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Boswellia – Natural Analgesic

Pain, Inflammation, Joint disorders | April 18, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

migraine, heart, IBS, Pain

Boswellia – Natural Analgesic

Boswellia serrata is a tree that produces a medicinal resin, also known as frankincense. Boswellia resin is used extensively in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as a pain-killer. Western herbal medicine and research has begun investigating this natural analgesic anti-inflammatory herb for its potential as an alternative to prescription pain-killers.

The anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions of boswellia are largely due to a group of active constituents in the resin called boswellic acids. Some studies have shown that these acids can relieve pain and inflammation in chronic conditions as effectively as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) [1].

Boswellia for Arthritis Relief

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are caused by very different mechanisms with similar symptoms of stiff and sore joints. Boswellia may provide relief to people suffering from either (or both) forms of arthritis.

Boswellia for Arthritis ReliefOsteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is caused by gradual wear and tear of joints.

This degradation of joints can lead to reduced mobility along with chronic and severe pain, and many patients rely on NSAIDs to maintain their quality of life.
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Recent studies have demonstrated that boswellia and boswellic acids may improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis on their own, or in combination with other anti-inflammatory herbs:

  • A 2003 study examined the fast-acting effects of taking a total dose of 999mg of boswellia serrata each day. To reduce the risk of gastrointestinal side effects, this large dose was split into 333mg doses taken three times daily. After the short 8 week study period, the patients who were taking boswellia showed significant improvement in symptoms including distance they could walk, range of knee flexion, improved stair climbing, deeper squatting, and easier kneeling [2].
  • A more recent study in 2018 looked at the effects of taking boswellia in combination with curcuminoids – potent anti-inflammatory constituents found in turmeric. The study showed that curcuminoids and turmeric are more effective in osteoarthritis when taken in combination with boswellia. A combination of 350mg of curcuminoids and 150mg of concentrated boswellic acids was shown to improve joint function and relieve pain after only 12 weeks! [3]

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is similar to osteoarthritis in that it is a chronic condition that affects the joints, but RA involves more dysfunction in the immune system. It is an autoimmune condition where immune cells attack particular joints and cause inflammation, pain and swelling. Boswellia also has potential in RA – it may help to balance the immune system and reduce the number of white blood cells in the joints, which will slow down autoimmune destruction and relieve symptoms [4] [5].
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Boswellia for Gastrointestinal Disorders

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for disorders of severe inflammation in the large intestine that present with symptoms of severe pain, bleeding and diarrhoea. IBD conditions can be debilitating and chronic, with periods of remission and flare-ups repeating throughout life. 

Boswellia for Gastrointestinal DisordersGood news – studies suggest that boswellia may promote remission of symptoms in IBD, reduce the risk of complications, and relieve associated issues such as joint pain [6] [7].

Speak to a qualified herbalist or nutritionist before taking boswellia for IBD, as certain extracts and potencies may contribute to gastrointestinal side effects.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS can occur at the same time as inflammatory bowel diseases or other bowel conditions, or it can present on its own. It is characterised by symptoms of abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea, indigestion, gas, cramping and discomfort. Boswellia may help to relieve the severity of these symptoms and could also improve associated mood conditions such as anxiety and depression [8].

  • A 2017 study showed that participants who took boswellia extract for four weeks experienced significant relief of IBS symptoms including constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramping [9].

NOTE: It's important to speak to a doctor before self-prescribing natural therapies for IBS, as it may be connected to other conditions.

Boswellia for Type 2 Diabetes Complications

Boswellia for Type 2 Diabetes ComplicationsWhen complications of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance occur, they are often due to an increase in oxidative stress, cellular damage and inflammation throughout the body. Early stages of type 2 diabetes is characterised by high levels of insulin in the blood, which drives up the levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cascades of free radical activity. This causes damage to cells, nerves and tissues which lead to serious T2DM complications.

As a strong antioxidant, boswellia has been shown to protect sensitive tissues against ROS and free radical attack. It may also improve the underlying condition by boosting insulin sensitivity and normalising blood glucose levels [10] – but the results aren't conclusive, and correct dosage is essential. A study in 2016 showed that 500mg per day of boswellia gum resin (not concentrated extract) was no more effective at reducing glucose levels in diabetic patients than a placebo [11] – other studies have used a dose of at least 900mg of boswellia resin per day to demonstrate therapeutic results.

Boswellia for Heart Health

Boswellia acts as an antioxidant to reduce this oxidation and subsequent inflammation, and may also be protective against LDL oxidation. By protecting LDL, boswellia may help to reduce the formation of plaque in arteries that leads to atherosclerosis and heart disease.

  • A 300mg dose of boswellia three times a day for 6 weeks showed improved HDL, LDL, and total serum cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes [10]. Again, establishing a therapeutic level of dosage is essential: another study showed that a dosage regime of 250mg twice a day had no better effect than a placebo on cholesterol markers [11], suggesting that a total dose of at least 900mg per day is required for positive effects.
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Boswellia for Migraines & Headaches

Boswellia for Migraines & HeadachesPeople who suffer from migraines and chronic headaches often rely on pharmaceutical pain killers to relieve the symptoms, but boswellia may offer an alternative.

Boswellic acids have been shown to reduce the release of inflammatory chemicals that are associated with migraines, and may ease the severity and frequency of headaches.

  • A 2013 study showed that boswellia rapidly relieved the symptoms for participants who suffered from chronic and recurring cluster headaches. The positive effects were on-going even after the study intervention was completed – the participants generally continued to experience relief for up to 15 months after they stopped taking boswellia [14]!

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[1] Shenvi, S., et al. (2015) Synthesis and biological evaluation of boswellic acid-NSAID hybrid molecules as anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic agents. Eur J Med Chem., 98, 170 – 178.

[2] Kimmatkar, N., et al. (2003) Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee – A randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine,10, 3 – 7.

[3] Haroyan, A., et al. (2018) Efficacy and safety of curcumin and its combination with boswellic acid in osteoarthritis: a comparative, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. BMC Complement Altern Med., 18:7.

[4] Maroon, J. C., Bost, J. W. & Maroon, A. (2010) Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief. Surg Neurol Int., 1, 80.

[5] Al-Yasiry, A. R. M. & Kiczorowska, B. (2016) Frankincense – therapeutic properties. Postepy Hig Med Dosw., 70, 380 – 391.

[6] Ng, S. C., et al. (2013) Systematic review: the efficacy of herbal therapy in inflammatory bowel disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther., 38:8, 854 – 863.

[7] Ke, et al. (2012) Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis. Saudi J Gastroenterol., 18:1, 3 – 10. 

[8] Kazemian, A., et al. (2017) Evaluating the efficacy of mixture of Boswellia carterii, Zingiber officinale, and Achillea millefolium on severity of symptoms, anxiety, and depression in irritable bowel syndrome patients. J Res Med Sci., 22, 120.

[9] Belcaro, G., et al. (2017) Supplementation with a lecithin-based delivery form of Boswellia serrata extract (Casperome®) controls symptoms of mild irritable bowel syndrome European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, 21, 2249 – 2254.

[10] Ahangarpour, A., et al. (2014) Effect of Boswellia serrata supplementation on blood lipid, hepatic enzymes and fructosamine levels in type2 diabetic patients. J Diabetes Metab Disord., 13:29.

[11] Mehrzadi, S., et al. (2016) The Efficacy of Boswellia Serrata Gum Resin for Control of Lipid Profile and Blood Glucose in Diabetic Patients. Iran J Med Sci., 41:3, S66.

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