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Botanical Description / Habitat

Boswellia Thurifera



Common Names



Arabia and Somalia.


A leafy tree with white or pale rose flowers.

It appears to grow right out from the rock.

Medicinal Parts

Resin, gathered between May and September, during the dry season.

Historical Properties & Uses

It has been a staple ceremonial incense for thousands of years, in major churches and synagogues, as well as a cosmetic ingredient (e.g. depilatory, eyeliner or kohl and a fragrant paste to perfume the hands).

It has been used in plasters and may be substituted for Peru Balsam.

It used to have a reputation as a stimulant but is rarely consumed in the modern era.

Pliny considered it an antidote to hemlock.

Avicenna recommended it for dysentary, fevers, tumors, ulcers and vomiting.

In China it has been used for leprosy.

It has also been inhaled together with steam.

Pastilles are still produced for the relief of bronchitis and laryngitis.


Greive, M: A Modern Herbal. Penguin, 1984. (Originally published in 1931.)

Method of Action

It is predominantly made up of resins (65%) e.g. boswellic acid.

Boswellic acid is now known to inhibit 5-lipoxygenase, an enzyme responsible for the synthesis of leukotrienes that maintain inflammation.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

There are no known interactions.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Frankincense can cause mild irritation of the skin, while internally it is a mild carminative.

Otherwise no major hazards, or side effects, are reported with proper administration.

Preparation & Administration

About 10 oz of frankincense is used in a standard incense preparation, either alone or mixed with e.g. benzoin.

The varieties of boswellia resin are probably interchangeable e.g. Patients receive 350 mg t.i.d. for 6 weeks.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.



Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Jun, 1998.

Greive, M: A Modern Herbal. Penguin, 1984. (Originally published in 1931.)

Gruenwald, J, Brendler, T & Jaenicke, C (Eds.): PDR for Herbal Medicines. Medical Economics, NJ. 1998.

Gupta, I et al., Eur. J. Med. Res. 1997, 2(1):37-43.


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