ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program Published Bulletin on Boswellia Resin Adulteration

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

AUSTIN, Texas (June 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. frereanaB. 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.

“The growing 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 required).

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.

*An 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.

About the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program

The ABC-American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP)-National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program is an international consortium of nonprofit professional organizations, analytical laboratories, research centers, industry trade associations, industry members, and other parties with interest in herbs and medicinal plants. The program advises industry members, researchers, health professionals, government agencies, the media, and the public about the various challenges related to adulterated botanical ingredients sold in commerce. To date, more than 200 US and international parties have financially supported or otherwise endorsed the program.

To date, the program has published 42 peer-reviewed articles, Botanical Adulterants Bulletins, Laboratory Guidance Documents, and Botanical Adulterants Monitor e-newsletters. All of the program’s publications are freely available on the program’s website.

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