Traditional use of the herb boswellia has been celebrated for thousands of years. Also known as frankincense, boswellia was considered so valuable in ancient times that it was one of the choice gifts brought by the Wise Men to Baby Jesus. Boswellia has not been a part of conventional medicine, nor is it one of the most popular herbs in the lay press, but it does have some properties that could provide substantial benefit for many of today’s chronic illnesses.
Boswellia has become a popular herb recently for its benefits in fighting inflammation, which involves many processes that the body uses to help heal itself. It is most evident when we sprain an ankle and develop swelling and tenderness. However, inflammation that goes on day after day can lead to chronic problems such as arthritis or cancer. Boswellia appears to have the ability to counteract inflammation [Source: Ammon, Kulkarni]. This anti-inflammatory effect could correlate to benefit many chronic illnesses like arthritis, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.
Boswellia faces the same challenge that many herbs with a history of use face; it is fairly new to the research field. That being said, there is incoming data that supports boswellia’s role in chronic illness. It has a long history of use in India for arthritis, and research shows that boswellia in combination with curcumin is helpful for arthritis pain [Source: Chopra, Kulkarni]. Asthma is another chronic illness affected by inflammation. Asthma sufferers noted less attacks and better measurable air movement through the lungs when treating with boswellia [Source: Gupta]. Ulcerative colitis represents another disease in which the bowels are plagued with chronic inflammation. It too has had benefit through boswellia [Source: Gupta]. There is data to suggest that boswellia can even modify inflammation seen with swelling from cancer of the brain, perhaps with swelling that comes with cancer treatment [Source: Streffer]. In fact, boswellia might have the ability to fight several different types of cancer cells, including brain cancer cells [Source: Glaser, Hostanska].
While asthma and inflammatory bowel disease could be areas that can benefit from boswellia treatment, one of the biggest areas of use for boswellia is arthritis. Dosage tends to be 300-400 mg three times a day [Source: Jaber]. For those looking for arthritis treatments, boswellia is best if used in combination with turmeric, another anti-inflammatory herb and joint tissue supplement like MSM or glucosamine. Boswellia and its early success is quite exciting. It does not quite have the body of literature that turmeric, essential fatty acids, CoQ10 and vitamin D have, but it could still be useful for many chronic diseases.
It is hard to know exactly why the Wise Men of ancient times valued boswellia so highly, but it is becoming clear that it does have the ability to help the body in many ways. Inflammation is becoming more recognized as the plague of developed nations everywhere. Diet, exercise and anti-inflammatory supplements like boswellia might be the best line of defense.
- Ammon, HP. (1993). Mechanism of antiinflammatory actions of curcumine and boswellic acids. J Ethnopharmacol, 38(2-3):113-9.
- Kulkarni, RR. (1991). Effects of an acetone extract of Boswellia carterii Birdw. (Burseraceae) gum resin on adjuvant-induced arthritis in lewis rats. J Ethnopharmacol, 33(1-2):91-5.
- Chopra, A. (2002). Ayurvedic medicine. Core concept, therapeutic principles, and current relevance. Med Clin North Am, 86(1):75-89, vii.
- Kulkarni, RR. (1991). Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study.
- J Ethnopharmacol, 33(1-2):91-5.
- Gupta, I., Gupta, V., Parihar, A., et al. (1998). Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical study. Eur J Med Res, 3:511-4.
- Gupta, I. (1997). Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with ulcerative colitis. Eur J Med Res, 2(1):37-43.
- Streffer, JR. (2001). Response of radiochemotherapy-associated cerebral edema to a phytotherapeutic agent, H15. Neurology, 56(9):1219-21.
- Glaser, T. (1999). Boswellic acids and malignant glioma: induction of apoptosis but no modulation of drug sensitivity. Br J Cancer, 80(5-6):756-65.
- Hostanska, K., Daum, G., Saller, R. (2002). Cytostatic and apoptosis-inducing activity of boswellic acids toward malignant cell lines in vitro. Anticancer Res, 22:2853-2862.
- Jaber, R. (2002). Respiratory and allergic diseases: from upper respiratory tract infections to asthma. Prim Care, 29(2):231-61.