Medicinal Tree Salai/Shallaki (Boswellia serrata)

Salai, Shallaki, Luban are few common names of tree Boswellia serrata. This tree is native to India and found distributed in dry hilly regions. For medicinal purpose the bark and gum-resin of tree are used. The bark is considered tonic, sweet, acrid and cooling and used to treat diseases due to vitiation of pitta, asthma, dysentery, ulcers, haemorrhoids and skin diseases. But the main medicinal product obtained from the tree is its resin. The resin is one of the best herbal medicine for inflammatory diseases.

Scientific Classification

The botanical name of Sallaki is Boswellia serrata Roxb. and it belongs to the family Burseraceae. Its taxonomical classification is as given below:-

Division: Spermatophyta Subdivision: Angiospermae Class: Anacardiales Family: Burseraceae Genus: Boswellia Species: serrata

Common names

  • Sanskrit: Shallaki
  • English: Indian frankincense tree, Indian olibanum
  • Assamese: Sallaki
  • Bengali: Luban, Salai, Salgai
  • Gujrati: Shaledum, Saleda, Saladi, Gugal, Saledhi
  • Hindi: Salai, Labana
  • Kannada: Madimar, Chilakdupa, Tallaki, Maddi
  • Kashmiri: Kunturukkam, Samprani
  • Marathi: Salai cha dink
  • Punjabi: Salai Gond
  • Tamil: Parangi Sambrani
  • Telugu: Parangi sambrani, Anduga, Kondagugi tamu
  • Urdu: Kundur

Tree Description

Moderate sized, deciduous tree, up to 18 m in height and up to 2.4 m in girth;light, spreading crown and drooping branches;Bark very thin, greyish-green, ashy or reddish in colour with a chlorophyll layer beneath the thin outer layer;Leaves are alternate, exstipulate, imparipinnate, 20-45 cm in length, crowded towards the ends of the branches;leaflets 17-31 cm, opposite, 2.5-8 cm x 0.8-1.5 cm, basal pairs often smallest, sessile, lanceolate or ovate-lanceolate, crenate, very variable in size;Flowers white, born in stout racemes 10-20 cm long, shorter than the leaves, crowded towards the ends of branches, but not terminal;Calyx persistent, pubescent outside, 5 to 7-toothed;teeth small, deltoid;Petals 5-7, erect, free, 0.5 cm long;Fruits 1.3 cm long, trigonous, with three valves and three heartshaped, 1-seeded pyrenes, winged, along the margins.

Distributions in India

Native to India;commonly found in the tropical dry deciduous forests from Punjab to West Bengal and in peninsular India. In Maharashtra it is common throughout dry deciduous forests.

Also found in West Asia, Oman, Yemen, South Africa, and Southern Arabia.

Habit: Deciduous trees, flowers small, white.

Parts used: Resinous exudation of bark which contains natural sugars, essential oils, and several unique triterpene acids known as boswellic acids.

Gum-Resin of Boswellia serrata/Luban/Salai-Guggul/Kundur

Gum resin is exudate from the cortex of tree secreted on some external injury. Quality gum is obtained from the tree only after eight years. A single tree can yield about one to two kilograms of gum in a year. For obtaining gum, small patch of bark is removed. The resin is fragrant, transparent and golden yellow and on drying it becomes brownish yellow. Gum-resin contains 30-60% resin, 5-10% essential oils (soluble in the organic solvents) and the rest is made up of polysaccharides.

The resin is sweet, bitter, astringent, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, anti-dysenteric, expectorant, sweat causing, stimulates urine production, stomachic and emmenagogue. Other conditions in which it is useful are fevers, convulsions, abnormal discharge from the urethra, orchiopathy (Disease of a testis), bronchitis, cough, stomatitis (Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the mouth) and jaundice. The oral administration of resin reduced serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels in rat studies due to action of Boswellic acids.

Gum-resin or Salai guggal of tree is extensively used in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, joint pain, skeletal muscle pain, back pain, soft tissue fibrositis, spondylitis etc. due to anti-inflammatory property. In all such diseases use of resin gives relief in joint swelling, pain, stiffness and other related symptoms.

Some common names of Oleo-gum resin of Boswellia serrata are Salai guggal, Salai Gond, Luban, and Kundur (Unani).

General appearance of Gum-resin

Solidifies slowly with time. Reddish brown, greenish yellow, or dull yellow to orange in colour. Small, ovoid, fragrant tears. Sometimes the tears form agglomerated masses up to 5 cm long and 2 cm thick. Fracture brittle, fractured surface is waxy and translucent. Burns readily and gives characteristic balsamic resinous odour.

Major chemical constituents of Gum-resin

Contains 5–9% essential oil with major constituents being ?-thujene (50–61%), sabinene (5%), ?-pinene (8%) and ?-phellandrene (2%). Major triterpene constituents of biological interest are members of the boswellic acids (more than 12) including 11-oxo-?-boswellic acid, 3-O-acetyl-11- oxo-?-boswellic acid, ?-boswellic acid, ?-boswellic acid, 3-O-acetyl- ?- boswellic acid, and 3-O-acetyl ? -boswellic acid.

Medicinal uses of Salai/Shallaki (Boswellia serrata)

In traditional medicine system, the gum-resin of tree is extensively used to treat variety of diseases and especially related to joints. The gum resin is pain-relieving, cholesterol lowering, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and emmenagogue (stimulates or increases menstrual flow).

The gum resin is used from centuries to treat inflammatory diseases of joints (rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, joint pain, skeletal muscle pain, back pain), lungs (asthma, bronchitis), gastrointestinal tract (colitis, crohn's disease) and skin (psoriasis).

Salai-guggul is indicated in all types of pain, including pain due to arthritis. In arthritis and rheumatism oral administration of gum-resin or salai-guggul reduces joint swelling, pain, stiffness, other symptoms of inflammatory joint disorders, decreases knee pain and increases knee flexion. Use of it protects kness and supports normal joint function.

It is also given to fasten the wound healing and in fractured bones due its property to promote formation of new connective tissue and tiny blood vessels on the surfaces of a wound. It also improves blood circulation, clears toxins and removes blockage. Boswellic acid present in resin causes reduction in pain and inflammation in all such diseases.

The resin is also indicated in high cholesterol level in blood, erectile dysfunction, impotence, sexual debility, and gynaecological complaints (fibroids, cyst, painful periods etc.).

The average dose of gum-resin is 400mg-1200mg (of boswellia standardized to contain 40-65% boswellic acid), three times per day;1–3 g daily (crude drug) and 3-9g per day resin in decoction.


Due to a lack of safety data, the use of the crude drug during pregnancy, breastfeeding and in children under the age of 12 years is not recommended.

  1. In person with weak digestion low dose in recommended.
  2. Start with low dose.
  3. Common side effect of boswellia is gastric irritation.
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