Boswellia and Pain Relief

Boswellia is believed to be the main medicinal component in the famous herbal medicine, frankincense. Frankincense, a milky-white tree resin has been used since biblical times for its fragrant aroma in church ceremonies, as well as being mixed into salves for curing wounds and sores. In Asian Medicine, Frankincense was and is still used as a potent medicinal for pain relief being prescribed by traditional doctors in tea or ointment form.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; Gold, and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

Even with its vast history of use, finding the proper effective dosage for a group of individuals can be challenging. Recently, one of the most trusted sources for evidence-based medical practice, the Cochrane Organization set out to gather research from a frankincense extract, called Boswellia Serrata for conditions like arthritis. Their research garnered some positive news:

  • Patients who were given 100mg of Boswellia Serrata extract over a three month period rated their pain levels 17 points lower (on a scale from 0-100), a 17% improvement than of those given placebo.
  • Patients who were given 100mg enriched Boswellia Serrata extract rated their pain levels 23 points lower.
  • Patients who were given 100mg of Boswellia Serrata extract over three months rated their physical function 8 points better (on a scale from 0-100), an 8% improvement than those given placebo.

There exists moderate quality evidence for people with osteoarthritis to take Boswellia Serrata extract to improve perceived pain and function .

How it works

Boswellia Serrata extract seems to work by disrupting enzymes and signaling pathways involved in inflammatory responses. Evidence also suggests that Boswellia Serrata may be helpful in osteoarthritis because it blocks the activation of osteoclasts, a type of cell that breaks down and decreases the reabsorption of bone .


Although there always exists the potential for herbal medicines and drugs to interact there does not appear to be any significant interactions between the active ingredient of Boswellia Serrata and the most common receptors or pathways of NSAID drugs . Boswellia appears to be relatively non-toxic and may be a good integrative approach for those with arthritic pain or inflammatory conditions.






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