Boswellia serrata is a medium sized tree found in the arid, hilly regions of India. Its healing properties lie in the resin which seeps from the bark when it is tapped. Used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for arthritis and lung and digestive problems, it is only recently that studies have begun to scientifically show its true value as a natural alternative to relieve muscle pain and joint pains associated with arthritis and rheumatism.

The resin contains terpenoids, which play an important role in plant formation and growth. It is from these terpenoids that boswellic acid, the active ingredient in boswellia, is derived. Because boswellic acid stimulates the growth of cartilage, deters inflammatory white cells from entering damaged tissue while increasing the amount of blood supply to inflamed joints and repairing local blood vessels that have been damaged by the inflammation, it is extremely effective in relieving the symptoms and pain associated with arthritis, rheumatism, osteoarthritis of the knee, gout and lower back pain.

Boswellia has potent anti-inflammatory properties and studies undertaken at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre have shown that is equal to NSAIDs (nonsterodial anti-inflammatory drugs) in inhibiting the spread of inflamed tissue and preventing the destruction of connective tissue but without the side effects common in the use of NSAIDs. For example, long-term use of boswellia does not show any irritation or ulceration to the stomach.

Boswellia has been shown to block 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX), which is a dangerous pro-inflammatory enzyme, leading to the synthesis of leukotrienes which cause inflammation. This is an important breakthrough in the scientific field as boswellia has now been identified as one of the few means available to fight the alarming effects of 5-LOX.

This astounding plant’s ability to inhibit 5-LOX formation is now being researched in relation to a variety of cancers. These include prostate cancer, melanoma and leukemia. Boswellia’s ability to prevent the spread of cancer and to cause the death of cancer cells makes it a viable option for a number of possibly fatal diseases.

Boswellia has also been found to inhibit the formation of another pro-inflammatory enzyme, HLE (human leukocyte elastase), which is associated with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and respiratory illnesses (emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis).

Precautions for Boswellia

Caution is suggested in the following areas:

  • The use of boswellia may affect certain anti-cancer drugs, cholesterol as well as blood thinning and asthma medication so, consult with your medical practitioner to ascertain the safety of using boswellia if you are currently taking any of these medicines.
  • Boswellia should also not be used during pregnancy and breast feeding
  • Safe use with children has as yet not been confirmed