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Boswellia sacra - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-022.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Burseraceae
Genus: Boswellia
Roxb. ex Colebr.[1]

see Selected species

Boswellia dalzielii bark

Boswellia is a genus of trees in the order Sapindales, known for their fragrant resin which has many pharmacological uses, particularly as anti-inflammatories. The Biblical incense frankincense was probably an extract from the resin of the tree Boswellia sacra.


There are four main species of Boswellia which produce true frankincense and each type of resin is available in various grades. The grades depend on the time of harvesting, and the resin is hand sorted for quality.

They are moderate-sized flowering plants, including both trees and shrubs, and are native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia. The distributions of the species are primarily associated with the tropics.[2] The greatest diversity of species presently is in Africa and India.[2]

They grow in low evergreen tropical forest, laurel forest, tropical and subtropical montane rainforest but also in tropical mountain cloud forest. Species in less humid environments are smaller or less robust, with less abundant and thinner foliage and have oleifera cells that give trees a more fragrant aroma. They do not form large stands but rather small groups of trees with a density of up to one individual per five hectares.

The ecological requirements of the genus are an ecosystem of great exuberance characterized by high humidity, no seasonal changes and with a wide variety of botanical and zoological species but also highly fragile against external aggressions.

The plants are dioecious.[3][4] The flowers may have 4-5 faintly connate but imbricate sepals with an equal number of distinct, imbricate petals.[3][4] Also, the stamens, that may contain nectar discs, have distinct glabrous filaments that come in 1-2 whorls and in numbers equaling or twice the number of petals; the tricolporate pollen is contained within 2 locules of the anthers that open longitudinally along slits.[3] The gynoecium contains 3-5 connate carpels, one style, and one stigma that is head-like to lobed.[3] Each locule of the superior ovary has 2 ovules with axile placentation that are anatropous to campylotropous.[3] The 1-5 pitted fruit is a drupe that opens at maturity.[3] The endosperm is usually lacking in the embryo.[3]

Medicinal uses[edit]

Boswellia has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine. Recently, the boswellic acids that are a component of the resin it produces have shown some promise as a treatment for asthma and various inflammatory conditions.[5] In West Africa, the bark of Boswellia dalzielii is used to treat fever, rheumatism and gastrointestinal problems.[6] Boswellia incense may even relieve depression.[7]

Selected species[edit]

List source :[8]


  1. ^ The genus Boswellia, and the type Boswellia serrata, were first described and published in Asiatic Researches 9: 379. 1807. "Name - Boswellia Roxb. ex Colebr.". Tropicos. Saint Louis, Missouri: Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved November 24, 2012. "Type Specimens: T: Boswellia serrata Roxb. ex Colebr." 
  2. ^ a b Weeks, A., Daly, D.C. and B.B. Simpson. 2005. The phylogenetic history and biogeography of the frankincense and myrrh family (Burseraceae) based on nuclear and chloroplast sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 35: 85-101.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Judd, W.S., Campbell, C.S., Kellogg, E.A., Stevens, P.F., and M.J. Donoghue. 2008. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach 3rd ed. Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, Massachusetts, USA.
  4. ^ a b Heywood, V.H. 1993. Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, New York, New York, USA.
  5. ^ Gupta I, Gupta V, Parihar A, et al. Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical study. European Journal of Herbal Medicine 1998; 3:511-14.
  6. ^ Arbonnier 2002. Arbres, arbustes et lianes des zones sèches de l'Afrique de l'Ouest
  7. ^ [1] "Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain", The FASEB Journal, 20 May 2008.
  8. ^ "TPL, treatment of Boswellia". The Plant List; Version 1. (published on the internet). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden. 2010. Retrieved November 24, 2012. 

External links[edit]