Boswellic acids (BAs), as the main components of frankincense, exhibit notable anti-inflammatory properties. However, their pharmaceutical development has been severely limited by their poor oral bioavailability. Traditional Chinese medicinal processing, called Pao Zhi, is believed to improve bioavailability, yet the mechanism is still completely unclear. Previous research suggested that the bioavailability of a drug can be influenced by physical properties. This paper was designed to investigate the physical properties of frankincense and processed frankincense, including the surface morphology, particle size, polydispersity index (PDI), zeta potential (ZP), specific surface area, porosity, and viscosity. The differences in the intestinal absorption characteristics and equilibrium solubilities between frankincense and processed frankincense were determined by an ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with a triple quadrupole electrospray tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-TQ-MS) analysis method. The results showed that vinegar processing can alter the surface morphology, decrease the particle size and PDI, raise the absolute values of the ZP, specific surface area and porosity, and drop the viscosity of frankincense. Meanwhile, the rates of absorption and dissolution of the main BAs were increased after the processing of frankincense. The present study proves that the physical properties were changed after processing, in which case the bioavailability of frankincense was enhanced.
Keywords: changes in the physical properties; frankincense; intestinal absorption effects; vinegar-processed.