Inflammation is the immune system’s natural reaction to a real or perceived invasion. In the short term, inflammation can protect us from disease. However, if it persists over the long term and becomes chronic, it can lead to a great number of illnesses.
Many medications on the market today — both prescription and over-the-counter — are specifically designed to reduce inflammation, and therefore inflammatory pain. However, these medications often have side effects, and some of them can be severe. This leaves many people seeking a natural solution.
One such solution, embraced since ancient times, is the resin of the Boswellia serrata tree, also known as Indian frankincense. This tree grows in dry mountain climates throughout the Middle East, North Africa and India. For centuries, these trees have been tapped in order to collect their resin, which is then solidified and used for many purposes, including a range of medicinal ones.
The authors of a 2011 study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacological Sciences explain:
“The resin of Boswellia species has been used as incense in religious and cultural ceremonies and in medicines since time immemorial… Gum-resin extracts of Boswellia serrata have been traditionally used in folk medicine for centuries to treat various chronic inflammatory diseases.”
On the anti-inflammatory properties of this resin, the authors add:
“The resinous part of Boswellia serrata possesses monoterpenes, diterpenes, triterpenes, tetracyclic triterpenic acids and four major pentacyclic triterpenic acids i.e. β-boswellic acid, acetyl-β-boswellic acid, 11-keto-β-boswellic acid and acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid, responsible for inhibition of pro-inflammatory enzymes.”
These compounds — and their synthesis in the whole Boswellia resin — may make Boswellia effective in reducing inflammation across a wide range of conditions. One example is asthma. Some research has found that Boswellia can help to reduce leukotrienes, which contract bronchial muscles in asthma sufferers.
A 1998 study published in the European Journal of Medical Research analyzed the effect of Boswellia extract on a group of 40 volunteers with bronchial asthma, all between the ages of 18 and 75. Some of the volunteers were given 300 milligrams of the resin three times a day for six weeks, while the rest served as a control group. On their results, the study authors wrote:
“70% of patients showed improvement of disease as evident by disappearance of physical symptoms and signs… Only 27% of patients in the control group showed improvement. The data show a definite role of gum resin of Boswellia serrata in the treatment of bronchial asthma.”
The anti-inflammatory powers of Boswellia may help improve symptoms of arthritis, as well. A 2003 study published in the journal Phytomedicine tested the effects of the resin on 30 volunteers with osteoarthritis knee pain. After analyzing the results, the study authors wrote:
“All patients receiving… treatment reported decrease in knee pain, increased knee flexion and increased walking distance. The frequency of swelling in the knee joint was decreased… BSE (Boswellia serrata extract) is recommended in the patients of osteoarthritis of the knee with possible therapeutic use in other arthritis.”
Just a few other conditions that may be alleviated from the use of this resin are rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), allergies, certain cardiovascular ailments, and various types of joint pain. Some research has even found that it may have the potential to benefit patients suffering from certain cancers, such as breast cancer and leukemia.
Boswellia serrata resin is available on the market as a pill or cream, along with a straight resin, but it is important to note that for optimal results, it is always best to find a high-quality version in as close to natural form as possible. Always purchase from a source you trust. If you are unsure, ask for a recommendation from a reputable health professional who is versed in natural remedies.
Natural remedies can be highly potent, and it is always best to check with a professional before taking Boswellia, or any other natural remedy. A health professional can make sure it is safe for your individual health, and determine the amount and frequency of dosage that would work best for your needs.
For example, this resin may interact with some anti-inflammatory medications, and is not suitable for pregnant women. Especially if you have a health condition, be sure to do your homework first, and learn all you can about this exciting remedy before trying it.
Have you tried Boswellia resin? Tell us how it worked for you!
-Dr. Joshua Levitt