyl beta-
boswellic acid and beta-boswellic acid has been evaluated for antianaphylactic and mast cell
stabilizing activity using passive paw anaphylaxis and compound 48/80 induced degranulation
of mast cell methods. The extract inhibited the passive paw anaphylaxis reaction in rats in dose-
dependant manner. However, the standard dexamethasone (0.27 mg/kg, p.o) revealed maximum
inhibition of edema as compared to the extract. A significant inhibition in the compound 48/80
induced degranulation of mast cells in dose-dependant manner was observed thus showing mast
cell stabilizing activity. The standard disodium cromoglycate (50 mg/kg, ip) was found to
demonstrate maximum per cent protection against degranulation as compared to the extract
containing 60% AKBA (15).
Anticancer Activity
Alcoholic extract of salai guggal (AESG) for anti-carcinogenicity in mice with ehrlic
ascites carcinoma and S-180 tumor, found inhibition of tumor growth by inhibiting cell
proliferation and cell growth due to the interference with biosynthesis of DNA, RNA and
proteins (16). Topical application of Boswellin with 5 nmol TPA twice daily for 16 weeks to
mice previously treated with dimethylbenz-anthracene caused 87- 99% inhibition in the number
of tumor (17). Boswellic acids induce concentration dependent inhibition of glioma cell
proliferation and show anti-edema effect in glioblastoma patients (18). It was also revealed that
Boswellic acids induced apoptosis is protein synthesis dependent and not associated with free
radical scavenging activity.
Hypolipidemic and Hepatoprotective activity
Water soluble fraction of B. serrata extract decreased total cholesterol (38-48%) and
increased HDL in rats fed on atherogenic diet, thus proving its hypolipidemic potential (19).
alcoholic extract of salai guggal (AESG) causes hepatoprotection in galactosamine/endotoxin
induced liver damage in mice which was reflected by reduced titre of SGOT, SGPT,
aminotransferase and serum enzymes (20).
Hypoglycemic Activity
Herbal formulation containing B. serrata oleo-gum-resin as one of the ingredients has been
reported to produce significant anti-diabetic activity on non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus
in streptozocin induced diabetic rat model where reduction in blood-glucose level was
comparable to that of phenformin (21).
Antidiarrhoeal
Boswellia serrata extract (BSE) was found effective in treating diarrhoea in patient with
inflammatory bowel syndrome without causing constipation. It was also found effective against
acetylcholine and barium chloride induced diarrhoea by inhibiting contraction of intestinal
smooth muscles. The extract also inhibited gastrointestinal transit in croton and castor oil
induced diarrhoea in mice. However, intestinal motility remained unaffected in control mice by
BSE (22).
Antimicrobial activity
Essential oil from the bark of B.serrata was tested against Gram positive and Gram negative
bacteria. The essential oil exhibited significant inhibitory activity against S.aureus OGSUTH
108, E.coli LASUTH 54 and Proteus mirabilis UCH 28 (24).
Boswellic acids: novel, specific, nonredox inhibitors of 5-lipoxygenase
BA and derivatives concentration dependently decreased the formation of leukotriene B4
from endogenous arachidonic acid in rat peritoneal neutrophils. Among the BAs, acetyl-11-keto-
beta-BA induced the most pronounced inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO). It did not impair
the cyclooxygenase and 12-lipoxygenase in isolated human platelets and the peroxidation of
arachidonic acid by Fe-ascorbate (25).
Clinical Evaluation
Kimmatkar, N., et al, A randomized double blind placebo controlled crossover study was
conducted to assess the efficacy, safety and tolerability of Boswellia serrata Extract (BSE) in 30
patients of osteoarthritis of knee, 15 each receiving active drug or placebo for eight weeks.
After the first intervention, washout was given and then the groups were crossed over to receive
the opposite intervention for eight weeks. All patients receiving drug treatment reported
decrease in knee pain, increased knee flexion and increased walking distance (26)
.
