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Indian Frankincense

Indian Frankincense
Photo: © P. Schönfelder (Boswellia sacra)

Botanical name

Boswellia tree - Boswellia serrata Roxb.

Family

Balsam family (Burseraceae)

Useful information about the plant

Resins and balsams used for their intense burning, fragrant scents for cult activities. The more commonly used Frankincense in Catholic churches is a resin from Boswellia carteri Birdw, a wild tree grown in Somalia, Ethiopia and South Arabia. Incisions are cut in the bark out of which a resin is collected. The resin hardens quickly in the air and can then be easily removed and is used as an incense (olibanum) sold in the form of a granular material.
The Indian Frankincense is of interest medicinally, it comes from the Boswellia tree (B. serrata), a large tree that grows in the dry, mountainous regions of India. Its crown is spread out flat, 9 to 14 pairs of pinnate leaves, the pinnae have a rippled cut on each edge almost all the way around. The greenish ash-coloured bark peels off in papery, smooth pieces. The rubber resin taken from the Boswellia tree hardens into lumps of various shapes. They are yellowish to brownish in colour, irregularly spherical or like stalactites, light grey with a dusting, also easy to break with a conchoidal, waxy fractured surface. The Indian Frankincense is collected twice a year (March and June), the cuts in the trees are made months beforehand. Each tree can give about 1kg of gum resin each year.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

Air-dried gum resins collected from the trunk and the branches are separated and used.

Ingredients of the drug

Indian Frankincense contains about 60% resin with different boswellic acids (triterpene), as well as polysaccharides (gums) and essential oils.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of Indian Frankincense (olibanum indicum) is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.).

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

Neither the Commission E nor the ESCOP have processed the Indian Frankincense.
In Ayurvedic medicine, Indian Frankincense is used for the supportive treatment of chronic polyarthritis and for treating remissions in inflammatory bowel diseases, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Clinical studies confirm the efficacy of the Indian Frankincense in inflammatory bowel diseases, however, the final assessment of the areas of use is still pending in Germany and therefore also the approval. Approved standardised preparations of foreign countries can be introduced and applied on an individual prescription (e.g. H 15 Frankincense capsules).

Traditional use

Indian Franincense has no listing as a traditional medicine (§ 109a).

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products

Dried extract in tablets.

Dosage

Prepared drugs: see package insert;
Indian incense cannot be taken as a tea infusion, if necessary, the drug can be sucked for oral mucosal inflammation.

Preparation of a tea infusion

N/A

Advice

There is still is no experience on safety for the use of Indian Frankincense during pregnancy and breast-feeding as well as for use in children and adolescents.

Side effects

Rarely, gastrointestinal complaints, sometimes allergic reactions.

Interactions

None known

References

Drug monographs

None

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 470
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 281
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (Indian Frankincense, no. 2310)

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