Boswellia Serrata, also known as Frankincense is the underappreciated anti-inflammatory counterpart to Curcumin. Many practitioners and researchers alike, are familiar with the plethora of uses and versatility of Curcumin, but not Boswellia.
Boswellia is typically thought of as an anti-inflammatory herb and not as appreciated as Curcumin is for such use. Curcumin has quality human research trials in osteoarthritis, but Boswellia also does as well.
Boswellia trials have shown significant promise in terms of osteoarthritis relief. In ne trial, the natural compound was compared to Valdecoxib (off the market now), in which Boswellia was just as effective, but took two months of use to become so. The interesting finding from this trial was that one month after discontinuation of treatment, the drug group was back to square one, while the boswellia group was still experiencing relief.
Another trial where improvements in pain and physical function scores were observed, found that higher doses of boswellia provided faster relief (as early as seven days). The researchers concluded that a loading dose of boswellia was ideal for achieving faster results. The interesting finding with this trial was that significant reductions in synovial fluid levels of matrix metallproteinease-3 (a cartilage degrading enzyme) was found in participants. Which is remarkable, because reductions in this enzyme can significantly be disease modifying in OA, by slowing down the pathological process.
Boswellias primary mechanisms are thought to involve the blocking of 5-LOX, which is the first enzyme released in the metabolic pathway leading to the synthesis of the immune system cytokines known as leukotrienes. Boswellia also is one of the few compounds shown to reduces levels of human leukocyte elastase (HLE).
Beyond osteoarthritis, boswellia has multiple other clinical uses. One of the most important being – Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Boswellia would be the first natural compound in my regime for IBD. In patients with Crohns Disease, Boswellia has been compared to 5-ASA (mesalazine) and was found to statistically be just as effective. It is also one of the most commonly Complementary/Alternative Medicines prescribed in Germany for IBD. A smaller trial was also done in patients with Ulcerative Colitis.
Leukotrienes, one of Boswellias key mechanisms of action, also play a contributory role in the pathophysiology of asthma and especially in patients with aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD) and can contribute or potentiate airflow obstruction, bronchoconstriction, increased mucus production and inflammation.
A 6-week trial in patients with relatively mild asthma found that boswellia at a dosage of 300mg, three times a day, reduced the frequency of asthma attacks and improved objective measurements of breathing capacity. Boswellia is under appreciated in terms of its anti-inflammatory effect upon the respiratory system. With its unique ability to reduce HLA, which is over-expressed in the cause of emphysema and emphysematous changes in the lung, it could possible help in the protection of respiratory tract tissue.
Unpublished research has also shown Boswellia to be effective in relieving symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Including reductions in swelling and pain over 3 months. On the flip side, one trial showed no significant benefit.
Interestingly, new research has shown Boswellia to have benefit in those suffering from Type II Diabetes. In one study, subjects who were taking metformin were given either 400mg of Boswellia, two times per day, after a meal or a placebo for 12 weeks. By the end of the 12 weeks, the boswellia group had significant improvements in fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, insulin levels, total and LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
Boswellia is quite diverse in terms of its clinical applications, it is more than just an osteoarthritis or joint pain solution. Its mechanisms do slightly overlap with other natural compounds, like curcumin, but also has characteristics that seem to unique to boswellia. With this in mind, my ideal choice would be to use a product like Inflammation Relief, in which both Curcumin and Boswellia are found. This helps to provide multiple mechanisms of targeting inflammation and multiple pathophysiological pathways. Inflammation Relief has been formulated with superior absorbable forms of both Curcumin and Boswellia to allow for just one capsule to potentially be beneficial and receive therapeutic amounts of both of these pleuripotent compounds.