Boswellia serrata has incredibly powerful anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce pain and inflammation. In addition, it may have anti cancer activity and has been shown to inhibit angiogenesis and prevent tumor growth. So how does this powerful supplement work? What can it be used to treat? And what’s the clinical evidence to support its use in painful conditions such as arthritis and common medical issues such as asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and even cancer treatment? We’re going to take a dive into Boswellia serrata to answer all these questions and so much more.
Today we’re going to discuss the incredible benefits of Boswellia serrata, a remarkable herb extracted from the Frankincense tree. This herb has a rich history dating back to ancient civilizations and plays a significant role in both Ayurvedic traditional Indian medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.
One of the most notable properties of Boswellia serrata is its powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It has been found to effectively reduce pain and inflammation in various conditions. This makes it a valuable option for managing painful conditions such as arthritis and providing relief to individuals suffering from inflammatory disease processes.
The active compounds in Boswellia serrata, called boswellic acids, have anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting an enzyme called 5-Lipoxygenase. This enzyme is involved in the metabolism of arachidonic acid and plays a crucial role in the production of pro-inflammatory leukotrienes. These pathways are what contribute to inflammation, immune responses, and various disease processes.
Interestingly, this is a similar molecular pathway that common medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and indomethacin target. This is why both non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs called NSAIDs as well as Boswellia serrata have pain relieving properties and can help reduce inflammation.
Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine have long recognized these properties of Boswellia serrata and utilized them in the treatment of various inflammatory conditions. For instance, respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough have been successfully addressed using Boswellia serrata. Traditional healers have observed reduced phlegm, decreased congestion, and improved breathing in patients who have incorporated Boswellia serrata into their treatment regimens.
That’s also what this randomized controlled trial found. Asthmatics given Boswellia serrata gum resin 300 mg three times a day for 6 weeks had improvements in their disease as evidence by “disappearance of physical symptoms and signs such as dyspnea (which is the feeling of being short of breath), ronchi (which is a coarse rattling sound heard when listening to irritated lungs), and the number of asthma attacks. There were also improvements to lung function as measured by the forced expiratory volume, the forced vital capacity, and the peak expiratory flow rate.”
We see these same benefits in inflammatory diseases affecting the gastrointestinal symptoms such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These inflammatory bowel diseases are characterized by chronic inflammation and damage to the digestive tract. Boswellia serrata’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a potentially valuable tool in the management of these diseases as they can help decrease the frequency and severity of flare ups, relieve abdominal pain, and improve overall gut health.
These researchers looked at two small studies involving Boswellia serrata. The first compared Boswellia serrata resin to sulfasalazine, which is a common medication used to treat inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Remission of ulcerative colitis was achieved in 14 of 20 patients who received Boswellia gum resin compared with 4 of 10 patients who got sulfasalazine.
In another randomized controlled trial, 102 patients with Crohn’s disease were randomized to get either Boswellia serrata extract or mesalamine, which is another common medication used to treat inflammatory bowel disease. The mean reduction in the Crohn’s disease activity index was 90 for Boswellia serrata, 53 for mesalamine.
So I do want to point out that these clinical trials are relatively small in scale. But the findings align with the longstanding practices of Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine that have spanned hundreds of years. Similar positive outcomes have been observed in the realm of orthopedic conditions.
Herbalists have traditionally employed Boswellia serrata to address common tendon issues like achilles tendonitis, lateral epicondylitis (which is tennis elbow), rotator cuff tendonitis, and patellar tendonitis. Furthermore, Boswellia serrata appears to hold promise in managing bone and joint diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
For example, this study was a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine whether Boswellia and Boswellia extract was effective for the treatment of osteoarthritis. After aggregating and analyzing data from 7 randomized controlled trials, the researchers found that Boswellia and its extract can reduce pain, reduce stiffness, and improve joint function when compared to controls.
The results of this study were consistent with a prior 2018 study that looked at over 20 supplements commonly used to treat symptomatic osteoarthritis. Boswellia extract was among the standouts with large effect sizes on pain reduction.
Now let’s switch gears a little and talk about dosing because it does get tricky. There are differences between if you are using the resin itself or if you are using a concentrated extract. The dosing also varies based on the condition you are trying to treat.
In general, the resin from the tree is much less concentrated and dosages can be up to 1800 mg three times a day for arthritis. Most supplements that you can buy online utilize Boswellia serrata extract which is a concentrated form of the resin. These are available as capsules, tablets, and liquids with most having a minimum concentration of 60%. The recommended dose for these extracts to treat symptomatic arthritis is between 100 to 250 mg once a day, taken with the first meal of the day.
In general, you want to start with the lower end of the dosage range for about 2 months and then increase if necessary. If the higher dose doesn’t provide additional benefits, go back down to the lower dose to minimize the risk of potential side effects.
It is important to note that Boswellia products are generally considered safe. In the studies conducted, there were no significant differences in adverse events and side effects between Boswellia and control groups. However, it is worth mentioning that herbal products and supplements can interact with prescription medications, potentially resulting in severe consequences. Therefore, it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider to address any questions or concerns you may have, particularly regarding potential interactions.
So beyond its well-established benefits for treating pain and inflammation, ongoing research is exploring the potential therapeutic applications of Boswellia serrata in various other areas. Scientists are particularly interested in studying its antioxidant effects as well as its effects on skin health.
But arguably one of the most exciting benefits may be in relation to its potential as an anti-cancer agent. Laboratory studies have demonstrated that Boswellia can suppress and even prevent tumor growth. In fact, Boswellia serrata is currently being used by oncologists and radiation oncology for the treatment of cerebral edema secondary to radiation of brain tumors.
I think it’s clear that Boswellia serrata holds amazing potential for promoting our overall health and well-being. It continues to be an active and exciting area of research for scientists in the healthcare community. However, it is still important to point out that while the current evidence is promising, further research is needed to gain a deeper understanding of its mechanisms of action, optimal dosing, and long-term effects.