Repeated 28-DAY oral dose study on Boswellia sacra oleo gum resin extract for testicular toxicity in rats

J Ethnopharmacol. 2020 Aug 10:258:112890. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.112890. Epub 2020 Apr 21.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Frankincense (Boswellia sacra Fluck.,) is a widely used herbal drug and household medicine for treatment of several diseases. Earlier toxicological studies revealed its proulcerogenic effect and no significant hepatotoxic or nephrotoxic effects in rats. However, some other members of Boswellia species such as Boswellia papyrifera (Caill. ex Delile) Hochst and Boswellia carterii have been reported for testicular toxicity in rats.

Aim of the study: Testicular toxicity of standardized methanolic extract of B. sacra oleo gum resin was determined through repeated oral dose administration for 28 days. Biochemical, histological and genetic changes in rat testes were evaluated.

Materials and methods: B. sacra extract was analyzed for its boswellic acid content by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method. The extract was administered at three different doses to rats. Effect on behavior, weight, food and water consumption along with changes in serum testosterone levels and cytoarchitecture of testis, epididymis and adrenal gland were determined. Gene expression of GSTPi, IGFBP3 and HSP70 in testis was also studied.

Results: Boswellic acids (α and β) were present in highest concentration whereas acetyl-11-keto beta boswellic acid was present in relatively smaller amounts. The extract did not produce any significant change in the behavior of the animals, food/water consumption or weight gain. Serum testosterone levels were significantly decreased only by highest tested dose of Boswellia extract (1000 mg/kg, p.o). Histological examination did not reveal any variation in the structure of testis, adrenal gland and epididymis after administration of the extract while the expression of all three studied genes was significantly decreased.

Conclusion: The results indicate that B. sacra extract does not possess any toxic effect on testis. On the contrary, decrease in gene expression of GSTPi, IGFBP3 and HSP70 revealed its antioxidant potential that may protect testes against effect of toxicants. However, a significant reduction in serum testosterone levels point to mechanisms other than direct testicular toxicity.

Keywords: Boswellic acid; GSTPi; HSP70; IGFBP3; Organ toxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Boswellia / chemistry*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glutathione S-Transferase pi / genetics
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / genetics
  • Male
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Resins, Plant
  • Testis / drug effects*
  • Testis / pathology
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Antioxidants
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Plant Extracts
  • Resins, Plant
  • Glutathione S-Transferase pi