Kick Chronic Colitis to the Curb with Boswellia

Chronic colitis is inflammation of the colon that can destroy patches of the mucosal lining of the colon or rectum. Aside from pain, symptoms also include bloody diarrhea and stools that contain mucus or pus. The inflammatory damage creates a spiral—the more inflammation, the more damage, and the more damage, the more inflammatory compounds that rush to the scene, ultimately making the condition worse.

Because of the anti-inflammatory actions of boswellia (Boswelllia serrata) a clinical study of individuals with colitis put the herb to the test.

In this research, a boswellia extract was compared to the prescription drug sulfasalazine. Sulfasalazine can cause stomach pain and nausea in addition to headaches and other side effects, to finding an alternative would be greatly welcomed by anyone who suffers the condition.

As it happened, those in the boswellia group did very well: symptoms improved in 18 of the 20 patients treated with the herb, including stool properties and mineral excretion, and 14 of the 20 saw a remission of symptoms across the board. The patients weren’t the only ones who noticed the results: the researchers noted boswellia’s success and its lack of side effects, and concluded that it could be an effective treatment for colitis.


Gupta I, Parihar A, Malhotra P, et al. Effects of gum resin of Boswellia serrata in patients with chronic colitis. Planta Med. 2001 Jul;67(5):391-5.

Patients studied here suffered from chronic colitis characterized by vague lower abdominal pain, bleeding per rectum with diarrhea and palpable tender descending and sigmoid colon. The inflammatory process in colitis is associated with increased formation of leukotrienes causing chemotaxis, chemokinesis, synthesis of superoxide radicals and release of lysosomal enzymes by phagocytes. The key enzyme for leukotriene biosynthesis is 5-lipoxygenase. Boswellic acids were found to be non-redox, non-competitive specific inhibitors of the enzyme 5-lipoxygenase. We studied the gum resin of Boswellia serrata for the treatment of this disease. Thirty patients, 17 males and 13 females in the age range of 18 to 48 years with chronic colitis were included in this study. Twenty patients were given a preparation of the gum resin of Boswellia serrata (900 mg daily divided in three doses for 6 weeks) and ten patients were given sulfasalazine (3 gm daily divided in three doses for 6 weeks) and served as controls. Out of 20 patients treated with Boswellia gum resin 18 patients showed an improvement in one or more of the parameters: including stool properties, histopathology as well as scanning electron microscopy, besides haemoglobin, serum iron, calcium, phosphorus, proteins, total leukocytes and eosinophils. In the control group 6 out of 10 patients showed similar results with the same parameters. Out of 20 patients treated with Boswellia gum resin 14 went into remission while in case of sulfasalazine remission rate was 4 out of 10. In conclusion, this study shows that a gum resin preparation from Boswellia serrata could be effective in the treatment of chronic colitis with minimal side effects.