Boswellia Extract: Does It Work?

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Boswellia Supplement Guide

In fact, the boswellic acids (especially AKBA) did more than that … they actually took control of 5-LOX’s two main production factories, 5-HETE and LTB4! By doing this, they can reduce 5-LOX’s activity to “near normal value.”

In layman’s terminology, it means “to a normal and safe range.” How “smart” of them! Hail to the 5-LOX regulator! (link, pdf)

INFO: HLE are protein chemical messengers released by a certain type of immune cells; and they are also implicated in causing several inflammatory and autoimmune human diseases.

Additionally, acetyl-boswellic acids are also found to exert their anti-inflammatory effect mainly by blocking another pro-inflammatory chemical, NF-κB (nuclear factor-kappa B).

This subsequently reduces production of TNFα (tumor necrosis factor alpha) by the macrophages (MACs). (link)

Until the inflammatory response is dampened, healing will not start.

frankincense Our immune cells meant no harm of course, but the saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” may indeed be true here.

An infected site which is overcrowded with immune cells can wreck havoc to the entire healing operation.

Try to imagine an army of “confused” soldiers amidst blazing bullets and a heavy downpour! Get acquainted with our fiery squads here.

Inflammation Studies

While used historically for thousands of years, Boswellia extracts (boswellia serrata) have only been studied in humans to benefit joint health, respiratory health and digestive health since the late 20th century.

Here are a few of them. For your information, the two ulcerative colitis studies comparing Boswellia extract to sulfasalazine by Gupta and colleagues (1997, 2001) are not included as I find the research methods less reliable.


(Gupta et el, 1998)

A six-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

40 volunteers took 300 mg powdered boswellia extract while another 40 took 300 mg of lactose (as a placebo), three times daily. Result, 70% of the boswellia group volunteers showed significant improvement; only 27% from the placebo group improved.


(Kimmatkar et el, 2003)

An eight-week with two 4-week interventions, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. 30 volunteers aged 45-72 years (59 years being the mean age), divided into two groups.

The first took 1 g of boswellia extract, the second, a placebo, in three divided doses daily. A 21-day washout period is given before the group crossover.

Result, individuals in the boswellia group experienced “decrease in knee pain, increased knee flexion and increased walking distance. The frequency of swelling in the knee joint was decreased.”

This anti-inflammatory herb is recommended by the researchers for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee; and with possible therapeutic use in other arthritis.

Chron’s Disease

(Gastroenterol et el, 2001)

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group comparison study.

This study is conducted to compare boswellia extract with Mesalazine, an anti-inflammatory drug developed to treat inflammation of the digestive tract, for example, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. 102 volunteers are involved.

INFO: A “parallel group” research design is where the treatment and the control (or the two treatments) are given simultaneously to two separate groups of subjects.

The study concluded that boswellia is “not inferior to mesalazine.” … “Considering both safety and efficacy of Boswellia serrata extract H15 it appears to be superior over mesalazine in terms of a benefit-risk-evaluation.”

“Cancer” Studies

I’m not going into detail on this topic but there are a few recent studies suggesting boswellic acids may have anti-tumor and anti-carcinogenic properties … and are able to induce cell death (apoptosis)―cancer cells in this case. (Shao et el, 1998; Syrovets et el, 2000; Park et el, 2002; Xia et el, 2005)

While waiting for more in-depth answers from the scientists, why not come back down to Earth and check out these articles:

Cancer! What is the truth? (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)

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