Synergistic antimicrobial activity of Boswellia serrata Roxb. ex Colebr. (Burseraceae) essential oil with various azoles against pathogens associated with skin, scalp and nail infections

Lett Appl Microbiol. 2016 Dec;63(6):495-501. doi: 10.1111/lam.12683. Epub 2016 Nov 6.


Antimicrobials from natural sources have gained immense importance in recent times to combat the global challenge of antibiotic resistance. Essential oils are implicated in antimicrobial action against several species. Here, we have screened nine commercially available essential oils for their antimicrobial activity against organisms associated with skin, scalp and nail infections mainly Propionibacterium acnes, Malassezia spp., Candida albicans and Trichophyton spp. Among nine essential oils, Boswellia serrata essential oil demonstrated superior antimicrobial activity against all the micro-organisms and surprisingly it showed maximum activity against Trichophyton spp. The gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis of B. serrata oil indicates a major composition of α thujene, ρ cymene and sabinene. Additionally, B. serrata oil was found to inhibit Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilm, and its combination with azoles has shown synergistic activity against azole-resistant strain of C. albicans. These broad-spectrum antimicrobial activities of B. serrata oil will make it an ideal candidate for topical use.

Significance and impact of the study: Eradication of skin and nail infections still remain a challenge and there are serious concerns regarding the recurrence of the diseases associated with these infections. Antimicrobials from plant sources are gaining importance in therapeutics because they encounter minimal challenges of emergence of resistance. We have demonstrated the antimicrobial activity of Boswellia serrata essential oil against micro-organisms involved in skin, scalp and nail infections, especially if it has shown favourable synergistic antifungal activity in combination with azoles against the azole-resistant Candida albicans strain. Thus, B. serrata oil can be one of the plausible therapeutic agents for management of skin, scalp and nail infections.

Keywords: Boswellia serrata oil; Malassezia sp; antimicrobial; dermatophytes; essential oil; synergistic.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Boswellia / chemistry*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Malassezia / drug effects
  • Malassezia / physiology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mycoses / drug therapy
  • Mycoses / microbiology*
  • Nails / microbiology*
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Plant Oils / chemistry
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology
  • Scalp / microbiology*
  • Skin / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / physiology
  • Trichophyton / drug effects
  • Trichophyton / physiology


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils