Boswellia is a large branching tree native to India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. The trunk is tapped for its resin, which is purified and used in herbal preparations. The resin, known as frankincense, has been used in religious and cultural ceremonies since antiquity.
Boswellia serrata is one of the ancient and most valued herbs in Ayurveda. The gum resin, the herbal part, has been mentioned in traditional Ayurvedic and Unani texts as an effective remedy for aliments ranging from arthritis, diarrhea, fevers (antipyretic), skin diseases, cardiovascular diseases, mouth sores, bronchitis, asthma, cough, to liver diseases. The herb is also diaphoretic, astringent, diuretic and acts both as internal and external stimulant.
Modern medicine and pharmacology strongly point to the herb’s use for its antiarthritic, antiinflammatory, and analgesic activities and its usefulness in treating conditions such as arthritis and post-exercise pain and soreness. Clinical trials have demonstrated that boswellic acids, the primary active components in the resin gum, have anti-inflammatory action similar to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). However, unlike NSAIDS, long-term use of boswellia does not appear to lead to irritation or ulceration of the stomach.
Extracts of boswellia are most commonly used for chronic inflammatory ailments. In May of 2013, Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD) indicated that boswellia extracts “can reduce pain and improve mobility in people with osteoarthritis in joints.1 Research shows that it might decrease joint pain by 32% to 65%. A comprehensive 2011 overview of in vitro and animal studies found that boswellic acids inhibit the synthesis of pro-inflammatory enzymes, illustrating its usefulness as an anti-inflammatory agent.2
Thanks for reading.
Dr. Connie Wan
- Indian Frankincense. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer version. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty, [Updated April 13, 2012, Reviewed May 4, 2013; Accessed January 19, 2014] http://naturaldatabaseconsumer.therapeuticresearch.com/nd/Search.aspx?cs=NONMP&s=NDC&pt=100&id=63&fs=NDC&searchid=44756492
- M. Z. Siddiqui. Boswellia Serrata, A Potential Anti-inflammatory Agent: An Overview. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2011 May-Jun; 73(3): 255–261.