Boswellic Acids: what you don't know about Frankincense

By J.M.Garg - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

By J.M.Garg - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Frankincense is an oleo gum resin excluded by Boswellia shrubs/trees, a member of the Burseacae, a plant family that includes aromatic trees such as Palo Santo, Ylang Ylang, Proteus and others. They all have a network of resin-bearing ducts that distribute often fragrant oleo gum resin used by the plants for defense against insects and fungi and the repair of damaged tissue. Frankincense oleoresins have been used for incense, perfume and medicine for thousands of years in Asia, Europe, Arabia and Africa.

A short list of therapeutic applications traditionally associated with Frankincense would include  treating arthritis, rheumatism, ulcers, asthma, bronchitis, gastrointestinal disorders, tumors, cancers, infertility, moods, memory loss, improving brain function, addressing aging skin and flagging libido.

All types of Frankincense are composed of varying proportions of water-soluble gum, resin, and essential or volatile oils. These resins and volatile oils are lipophilic and dissolve in non-polar solvents such as vegetable oils, alcohol and petroleum distillates.

Boswellic acids are resin acids and make up between 30% to 60% of the resin portion of Frankincense. Recent studies have indicated that the Boswellic acids in Frankincense possess anti-inflammatory and anti-Cancer properties. Some of the cancer cells they have shown promise and effectiveness in treating are prostate, late stage ovarian, bladder, colorectal, brain tumors and many more.

Boswellic acids are only present in the resin portion of these oleo-gum-resins, not their essential oils. The essential oils of Frankincense contain only trace amounts of Boswellic acids. So far, research has shown the following species of Frankincense contain Boswellic acids:
Boswellia Carterii-Somalia
Boswellia Sacra-Arabia
Boswellia Serrata-India
Boswellia Papyrifera-Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya

It is more than likely that Boswellia Thurifera from the Red Sea area and B. Elongata from Socrata also contain these compounds though analysis of the resin has not been done to date.

Anti-Aging & Wrinkle Fighter
Frankincense essential oil is a powerful astringent, meaning it helps protect skin cells. It can be used to help reduce acne blemishes, the appearance of large pores, to prevent wrinkles, and it will even help lift and tighten skin to naturally slow signs of aging. The oil can be used anywhere where the skin becomes saggy such as the abdomen, jowls, or under the eyes.

Scar, Wound, Stretch Mark or Acne Remedy

Frankincense oil can help with wound healing and may decrease the appearance of scars. It may also help reduce the appearance of dark spots caused from acne blemishes, stretch marks, eczema and help with healing of surgical wounds.

Heals Skin and Prevents Signs of Aging

Frankincense has the ability to strengthen skin and improve its tone, elasticity, defense mechanisms against bacteria or blemishes, and appearance as someone ages. It helps tone and lift skin, reduces appearance of scars and acne, and heals wounds. It can also be beneficial for fading of stretch marks, surgery scars or marks associated with pregnancy, and for healing dry or cracked skin.

Balances Hormone Levels

Frankincense oil reduces symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause by balancing hormone levels. It can help relieve pain, cramps, constipation, headaches, anxiety, nausea, fatigue, and mood swings. Frankincense oil also helps with regulating estrogen production and reduces the risk of tumor or cyst development in pre-menopausal women.



Boswellic acids (BAs) are pentacyclic triterpenes with strong anti-inflammatory activity; their most important source is the extract of the gum resin of Boswellia serrata, a tropical tree that grows in India and Africa. In the present randomized, double-blind, split-face, comparative study we have assessed efficacy, tolerability, and safety of a base cream containing 0.5 % BAs as compared to the same cream without these active ingredients in the treatment of clinical manifestations of photoaging of facial skin. Fifteen female volunteers were enrolled; they applied creams once daily for 30 days. At baseline, at the end of the treatment, and after a 2-month follow-up, clinical findings were assessed according to the Dover classification scale for photoaging and by biophysical and ecographic measurements. We registered a significant improvement of tactile roughness and fine lines in the half side of the face treated with BAs; noninvasive instrumental diagnostic investigations showed an improvement of elasticity, a decrease of sebum excretion, and a change of echographic parameters suggesting a reshaping of dermal tissue. The treatment was always well tolerated without adverse effects. The present findings seem to indicate that the topical application of BAs may represent a suitable treatment option for selected features of skin photoaging.