Boswellia is a genus of trees known for their fragrant resin which has many pharmacological uses, particularly as anti-inflammatories. The Biblical incense, frankincense, that Jesus was given as one of the royal gifts, was an extract from the resin of the tree Boswellia sacra which is one of four trees that do produce the valuable resin including Boswellia serrata.
Boswellia serrata resin is known as ‘Indian olibanum’, ‘Indian frankincense’, ‘dhup’ and ‘salai’ or ‘salai guggul’ and is found in the middle and northern parts of Eastern India. It has been available as a high quality extract in India for nearly 25 years.
The gum-resins of these trees have been used as medicine since time immemorial. Three ancient texts of medical knowledge in India – Ayurvedic Science, go back to about 700 BC. Hindus, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Chinese and Greeks as well as the people of old American civilizations used natural resins primarily for embalming and for its incense in religious and cultural functions.
Recently, the boswellic acids that are a component of the resin have shown some promise as a treatment for asthma and various inflammatory conditions. In West Africa, the bark of Boswellia dalzielii is used to treat fever, rheumatism and gastrointestinal problems. Boswellia incense may even relieve depression.
The gum-resin is tapped from the incision made on the trunk of the tree and is then stored in specially made bamboo baskets for removal of oil content and getting the resin solidified and then graded according to flavor, color, shape and size.
Boswellic acids have been observed to inhibit human leukocyte elastase (HLE), which may cause or worsen emphysema. HLE also stimulates mucus secretion and thus may play a role in cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis and acute respiratory distress syndrome. The inhibitory action on this inflammatory process is unique to boswellic acids.
There are very few animal or human studies on the systemic or topical beneficial effects of this wonderful remedy done in the last few decades. My own personal and very humble opinion (as it also pertains to real non-homeopathic Arnica flower extracts) is that any studies to prove efficacy feels to me as trying to prove that a glass of cool water quenches thirst! We all know it works!
Boswellin®, a registered trademark by Sabinsa Corporation, was introduced to the US and European markets in 1991. This is available in capsules or tablets. Products containing boswellic acids range from 150-250 mgs/capsules or tablets, and are taken orally two to three times a day.
I have seen also a suggested dose of 300 to 400 mg. three times a day orally; so usually one gram per day. One source suggests 1,200 mg three times a day for Crohn’s colitis for “up to 8 weeks” and 400 mg three times a day for rheumatoid arthritis.
Shallaki®, contains 125 mg Boswellia serrata in each capsule manufactured by Himalayan Drug Company. This medicine has excellent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, useful in relieving joint-pains. The website of the company is himalayahealthcare.com and use the word “shallaki” to find this medicine.
There is a site called physicianformulas.com which I only mention because it is run by physicians, but I do not know personally. They have a 307 mg. Boswellic acid capsules that I would suggest taking three times a day. They and other manufacturers suggest a dose of 300 mg. or so once a day, and it is understandable, but if you have any misgivings about a higher dose, you could try a week of once a day and increase at least to twice a day. Share with us if do this.
It is reported that the eminent 19th century British physician Sir William Osler once exclaimed,
“When a patient with arthritis walks in the front door, I feel like leaving out the back door.”
Nowadays, I feel that we can always start with natural remedies, a thorough medical history, including obvious or hidden food/environmental sensitivities, chronic infections, and lesser therapies, before jumping to expensive or potentially toxic treatments. Amen.
Finally, the Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) for Herbal Medicines, Third Edition (2004) has an entry for “Boswellia carteri – Frankincense”, and has mostly positive remarks on the anti-inflammatory effects of Boswellia. The most common reason for inadequate response is a sub-optimal herbal dose.
Thank you for reading this long article, but if you have pain remember my RUB.