Boswellia For Arthritis, Plus Benefits and Side Effects

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Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) is a branching tree that is native to India. It grows in dry, hilly regions of the country and produces a resin that can be extracted and purified for medicinal purposes. This resin, known as “Indian Frankincense” or “salai guggal,” is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a diverse range of conditions.

Boswellia extract is best known as an alternative treatment for arthritis. The active ingredients (collectively known as boswellic acids), have been shown to reduce inflammation in in-vitro and animal studies. Research on human subjects also suggests that Boswellia extract may be beneficial for inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and arthritis, although its superiority to conventional drug treatments has not been fully assessed.

Boswellia preparations can be used topically or taken internally as anti-inflammatory agents, much like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Unlike these agents, however, Boswellia extract can be used for significant periods of time without causing stomach upset.

In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, Boswellia extract has been given “orphan drug” status in Europe for the treatment of peritumoral brain edema. Here in the US, clinical trials are underway to evaluate its use for this purpose.

A recent animal experiment also raised the possibility it could help reduce anxiety/depression.

There is even some preliminary evidence that Boswellia compounds have anti-tumor effects, although much more research needs to be done. Media headlines such as “Frankincense: Could it be a Cure for Cancer?” exaggerate the significance of these studies—which have been conducted on cultured cells/tissues, not living beings.

Boswellia extract is available in over-the-counter creams, tablets and capsules. An effective product is standardized for boswellic acids.

Side effects from using Boswellia extract are rare, but heartburn, diarrhea, skin rash and nausea have been occasionally reported. There are no known drug interactions or contraindications with the use of the herb. Though Boswellia extract is an effective treatment for pain and inflammation, people who use it for arthritis, colitis or other conditions should continue to be monitored by a physician.

If you’re interested in experimenting, Boswellia is affordable, and available in isolation at iHerb.com. If you’d like to try a quality anti-inflammatory/arthritis supplement that features Boswellia in its formulation, have a look at Xtend-Life’s Not Just Joints.

 

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Comments

  1. RON PROFFITT says

    I’m in looking for something that I can take to cure the inflammatory Arthritis in both hips that will mix with my heart meds.

      • says

        I tried out a travel-sized tube of this some time back and I have fisinhed it. But I kept wanting more of it – it’s like my HG night cream.The scent is woody and calming, the texture is great and it leaves my skin looking bright and radiant in the morning.But alas, I am not buying the full-sized yet as I still have loads of other skincare (incl night cream) to finish up.

  2. dana says

    Have been taking Boswellia for my Fibromyalgia, have taken it along with MSM, and am feeling great. I had been in severe pain every morning pain and stiffness in neck, shoulders and arms to my fingers. Am very thankful to know about Boswellia.

    • elissa says

      You’re not the first person to ask this question. For example, it popped up in this comment thread on Boswellia at the People’s Pharmacy, and was responded to thusly:

      PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: WE COULD FIND NO REPORTS OF INTERACTION BETWEEN BOSWELLIA AND WARFARIN.

      This is, of course, a conservative response that pretty much describes my own research and feelings on the subject. It’s responsible, in that it conveys the limits of “expert” knowledge and refuses to stray past those limits. Unfortunately, what makes it “responsible” also makes it frustrating, since it fails to give a clear, “no, it has no effect” or “yes, it could have an effect.” But there isn’t enough information available to provide that degree of clarity or certainty. The absence of adverse event reports or other clinical evidence of harm is encouraging, but it provides no hard-and-fast guarantee for individual cases.

      For the record, I took another look around, to see if I could find any updates on the topic. I found this adverse event report (http://www.afjem.org/article/S2211-419X%2813%2900144-4/abstract) for a combination product; however the authors attribute the herb-drug interaction to the glucosamine and grapefruit extract – not, specifically the Boswellia. On the other hand, these Italian researchers found two possible cases. They noted:

      “In two other cases, INR increase occurred with concomitant intake of warfarin and Boswellia serrata. In both cases, complete recovery was achieved after dechallenge, and the causality relationship was defined as “probable.” To our knowledge, these are the first reports of interaction between warfarin and boswellia.”

      Unfortunately, no details are given, so we’re left to speculate on whether other ingredients or contaminants were present that also could have contributed to the problem described. And this can be a problem, since dietary supplement products can contain undeclared/unlisted/substituted ingredients.

      Under the circumstances, it’s impossible for me to answer “yes,” or “no” – and it would be irresponsible for me to try. Rather, my suggestion is to err on the side of caution. Get a green light from your doctor first (this is always a good idea when combining herbal products and prescription drugs); and then – if s/he approves – choose a single-ingredient product that has undergone 3rd party testing to ensure its purity and quality (see Consumer Labs’ recommendations; or look for products certified by USP or NSF to reduce the risk of (potential) problems with unlisted ingredients.

  3. david hand says

    I have been tring to order boswellia serrita extract but can not do so email me at above email address. how I go about ordering.or let me call you please leave your number for I can contact you. david hand.

  4. S. O'Neal says

    I am looking for a cream with Boswellia Serrata that I can use to ease the pain of my arthritis. Can you help me?

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