Anti-asthmatic activity
In a double blind placebo control clinical study with 300mg thrice daily dose for 6 weeks,
Gupta et al (1998) established anti-asthmatic potential of alcohol extract of salai guggal
(AESG) where 70% of the patients with prolong history of asthma showed improvement in
physical symptom and sign of dyspnoea, bronchi, number of attacks, increase in stimulation of
mitogen activated protein kinase MAPK and mobilization of intracellular Ca2+ (23)
Chronic Toxicity Studies
Atal, et al. (1982), conducted chronic toxicity studies in 16 normal healthy monkeys
divided in four groups. Each group comprised of two, weight was recorded before and at
monthly intervals after drug administration. Haematological and biochemical estimations were
done prior to drug administration and monthly intervals after drug administration.
Haematological and biochemical estimations were done prior to drug administration and at
monthly intervals after drug treatment. DAESG was administered orally in three dose levels to
three groups i.e., low dose of 2 X ED50, medium does of 5 X ED50, for six moths and one
group served as a control. All the animals were maintained under uniform husbandry condition
throughout the experiment. Biochemical hematological, histopathological, and other
observations revealed no toxicity.
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... In traditional medicine, gummy resin is mentioned as very effective for diarrhea, dysentery, fevers, skin, blood diseases and cardiovascular diseases, mouth sores, bronchitis, asthma, and vaginal discharges [9,10]. Although historically B. serrata is recommended for osteoarthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, soft tissue fibrosis and spondylitis, without any side effects, present knowledge points out many other pharmacological activities, such as anti-inflammatory, anticancer and hypoglycemic activity, and analgesic, and psychopharmacological effects, with nontoxic activity in vivo on monkeys [11]. The gum-resin extracts or essential oil (EO) of the plant (5-10%) could be used as an ingredient in skincare, in perfumery and aromatherapy, but also in treating chronic inflammatory diseases [10,12]. ...
... In this research, the monoterpene group was dominated by B. serrata EO, which is in accordance with the previous study, although some differences in the content of the major constituents exist, such as the highest amount of β-Thujene (29.77) and α-Thujene (11.71) in this study. The EO of B. serrata predominantly comprised monoterpenoids, of which α-pinene (73.3%) was the major constituent, while other monoterpenoids identified included β-pinene (2.05%), cisverbenol (1.97%), trans-pinocarveol (1.80%), borneol (1.78%), myrcene (1.71%), verbenone (1.71%), limonene (1.42%), thuja-2,4(10)-diene (1.18%) and p-cymene (1.0%), while -copaene (0.13%) was the only sesquiterpene identified in the oil [11]. ...
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Commercial essential oils (EOs) of incense, Boswellia serrata Roxb, and mint, Mentha piperita L., were investigated against vaginal bacterial and Candida albicans isolates for antimicrobial potential and safety use. The antimicrobial activity of EOs was investigated through a double-dilution micro-plate assay. A brine shrimp assay was used for the determination of toxicity, while the determination of the chemical composition of EOs was carried out using GS–MS. Obtained minimal inhibitory (MIC) and minimal bactericidal concentration (MBC) point to the activity of mint essential oil (EO) against the multi-resistant P. aeruginosa isolate (MIC/MBC at 6.25 µL/mL), while MIC and MBC values for other isolates were reached at higher concentrations (25–50 µL/mL). According to the toxicity assay, the incense EO reached the LC50 value at 3.07 µL/mL, while mint EO showed higher toxicity at lower concentrations (0.5 µL/mL) and the LC50 could not be determined. The highest antimicrobial potential was obtained for incense against P. aeruginosa. Although the toxicity assay showed high toxicity of mint EO to the eggs of aquatic crustaceans Artemia salina, further testing of EO toxicity is proposed, for example on healthy cell-lines. According to the GC/MS spectrometry, the most represented components of mint EO were the oxygenated hydrocarbons L-menthone (20.86%) and menthol (31.86%), and they could be proposed for further antimicrobial and toxicity investigation.
