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Bulletin focuses on adulteration and substitution of boswellia with resins from related species

AUSTIN, Texas (July 10,2018) — The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) hasreleased a Botanical Adulterants Bulletin on boswellia (Boswellia serrata, Burseraceae) oleogum resin,* commonly referredto as Indian frankincense. Boswellia has been valued for its fragrance and medicinalproperties for millennia.

Following the releaseof the turmeric bulletin in May 2018, the boswellia bulletin is the second consecutivepublication covering a popular herb from traditional medicine systems in India.Retail sales of boswellia dietary supplements have skyrocketed in the UnitedStates, particularly in the mass market channel, where sales increased fromapproximately $143,000 in 2013 to $14.6 million in 2017, corresponding to anaverage annual growth of roughly 210%.

Published data onboswellia adulteration have focused mainly on admixture or substitution witholeogum resins from other Boswellia species,in particular B. frereana, B. papyrifera, and B. sacra. Resins from other Boswelliaspecies may be used as substitutes in cases where there are locally acceptedinterchangeable uses, or they are sometimes used as adulterants, possibly dueto local supply shortages or misidentification of B. serrata along the supply chain.

Stefan Gafner, PhD,chief science officer of ABC and technical director of BAPP, commented: “Boswellia serrata is preferred inWestern countries due to the number of clinical studies supporting itsanti-inflammatory benefits. In other areas of the world, substitution of Boswellia serrata with other Boswellia species may occur due topermissible interchangeable use. However, substitution or adulteration may alsobe due to shortages in the supply chain or the availability of material fromother plants at lower cost.”

The new bulletin was writtenby Allison McCutcheon, PhD, an expert in herbal medicine research in Vancouver,British Columbia. It summarizes the published data on boswellia quality issues,in particular the challenges in distinguishing Boswellia serrata from its potential substitutes and adulterants,details analytical methods to detect adulteration, and provides information on thenomenclature, cultivation, harvest, and market importance of boswellia. Twenty-twoexperts in quality control of medicinal plants from academia and the herbindustry have provided input on the bulletin during the peer-review process.

“The growingpopularity of boswellia resin in dietary supplements and medicinal herbproducts designed to alleviate inflammatory conditions, coupled with crediblereports of either substitution or dilution with undeclared lower-costingredients, prompted us to investigate and report on boswellia,” said MarkBlumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC and director of BAPP. “The boswelliabulletin confirms that boswellia is subject to intentional adulteration by somesuppliers, meaning that responsible buyers of boswellia raw material andextract need to exercise additional diligence in their quality control programs.”

The boswellia bulletin is the 15thpublication in the series of Botanical Adulterants Bulletins and the 42ndpeer-reviewed publication published by BAPP. As with all publications in the program,the bulletins are freely accessible to all ABC members, registered users of theABC website, and all members of the public on the Program’s website (registrationrequired).

The goal of theBotanical Adulterant Bulletins is to provide accounts of ongoing issues relatedto botanical identity and adulteration, thus allowing quality control personneland lab technicians in the herbal medicine, botanical ingredient, dietarysupplement, cosmetic, herbal tea, conventional food, and other industries in whichbotanical ingredients are used to be informed on adulteration problems that areapparently widespread and/or imply safety concerns.

*Anoleogum resin is a naturally occurring mixture of resin (a viscous mixture ofterpenes), gum (a viscous exudate composed of polysaccharides), volatile oil,and mostly small amounts of other substances.