There are many health benefits of boswellia, an Ayurvedic herb best known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Animal studies indicate that boswellic acid, the primary component of boswellia, has both anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects. Boswellia's other name is Indian frankincense, and it is derived from the same tree from which people have harvested the aromatic, fragrance herb called frankincense.
Health Benefits of Boswellia
Boswellia has been used throughout India by Ayurvedic doctors for centuries. Historically, it was most often recommended for arthritis, gastrointestinal illnesses, coughs, sores, snakebites and asthma. When subjected to clinical studies in both animals and humans, boswellia has proven to be an interesting herb, with marked effectiveness on certain illnesses. Clinical studies indicate it may be useful for people with bronchial asthma and ulcerative colitis.
Before taking boswellia, please consult your doctor for advice. Do not stop taking prescription medications unless advised to do so by your doctor. You may also wish to consult with a qualified herbalist for the proper dose information for your health condition.
Boswellia and Bronchial Asthma
A study published in 1998 in a European journal indicates that boswellia may help people with bronchial asthma. Bronchial asthma is an inflammatory condition in which the airways tighten, constricting the flow of air and causing wheezing and shortness of breath. Although many factors such as allergies, dust and pollen can trigger an asthma attack, it is not known why some people get asthma and other do not.
Most conventional treatments for asthma focus on preventing attacks or treating attacks as they occur through the use of inhaled medication. In the study reported in the European journal, 40 people age 18 to 75 with bronchial asthma were given 300 mg extracts of boswellia twice a day for six weeks. It was a double-blind, placebo controlled study, which is considered the very best kind of study, for it really isolates the effects of the substance studied apart from any preconception of both the researchers and the participants. Approximately 70 percent of the people taking boswellia showed an improvement in their asthma symptoms. Among the control group, who did not take boswellia, 27 percent showed an improvement in their asthma symptoms. The researchers concluded that the test subjects showed a noticeable improvement after taking boswellia.
Ulcerative Colitis Research
Boswellia has also been researched in conjunction with ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a debilitating condition in which patients have bouts of severe gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhea, abdominal pain and sometimes vomiting. There's no cure for ulcerative colitis or its close cousin, Crohn's disease, so treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and bouts of colitis.
Studies conducted on patients with ulcerative colitis using the herb boswellia indicate it may reduce bouts of ulcerative colitis. In the May 2010 issue of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, as reported on the Sloan-Kettering website, a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study conducted over the course of a year demonstrated that boswellia extracts helped patients remain in remission from ulcerative colitis. In the study, participants took 400 mg extracts of boswellia three times a day for 12 months. The results are mixed, showing a slightly better result among the people taking boswellia in reducing bouts of ulcerative colitis, but not enough to make researchers recommend this herb as a treatment option. Nevertheless, enough interest in the results indicates the potential for future research studies.
Other research into the health benefits of boswellia has been conducted on the use of boswellia exacts in the treatment of various types of cancer. One study examined the effects of frankincense oil, which is extracted from the same or similar plants as boswellia, on bladder cancer cells. In this laboratory experiment, frankincense oil appeared to act only upon the cancerous cells, leaving the healthy cells alone. This is a long way from using boswellia or frankincense extracts in humans, but it does point to promising avenues of research.
Precautions and Contraindications
The active ingredient in boswellia, boswellic acid, may cause certain side effects. These include stomach upset, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal effects. In rare cases, people have had allergic reactions to this herb. If you have sudden shortness of breath, a skin rash, or swelling of the lips and tongue after taking boswellia, seek medical treatment immediately at the nearest emergency room. Always tell your doctor about this or any herbs, vitamins or supplements you're taking, as many interact and react with prescription medications.