By Shellie L. Rosen, PhD., DOM, L.Ac.
Frankincense is a ceremonial and medicinal resin from the Boswellia Serrata tree native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East. The resin was traditionally used to enhance mental states, as an anti-inflammatory, and to combat pain and infection. Frankincense was so relied upon historically it was at times more valuable than gold! Today the active ingredient in frankincense, Boswellic acid, has been investigated to reveal how well this resin works.
Research has shown that Boswellic acid inhibits pro-inflammatory enzymes and inflammatory cytokine production (the proteins that cause inflammation). Since inflammation is the root of countless disorders, Boswellic acid is helpful for many conditions. It can cross the blood-brain barrier, making it beneficial for inflammation-related neurological disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.
The Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy Journal published research in December 2021, illustrating the mechanistic role of Boswellic acid in reducing inflammatory pathways in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Its ability to positively disrupt inflammatory and immune pathways also helps conditions including cancer, autoimmune disease, viral infections, and inflammation.
Researchers at BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies conducted a metanalysis of seven trials of Boswellic acid, including 545 participants, and found it safe and effective in treating osteoarthritis.
Asthmatics also suffer from inflammation. Bronchoconstriction increases mucus and fluid, which induces an inflammatory response in the airway. In the 2015 European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, a study of 32 people with mild to severe asthma found that using Boswellic acid reduced the need for an inhaler by 43 percent. In addition, the study reported that Boswellic acid’s inhibitory actions on inflammation “may help reduce the production of leukotrienes” and decrease airway inflammation.
Boswellic acid is an excellent choice for musculoskeletal pain for its analgesic ability and effect on inflammation. Research on the oil of frankincense found that it has an immune stimulant activity of 90 percent. This oil in creams can support inflammatory dermatological conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
Boswellic acid concentrations in supplements should be over 35 percent. (Most are 65 percent. There are many forms of Boswellic acid. AKBA 3 acetyl-11-keto-β-Boswellic acid is reliably potent. In addition, this form may support immune activity in the endothelial lining of the digestive tract, helping heal gastrointestinal conditions. Boswellia takes 30 hours to absorb with a half-life of six hours. Doses range between 200-500 mg three times daily and must be taken with fatty foods (water soluble). Allow two months to gauge your results.
Do not take it if you are pregnant, nursing, or on blood thinners. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are for short-term use and irritate and ulcerate the stomach. Boswellic acids have little to no side effects when taken for extensive durations and are an alternative to NSAIDs.
The 2019 journal Phytochemistry notes that the inhalation of frankincense calms anxiety and reduces heart rate and blood pressure. Hence, there are benefits to burning the resin or inhaling the essential oil. Anyone who has breathed in frankincense has experienced how this ancient sap seeps into the mind; the qualities of the experience are unforgettable. Abundant blessings on your use of frankincense this spring. Shellie Rosen, Ph.D., Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM)®, DOM, L.Ac.