... Furthermore, the extracts have antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-neoplastic properties (Parsonidis et al., 2021). The extract of B. serrata oleo-gum-resin consists 25-35% boswellic acids (BAs), such as α-boswellic acids (ABA), β-boswellic acids (BBA), 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA), 3-hydroxy-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (KBA), 3-O-acetyl-α-boswellic acid (AABA), and 3-O-acetyl-β-boswellic acid (ABBA) (Upaganlawar et al. 2009). These molecules reported for their anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antimicrobial, and antioxidant activities (Qurishi et al., 2010;Raja et al., 2011;Gupta et al., 2022). ...
... These molecules reported for their anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antimicrobial, and antioxidant activities (Qurishi et al., 2010;Raja et al., 2011;Gupta et al., 2022). Moreover, structure activity relationship, QSAR study, and docking results of BAs for anti-topoisomerase, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory activities showed potential pharmacological properties and their role in the extract of B. serrata oleo-gum-resin were reported (Sharma et al., 2010;Upaganlawar et al. 2009;Satpathy et al., 2015). ...
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Background : Boswellia serrata, an economically vital ethnic tree of dry deciduous forests to provides oleo-gum-resin of pharmaceutical significance. The marker molecules of this resin are penta-cyclic tri-terpenoids commonly known as boswellic acids (BAs). Methods : The topographical oleo-gum-resin samples were used for chemo-profiling of the BAs in methanol extracts by HPLC analysis. The anti-proliferative potential of extracts was evaluated on eight cell lines by MTT assay. The antibacterial activity was evaluated by the disc diffusion process and Minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) of extracts were performed by the microdilution assay. The antioxidant potentials of extract samples were accomplished by DPPH scavenging and ABTS assays. Results : The sample collected from Haldwani (BS-H) has been given the good yield of the extract (65.1%) with the lowest percentage of BAs (9.6%). Shivpuri, Neemuch, and Mandsaur are topographical locations in the state of Madhya Pradesh (M.P.) and are distinguished as the oleo-gum-resin trading sites in India. The methanol extract of Neemuch collection (BS-N2) was contained enhanced percentage of KBA (keto-β-boswellic acid) (8.4%) with highest yield of the extract (70.1%), while Mandsaur collection (BS-M1) was contained the highest percentage of AKBA (6.9%) with enhanced amount of BAs (39.89%). The extracts of M.P. samples have been shown inhibition of lung cancer cell-line with IC50: 2.34-13.06 µg/mL, and the percent inhibition is ranged from 7.0 to 93.67%. All these extracts have been displayed significant antimicrobial activity against Mycobacterium smegmatis (MS) (MIC: 2.4-156 µg/mL). Most importantly, Mandsaur (BS-M1) and Neemuch (BS-N2) collections have shown significant activity against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis (SE) strain with MIC of 2.4 µg/mL. All the extracts were shown significant antioxidant activity with IC50: 2.7-9.9 µg/mL, and BS-N2 was displayed 78.4% of free radical scavenging reduction activity. Similarly, ABTS was complemented the DPHH scavenging assay. Cluster correlation analyses of chemo-types with biological activities were performed among the different topographical samples. Conclusion : The variations of activities among the extracts were related to their chemical compositions. The topographical samples with the improved percentage of KBA and AKBA were shown highly significant anticancer, antibacterial and antioxidant activities. Cluster correlation analyses of all samples were assisted to compare the BAs contents with bioactivities.
... BS is a deciduous middle-sized tree, grown in tropical parts of Asia and Africa [64]. Boswellic acid is the first terpenoids isolated from oleo gum resins. ...
