Boswellia gum resin or frankincense has a history as old as human civilization itself. The three Wise Men (Magi) offered frankincense, myrrh and gold to baby Jesus. These herbs, valued like gold, are mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament, in instructions to Moses about making incense and anointing oil.
Boswellia’s medicinal history is as old. In Ayurvedic texts, boswellia is one of a group of gum resins collectively referred to as guggals and were recommended for a variety of conditions including osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dysentery, asthma, bronchitis and other pulmonary diseases, ringworm, pimples, sores, cancers, dysmenorrhea, stimulation of menstrual flow, syphilis and as a diuretic. Pliny, in the first century A.D., mentions frankincense as an antidote to hemlock. In the 10th century, Avicenna recommended frankincense for tumors, ulcers, vomiting, dysentery and fevers. Chinese medical literature is also abound with the medicinal uses of boswellia.
The resin contains oils, terpenoids and gum. The oil has long been an important ingredient in Oriental perfumes. The medicinally active components of the resin are the terpenoids. Higher terpenoids, collectively called the boswellic acids, constitute the major fraction (25-35%) of the resin. The pentacyclic triperpenoid acids and β-boswellic acids, belong to the ursane group of triterpenoids.