By: Rebekah Brately
You may have tried every drug out there to treat your chronic inflammation–or maybe you’re at the starting line when it comes to fighting inflammation and would rather avoid drugs from the get-go. Regardless of why you’re seeking alternative treatments, supplementation might be a great solution —especially if you opt to try boswellia.
Boswellia serrata , also known as Indian Frankincense, is a branching tree found in dry, mountainous regions like India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East.It has been prized for centuries for its health benefits, especially for its anti-inflammatory properties. (x)
So why should you give boswellia a shot?
Boswellia can be used to treat a variety of different ailments, including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBD)
Boswella has been a staple in folk medicine for centuries, and research is now discovering why: studies suggest that compounds in the plant called Boswellic acids help fight inflammation.
There are four boswellic acids that fight inflammation: β-boswellic acid, acetyl-β-boswellic acid, 11-keto-β-boswellic acid and acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid..
So how do they work? Boswellic acids prevent the formation of leukotrienes, molecules that cause inflammation in the body. By blocking leukotrienes, boswellia could help you stop inflammation before it becomes a problem.
Boosts Memory and Supports Mental Wellness
Memory lapses? Boswellia may be able to help: research suggests that it could improve special memory retention and may boost focus. (x) And If you’re struggling with anxiety and depression, boswellia may give you some relief—it’s been shown to activate channels in the brain that promote feelings of calmness, happiness, and well-being. (x)
Boswellia and Cancer
Though research is ongoing, promising studies indicate that boswellia could help prevent leukemia and breast cancers. In one study, boswellia was found to be a successful treatment for brain metastases from breast cancer that hadn’t responded to other treatments.
If you’re plagued by indigestion, try taking a boswellia supplement: it helps food pass through your intestines by producing acid and bile needed for healthy digestion.(x)
Promotes Immune Function
Constant colds? The antioxidants in boswellia extract have been shown to boost immunity by activating immune cells that fight infection. (x)
Boswellia could help reduce inflammation that causes chronic headaches like migraines. One study found that it significantly reduced the intensity and frequency of cluster headaches—and the pain relief lasted over a year. (x)
Another study examined boswellia’s effects on treating patients who had suffered head trauma. The study found that the herb’s anti-inflammatory properties could be effective in reducing the effects of a head injury if administered within six hours of the accident.
Boswellia and Diabetes
Boswellia serrata could help alleviate symptoms of type 2 diabetes. When a type 2 diabetic experiences high blood sugar, it increases fatty deposits on the liver, which has an adverse effect on cholesterol levels. One study concluded that taking 300mg of boswellia serrata extract three times a day improved HDL, LDL and total cholesterol levels in those with type 2 diabetes.
- Boswellia is also called frankincense extract or Indian frankincense. Boswellia serrata extract is harvested from the tree of the same name. Once the tree is eight years old, resin can be harvested from it to produce the boswellia serrata supplement. The extraction process involves making an incision in the thin bark of the tree to release the milky white resin, which then hardens when it’s exposed to open air. (x)
- You can thank elephants for Boswellia’s popularity. Ancient Ayurvedic healers noticed that elephants that ate the plant seemed calmer and healthier, so the healers soon started administering it to their patients.
- Pairing boswellia with other natural anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric and ginger could further improve its health benefits.
Boswellia Side Effects and Dosage
Before you take a boswellia supplement, you should consult a doctor or pharmacist to find the right dosage for you. In studies, participants often start on a lower dosage and work their way up to a higher dosage to avoid more serious side effects, including:
- Acid reflux
- Dermatitis (itchy, inflamed skin)
- Gastrointestinal issues, including pain, reflux and diarrhea
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take boswellia as some research suggests that it might cause abnormal bleeding.
Boswellia dosage varies depending on your health goals and conditions. The Arthritis Foundation recommends taking 300-400 mg by capsule three times per day for products containing 60 percent boswellic acid to treat and prevent further development of arthritis.
Boswellia is available as a pill, cream or powder. Boswellia serrata powder can be used for baking or mixed into food for a healthy boost if you prefer to avoid taking pills. Boswellia cream is often used as a topical treatment for arthritis, or to relieve muscle aches and pains.
If you’re taking any antibiotics, fat soluble or sedative drugs, or any drugs that are broken down by the liver, boswellia might make these less effective. Boswellia might also negatively interact with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
On the plus side, boswellia may increase the effectiveness of leukotriene inhibitors, such as Singulair. This is because Boswellia is also a leukotriene inhibitor, albeit a natural, non-pharmaceutical option.
Likewise, Boswellia may increase the effectiveness of lipid-lowering agents due to its lipid-lowering effects. It might also help improve the effectiveness of anti-fungal medication.
The Bottom Line
When taken in the proper dosage, boswellia serrata extract can be an effective treatment for a variety of inflammatory illnesses, boost immunity, help relieve chronic headaches and indigestion. A folk medicine staple for centuries, boswellia’s benefits are sturdily backed up by science. If you’re looking for a natural remedy for inflammation and more, this could be your supplement superhero.