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) has
released a Botanical Adulterants Bulletin on boswellia (Boswellia serrata, Burseraceae) oleogum resin,* commonly referred
to as Indian frankincense. Boswellia has been valued for its fragrance and medicinal
properties for millennia.
Following the release
of the turmeric bulletin in May 2018, the boswellia bulletin is the second consecutive
publication covering a popular herb from traditional medicine systems in India.
Retail sales of boswellia dietary supplements have skyrocketed in the United
States, particularly in the mass market channel, where sales increased from
approximately $143,000 in 2013 to $14.6 million in 2017, corresponding to an
average annual growth of roughly 210%.
Published data on
boswellia adulteration have focused mainly on admixture or substitution with
oleogum resins from other Boswellia species,
in particular B. frereana, B. papyrifera, and B. sacra. Resins from other Boswellia
species may be used as substitutes in cases where there are locally accepted
interchangeable uses, or they are sometimes used as adulterants, possibly due
to 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 in
Western countries due to the number of clinical studies supporting its
anti-inflammatory benefits. In other areas of the world, substitution of Boswellia serrata with other Boswellia species may occur due to
permissible interchangeable use. However, substitution or adulteration may also
be due to shortages in the supply chain or the availability of material from
other plants at lower cost.”
The new bulletin was written
by 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 the
nomenclature, cultivation, harvest, and market importance of boswellia. Twenty-two
experts in quality control of medicinal plants from academia and the herb
industry have provided input on the bulletin during the peer-review process.
popularity of boswellia resin in dietary supplements and medicinal herb
products designed to alleviate inflammatory conditions, coupled with credible
reports of either substitution or dilution with undeclared lower-cost
ingredients, prompted us to investigate and report on boswellia,” said Mark
Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC and director of BAPP. “The boswellia
bulletin confirms that boswellia is subject to intentional adulteration by some
suppliers, meaning that responsible buyers of boswellia raw material and
extract need to exercise additional diligence in their quality control programs.”
The boswellia bulletin is the 15th
publication in the series of Botanical Adulterants Bulletins and the 42nd
peer-reviewed publication published by BAPP. As with all publications in the program,
the bulletins are freely accessible to all ABC members, registered users of the
ABC website, and all members of the public on the Program’s website (registration
The goal of the
Botanical Adulterant Bulletins is to provide accounts of ongoing issues related
to botanical identity and adulteration, thus allowing quality control personnel
and lab technicians in the herbal medicine, botanical ingredient, dietary
supplement, cosmetic, herbal tea, conventional food, and other industries in which
botanical ingredients are used to be informed on adulteration problems that are
apparently widespread and/or imply safety concerns.
oleogum resin is a naturally occurring mixture of resin (a viscous mixture of
terpenes), gum (a viscous exudate composed of polysaccharides), volatile oil,
and mostly small amounts of other substances.