Boswellia Side Effects

Updated April 17, 2017

Boswellia, also known as boswellia serrata or boswellia sacra, is a medicinal herb that is used to treat many things, the most common being swelling. Like any medication, boswellia can have side effects.


Boswellia has been used for hundreds of years for medicinal and religious purposes. The resin from the boswellia tree is thought to be the precious Frankincense mentioned in the Bible. Ancient people used boswellia and myrrh for embalming and for its incense in cultural ceremonies according to Dr. Simla Basar in his 2003 study called Phytochemical Investigations of Boswellia Species, done at the University of Hamburg.


Boswellia is a tree found in the hills of India. Traditionally, the part of tree used for medicine is a sap-like resin, or gummy oleoresin. The resin is made up of essential oils and terpenoids. Boswellic Acid is a terpenoid, the organic chemical that is thought to contain the part of boswellia that works as a medication.


Boswellia is used to treat many illnesses, but is primarily used for swelling and inflammation. In India, boswellia has been part of Ayurvedic medicine for a long time. Ayurveda is considered part of natural, alternative or complementary medicine in the Western part of the world. Because boswellia works so well on inflammation, it is a favourite alternative treatment for arthritis but is also used to treat lung and breathing problems, diabetes, skin problems, blood disorders, diarrhoea and some fungal infections.

Potential Side Effects

One of the reasons doctors who use boswellia prefer it for pain and swelling is that it has less chance for stomach upset than traditional NSAID (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen. However, boswellia can sometimes cause mild to moderate stomach upset. Less likely but occasionally, skin rashes and diarrhoea can occur but is considered almost rare. There are no documented drug interactions or serious side effects from taking boswellia. However, as with all medications, you should discuss your individual situation and current treatment with your doctor before starting something new.


Because boswellia has properties that effect and lower blood cholesterol, if you are taking a medication for cholesterol, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist before using boswellia.
Boswellia should not be used during pregnancy or by nursing mothers.

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About the Author

Beth Richards, a freelance writer since 2002, writes about health and draws from her 25 years as a licensed dispensing optician. She has authored several books, writes for national magazines including "Country Living" and "Organic Family" and is a health and wellness features writer for several publications. She is earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland.