Skip to main content

Evaluation of systemic administration of Boswellia papyrifera extracts on spatial memory retention in male rats


Time-dependent effects of ethanolic extract of Boswellia papyrifera, administered systemically, on spatial memory retention in the Morris water maze were investigated in male rats. A total extract of Boswellia papyrifera (300 mg/kg) was administered every eight hours to three groups of rats by gavage for 1, 2 and 4 weeks. In a separate set of experiments, three doses of a fraction of the extract, called the boswellic acids (100, 200 and 300 mg/kg) were administered by gavage to three groups of rats three times a day for 2 weeks. Following these applications, animals were trained for 4 days. Behavioral testing for evaluation of spatial memory retention was performed 48 h after completion of training. Boswellia papyrifera extracts and boswellic acids caused a significant reduction in escape latency and distance traveled but had no influence on swimming speed. These findings provide evidence that Boswellia papyrifera extracts affect spatial memory retention irrespective of the treatment period. In addition our data show that systemic administration of the boswellic acids fraction enhanced spatial memory retention in a dose-dependent manner. These improving effects may be due to some extent to the interactions of these products with inflammatory mediators, neurotransmitter signaling cascades or protein kinase pathways in the brain.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. 1.

    Safayhi H, Ammon HPT (1997) Pharmakologische Aspecte von Weihrauch und Boswellias auren. Pharm Z 142:3277–3286

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Ammon HPT, Safayhi H, Mark T, Sabieraj J (1993) Mechanism of anti inflammatory actions of curcumine and boswellic acids. J Ethnopharmacol 38:105–112

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Safayhi H, Mack T, Sabieraj J, Anazodo MI, Subramanian LR, Ammon HPT (1992) Boswellic acids: novel, specific, nonredox inhibitors of 5-lipoxygenase. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 261:1143–1146

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Sharma ML, Bani S, Singh GB (1989) Anti-arthritic activity of boswellic acids in bovine serum albumin (BSA)-induced arthritis. J Immunopharmacol 11:647–652

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Banno N, Akihisa T, Yasukawa K, Tokuda H, Tabata K, Nakamura Y, Nishimura R, Kimura Y, Suzuki T (2006) Anti-inflammatory activities of the triterpene acids from the resin of Boswellia carteri. J Ethnopharmacol 107:249–253

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Zhao W, Entschladen F, Liu H, Niggemann B, Fang Q, Zenker KS, Han R (2003) Boswellic acid acetate induced differentiation and apoptosis in highly metastatic melanoma and fibrosarcoma cells. Cancer Detect Prev 27:67–75

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Glaser T, Winter S, Groscurth P, Safayhi H, Sailer ER, Ammon HP, Schabet M, Weller M (1999) Boswellic acids and malignant glioma: induction of apoptosis but no modulation of drug sensitivity. Br J Cancer 80:756–765

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Park YS, Lee JH, Bondar J, Harwalkar JA, Safahyi H, Golubic M (2002) Cytotoxic action of acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) on meningioma cells. Planta Med 68:397–401

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Winking M, Sarikaya S, Rahmanian A, Jodicke A, Boker DK (2000) Boswellic acids inhibit glioma growth: a new treatment option? J Neurooncol 46:97–103

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Liu JJ, Nilsson A, Oredsson S, Badmaev V, Zhao WZ, Duan RD (2002) Boswellic acids trigger apoptosis via a pathway dependent on caspase-8 activation but independent on Fas/Fas ligand interaction in colon cancer HT-29 cells. Carcinogenesis 23:2087–2093

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Hoernlein RF, Orlikowsky T, Zehrer C, Niethammer D, Sailer ER, Simmet T, Dannecker GE, Ammon HPT (1999) Acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid induces apoptosis in HL-60 and CCRF-CEM cells and inhibits topoisomerase I. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 288:613–619

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Sharifzadeh M, Sharifzadeh K, Naghdi N, Ghahremani MH, Roghani A (2005) Posttraining intrahippocampal infusion of a protein kinase A2 inhibitor impairs spatial memory retention in rats. J Neurosci Res 79:392–400

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Sharifzadeh M, Naghdi N, Khosravani S, Ostad SN, Sharifzadeh K, Roghani A (2005) Post-training intrahippocampal infusion of the Cox-2 inhibitor celecoxib impaired spatial memory retention in rats. Eur J Pharmacol 511:159–166

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Sharifzadeh M, Tavasoli M, Soodi M, Mohammadi-Eraghi S, Ghahremani MH, Roghani A (2006) A time course analysis of cyclooxygenase-2 suggests a role in spatial memory retrieval in rats. Neurosci Res 54:171–179

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Sharifzadeh M, Zamanian AR, Gholizadeh S, Tabrizian K, Etminani M, Khalaj S, Zarrindast MR, Roghani A (2007) Post-training intrahippocampal infusion of nicotine–bucladesine combination cause a synergistic enhancement effect on spatial memory retention in rats. Eur J Pharmacol 562:212–220

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Sharifzadeh M, Tavasoli M, Naghdi N, Ghanbari A, Amini M, Roghani A (2005) Post-training intrahippocampal infusion of nicotine prevents spatial memory retention deficits induced by the cyclo-oxygenase-2-specific inhibitor celecoxib in rats. J Neurochem 95:1078–1090