... Folkloric uses of BS are in the treatment of bronchitis, rheumatism, asthma, cough, intestinal problems, syphilitic, jaundice, dysentery, and pulmonary diseases. It acts as both internal and external stimulant, expectorant, diuretic, and stomachic [51,64]. Boswellia is a traditional natural remedy that has been used for thousands of years to treat swelling and inflamation in Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. ...
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... Essential oil (EO) is the commercially important, lower molecular weight, volatile, secondary metabolites of aromatic plants and has been used in food, flavor, and perfume industries (Mothana 2012;Soumya et al. 2019). In traditional Unani and Ayurveda medicinal systems, oleo-gum-resin and EO have been utilized for the treatment of cough, cold, asthma, stomach, dysentery, diarrhea, and pulmonary diseases (Aman and Balu 2009;Manjunath et al. 2018). It has been reported that Boswellia species EO and isolated compounds exhibit strong immunomodulatory, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, cytotoxicity, anticancer activity and several other important pharmacological activities (Shamraiz et al. 2020;Bini Araba et al. 2021;Tegasne et al. 2021;Wang et al. 2021). ...
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... The tree, on the injury, exudes an oleo gum resin. Oleo gum resin is secreted from cortex is transparent, fragrant, golden yellow and solidifies [1,2] . To obtain the oleo-gum-resin of Kundur, trees are tapped by shaving off a thin band of bark about 20 cm wide and 30 cm long or high, at the height of 15 cm from the base of the tree. ...
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Boswellia serrata is known as Kundur in Unani Medicine and the plant is found in Arabia, South Africa and west Asia. The white to yellow colored aromatic oleo resin gum is obtained from the stem bark of this pant and the main constituents of Boswellia serrata Roxb is Boswellic acid. This article was aimed to investigate and compile the pharmacological profile mentioned in Classical text of Unani medicine with special attention to its ulcer healing action and to scientifically recognize those pharmacological actions through the already published scientific studies. Pharmacological activities of kundur mentioned in Unani medicine are astringent, desiccative to the ulcer, antiseptic, haemostatic, cicatrizant, memory tonic, siccative to the secretion of phlegm, carminative, tissue formation and ulcer healing action. The active constituents of Boswellia serrata had proved effective in many experimental and clinical studies for various disease conditions.
... The tree, on the injury, exudes an oleo gum resin. Oleo gum resin is secreted from cortex is transparent, fragrant, golden yellow and solidifies [1,2] . To obtain the oleo-gum-resin of Kundur, trees are tapped by shaving off a thin band of bark about 20 cm wide and 30 cm long or high, at the height of 15 cm from the base of the tree. ...
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Boswellia serrata is known as Kundur in Unani Medicine and the plant is found in Arabia, South Africa and west Asia. The white to yellow colored aromatic oleo resin gum is obtained from the stem bark of this pant and the main constituents of Boswellia serrata Roxb is Boswellic acid. This article was aimed to investigate and compile the pharmacological profile mentioned in Classical text of Unani medicine with special attention to its ulcer healing action and to scientifically recognize those pharmacological actions through the already published scientific studies. Pharmacological activities of kundur mentioned in Unani medicine are astringent, desiccative to the ulcer, antiseptic, haemostatic, cicatrizant, memory tonic, siccative to the secretion of phlegm, carminative, tissue formation and ulcer healing action. The active constituents of Boswellia serrata had proved effective in many experimental and clinical studies for various disease conditions.
... Olibanum gum resin and have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-ulcer effect [6,7]. Plants belonging to the Boswellia group were used locally to treat hyperlipidemic. ...
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Cirsiliol and AA861, specific arachidonate 5-lipoxygenase inhibitors, showed potent antiproliferative effects on human leukemic cell lines K562, Molt4B and HL60. On the other hand, HeLa cells were not affected by these drugs. In the inhibitor treated and growth retarded leukemia cells, the rates of synthesis of DNA, RNA and protein were markedly decreased. These results suggested that arachidonate 5-lipoxygenase or leukotrienes would play essential roles in cellular functions of leukemic cells.
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