Boswellia And Its Use In Treating IBD

This Herb Has Been Used For Centuries To Treat Inflammation

Indian Boswellia Tree
The sap from the Boswellia serrate tree has been in use for centuries to treat inflammation. It has been studied, though not extensively, for use in IBD. Image © Elliot Neep / Oxford Scientific / Getty Images

What Is Boswellia?

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) is an ayurvedic herb that is native to Africa, China, and the Middle East and has been used to treat many inflammatory conditions. Also called Indian frankincense, boswellia is actually an extract that is made from the gum resin found in the stem bark of the boswellia tree. Boswellia has been studied for use as a supplement to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

How Boswellia Is Used

Boswellia is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. It blocks the chemicals that contribute to inflammation, and has been studied for use in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and IBD. Boswellia has been studied for use in Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and collagenous colitis. In some studies, boswellia has been shown to be effective, but more research is needed before this it can be considered for general use.

Dosing Information

Boswellia is sold as a supplement in tablet, capsule, and cream form. Depending on which condition boswellia is being taken to treat, it is typically used for a duration of 8 to 12 weeks. The cream is generally used as long as it is needed. The dosages that have been studied for use in IBD are between 350 and 400 mg three times per day. For use in rheumatoid arthritis, the dosages studied are between 400 and 800 mg three times per day.

Interactions With Other Drugs and Supplements

Boswellia may decrease the effectiveness of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin. This herb may also interact with:

  • Antibiotics
  • Fat-soluble drugs
  • Immunomodulators
  • Sedatives

Boswellia may have interactions with other herbs or supplements, including:

  • Anticancer supplements (such as mistletoe, Viscum album)
  • Supplements used to lower cholesterol (such as garlic, Allium sativum, or red yeast)
  • Antifungals (such as tea tree oil, Melaleuca alternifolia)
  • Supplements used to treat joints (such as glucosamine and chondroitin)

Tell your health care team if you are taking boswellia.

Side Effects

As with any drug or supplement, there is always a chance of an allergic reaction. Boswellia should be avoided by anyone who has a known allergy to boswellia or other plants in the Burseraceae family. Side effects with boswellia are considered rare, but some possible side effects include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Skin irritation (hives, rashes, itchiness)

Use During Pregnancy

Boswellia is not recommended for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant and you have taken boswellia.

Safety and Effectiveness Concerns

Even though boswellia has been used for many years in India, it is not currently approved in the U.S. to treat any condition, and there is no proven track record for its safety or effectiveness. Tell your doctor if you are considering the use of boswellia, or if you are currently taking boswellia.


Gerhardt H, Seifert F, Buvari P, Vogelsang H, Repges R. "Therapy of active Crohn disease with Boswellia serrata extract H 15." Z Gastroenterol Jan 2001;39:11-17. 25 Nov 2015.

Gupta I, Parihar A, Malhotra P, et al. "Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with ulcerative colitis." Eur J Med Res Jan 1997;2:37-43. 25 Nov 2015.

Hartmann RM1, Fillmann HS, Martins MI, Meurer L, Marroni NP. "Boswellia serrata has beneficial anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in a model of experimental colitis." Phytother Res. 2014 Sep;28:1392-1398.

Madisch A, Miehlke S, Eichele O, et al. "Boswellia serrata extract for the treatment of collagenous colitis. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial." Int J Colorectal Dis 2007 Dec;22:1445-1451. 25 Nov 2015.

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