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Hebert AE, Dash PK (2002) Extracellular signal-regulated kinase activity in the entorhinal cortex is necessary for long-term spatial memory. Learn Mem 9:156–166

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Runyan JD, Moore AN, Dash PK (2004) A role for prefrontal cortex in memory storage for trace fear conditioning. J Neurosci 24:1288–1295

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Woolf NJ, Milov AM, Schweitzer ES, Roghani A (2001) Elevation of nerve growth factor and antisense knockdown of TrkA receptor during contextual memory consolidation. J Neurosci 21:1047–1055

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Alkon DL, Sun M, Nelson TJ (2007) PKC signaling deficits: a mechanistic hypothesis for the origins of Alzheimer’s disease. Trends Pharmacol Sci 28(2):51–60

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Sharifzadeh M, Aghsami M, Gholizadeh S, Tabrizian K, Soodi M, Khalaj S, Ranjbar A, Hosseini-Sharifabad A, Roghani A, Karimfar MH (2007) Protective effects of chronic lithium treatment against spatial memory retention deficits induced by the protein kinase AII inhibitor H-89 in rats. Pharmacology 80:158–165

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Favit A, Grimaldi M, Nelson TJ, Alkon DL (1998) Alzheimer’s-specific effects of soluble β-amyloid on protein kinase C-α and -γ degradation in human fibroblasts. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 95:5562–5567

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Altmann A, Poeckel D, Fischer L, Schubert-Zsilavecz M, Steinhilber D, Wertz O (2004) Coupling of boswellic acid-induced Ca2+ mobilization and MAPK activation to lipid metabolism and peroxide formation in human leucocytes. Br J Pharmacol 141:223–232

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Poeckel D, Tausch L, Altmann A, Feibt C, Klinkhardt U, Graff J, Harder S, Werz O (2005) Induction of central signalling pathways and select functional effects in human platelets by beta-boswellic acid. Pharmacology 146(4):514–524

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Azami K, Etminani M, Tabrizian K, Salar F, Belaran M, Hosseini A, Hosseini-Sharifabad A, Sharifzadeh M (2010) The quantitative evaluation of cholinergic markers in spatial memory improvement induced by nicotine–bucladesine combination in rats. Eur J Pharmacol 636:102–107

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Thulin M, Warfa AM (1985) The frankincense trees (Boswellia spp., Burseraceae) of Northern Somalia and Southern Arabia. Kew Bull 42:487–500

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Hairfield EM, Hairfield HH, Pentz LH (1984) A rapid test for the identification of incense resins. Perfum Flavor 9(4):33–36

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Taneja SC (1997) Boswellic acid compositions and preparation thereof. United States Patent number 5629351

  29. 29.

    Coppens JJW (1995) Olibanum (frankincense), myrrh and opopanax resins and oils. Flavours and fragrances of plant origin. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, p 111

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Brandeis R, Brandys Y, Yehuda S (1989) The use of the Morris water maze in the study of memory and learning. J Neurosci 48:29–69

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Khan TK, Alkon DL (2006) An internally controlled peripheral biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease: Erk1 and Erk2 responses to the inflammatory signal bradykinin. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:13203–13207

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Nguyen PV, Woo NH (2003) Regulation of hippocampal synaptic plasticity by cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinases. Prog Neurobiol 71:401–437

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Van Huynh T, Cole G, Katzman R, Huang KP, Saitoh T (1989) Reduced protein kinase C immunoreactivity and altered protein phosphorylation in Alzheimer’s disease fibroblasts. Arch Neurol 46:1195–1199

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Farshchi A, Ghiasi G, Farshchi S, Malek Khatabi P (2010) Effects of Boswellia papyrifera gum extract on learning and memory in mice and rats. Iran J Basic Med Sci 13(2):9–15

    Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Karima O, Riazi G, Yousefi R, Moosavi Movahedi AA (2010) The enhancement effect of beta-boswellic acid on hippocampal neurites outgrowth and branching (an in vitro study). Neurol Sci 31:315–320

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Hosseini Sharifabad M, Esfandiary E (2007) A morphometeric study on CA3 hippocampal field in young rats following maternal administration of Boswellia serrata resin during gestation. Iran J Basic Med Sci 10(3):176–182

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Hosseini M, Hadjzad M, Derekhshan M, Havakhah S, Behnam Rassouli F, Rakhshandeh H, Saffarzadeh F (2010) The beneficial effects of olibanum on memory deficit induced by hypothyroidism in adult rats tested in Morris water maze. Arch Pharm Res 33(3):463–468

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This study was supported by funds from Tehran University of Medical Sciences. The authors thank Ali Kazemi for his excellent technical assistance.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mohammad Sharifzadeh.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mahmoudi, A., Hosseini-Sharifabad, A., Monsef-Esfahani, H.R. et al. Evaluation of systemic administration of Boswellia papyrifera extracts on spatial memory retention in male rats. J Nat Med 65, 519 (2011).

Download citation


  • Boswellia papyrifera
  • Boswellic acids
  • Spatial memory retention
  • Morris water maze