Ancient Boswellia: A New Alternative for Arthritis Sufferers

Boswellia is a genus consisting of several species of trees. Four of those tree species produce a resin that is among the most ancient of all of the extracts of plants used in folk medicine and devotion. The resin is known as Frankincense. However, Boswellia was not just known by biblical references; it has also been used in India in Ayurvedic medicine and in Africa as part of medical folklore. Down through the ages, Boswellia has been known for anti-inflammatory supplement abilities. It has created renewed interest as the extracts of the resin, or boswellia acid, have shown interesting medical properties against inflammation and respiratory problems

According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Boswellia acid may have use as an anti-inflammatory supplement with benefits against arthritis, colitis, and asthma. Of importance is that the Sloan Kettering literature overview states:

“Boswellic acid has fewer adverse effects than steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.”

Acute pain in a woman knee

The Case for Boswellia
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 52.5 million Americans have some form of arthritis. Virtually all of them take anti-inflammatory medicine from time to time. WebMD tells us that every day, 30 million Americans take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or (NSAIDs). The numbers are massive. Nevertheless, because these medications are sold over-the-counter, does not mean they are safe in use.

For example, a 2011 study entitled: “Cardiovascular risk with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: systematic review of population-based controlled observational studies,”[i] reviewed several popular NSAID drugs including naproxen and low-dose ibuprofen in terms of heart disease.

Many studies recommend that patients should not treat themselves with anti-inflammatory drugs for any longer than 10 days due to its potential to have an effect heart and liver function.

If this is the case, it is easy to understand why physicians and scientists have been seeking more natural, gentler treatments. This has led to a re-examination of how Boswellia benefits arthritis.

In a 2003 research experiment, a Boswellia acid supplement was tested in treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee[ii] the scientists concluded that:

“The observed differences between drug treated and placebo being statistically significant, are clinically relevant.”

In a more recent study[iii], the Arthritis Foundation sponsored research into a commercially available Boswellia acid and the results were very encouraging. They found that the Boswellia benefits included: “Improved joint function and exhibited better therapeutic efficacy at 250 mg/day than at 100 mg/day.”

They also found that Boswellia benefits included reduced pain in as little as one week after treatment and that it was safe. They concluded that Boswellia will be “…an additional option to the currently available pain management for osteoarthritis.”

The same team is currently investigating the effectiveness of Boswellic acid supplement as an anti-inflammatory against RA or rheumatoid arthritis. There was an earlier 2000 study in the Journal of Rheumatology on Boswellia benefits that treat RA entitled: “Randomized double blind trial of an ayurvedic plant derived formulation for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis,” that was inconclusive, however even that study determined the ability of Boswellia to reduce swelling.”

What is repeatedly mentioned in the literature is that unlike NSAID’s, there are virtually no side effects.

As a supplement, Boswellia extract is normally available in capsules of 400 mg to 450 mg. in counts of 60 or 100 capsules.

As an alternative to non-prescription anti-inflammatory treatments, especially for helping with the symptoms of osteo-arthritis, Boswellia acid has shown itself to be a promising anti-inflammatory supplement in numerous studies.


[i] McGettigan P, Henry D., Cardiovascular risk with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: systematic review of population-based controlled observational studies. 2011 Sep;8(9):e1001098. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001098.
[ii] Kimmatkar N1, Thawani V, Hingorani L, Khiyani R
Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee–a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2003 Jan;10(1):3-7.
[iii] Sengupta K, Alluri KV, Sathis AR, et al. A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled study of the efficacy and safety of 5-Loxin ® for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis Research & Therapy 2008; July 30.