Boswellia serrata, also known as the Indian version of frankincense, has been used for thousands of years for its ability to manage inflammatory disorders. It is procured from the sap of the Boswellia tree, a native Indian plant. It has also been used to treat arthritis, diarrhea, and pulmonary disease. Also, when used as an incense, boswellia resin is reported to relieve depression and anxiety.
Interestingly, its medicinal use might be attributable to elephants, as it’s said that ancient Ayurvedic healers discovered its benefits by watching elephants eat boswellia. Since elephants are known for their long life and health, it is thought that the healers wanted to bring the health benefits of the tree to their patients.
Over the last few years, boswellia has attracted much attention in the world medical community because it possesses anti-inflammatory properties that are equal to prescription medications without the unpleasant/dangerous side effects. For example, research conducted in India found that an extract of boswellia dramatically relieved rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Even better, boswellia was less toxic and more potent than the standard drug of choice at the time, benzoyl hydrotropic acid.
How It Works
Boswellia works through entirely different mechanisms than anti-inflammatory drugs. Whereas most drugs function as Cox enzyme inhibitors, boswellia works by inhibiting lipoxygenase enzymes (LOX), which are powerful contributors to inflammation and disease. By inhibiting LOX enzymes, boswellia effectively blocks leukotriene synthesis. Leukotrienes play a major role in promoting a whole host of age-associated, inflammation-related diseases including joint problems, intestinal disorders, cancer, and lung related disease.
In addition, it appears that boswellia can inhibit the breakdown of connective tissues caused by tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a potent inflammatory agent in the body.
And finally, it appears that boswellia has the ability to modulate the immune system and inhibit inflammatory activity, thereby helping with a number of autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Or to put it in simpler terms, the boswellic acids in boswellia seem to have the ability to suppress the proliferating tissue found in inflamed areas of the body and prevent the concomitant breakdown of connective tissue. Proliferative inflammation is an inflammatory reaction in which the distinguishing feature is an actual increase in the number of reticuloendothelial macrophages—thus continuing the inflammatory response and the breakdown of healthy tissue.
In addition, boswellia has been found to improve blood supply to the joints and restore the integrity of weakened blood vessels, again with no side effects as seen with the traditional drugs of choice.