Uses of Indian Frankincense (Boswellia Serrata) for healthTeresa Tran
Boswellia Serrata is a tree that is native to India, Africa, and Arabia. It is commonly used in the traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda.
Olibanum is another word for boswellia. It refers to a resin or “sap” that seeps from openings in the bark of several Boswellia species, including Boswellia serrata, Boswellia carterii, and Boswellia frereana. Of these, Boswellia serrata is most commonly used for medicine.
Boswellia is most commonly used for osteoarthritis. In manufacturing, boswellia resin oil and extracts are used in soaps, cosmetics, foods, and beverages.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Osteoarthritis. Some research shows that taking certain extracts of boswellia can reduce pain by up to 65% and improve mobility in people with osteoarthritis in joints. Other research shows that taking combination products containing boswellia and other herbal ingredients can also reduce pain and improve function in people with osteoarthritis.
- Skin damage caused by radiation therapy (radiation dermatitis). Some research shows that applying a skin cream containing 2% boswellia during radiation treatment helps prevent severe skin redness from developing.
- A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis). Taking boswellia seems to improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis in some people. For some people, boswellia seems to work as well as the prescription drug sulfasalazine. Some research shows that it can induce disease remission in 70% to 82% of people.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Aging skin. Early research shows that applying boswellia cream to the face reduces fine surface lines, roughness, and sun damage in women with sun-damaged skin. But skin coloring and wrinkling are not improved.
- Asthma. Early research shows that taking boswellia extract might help improve breathing, reduce sudden attacks, and decrease some symptoms in people with asthma.
- Brain tumor. Early research shows that taking boswellia extract might reduce brain swelling in adults with brain tumors. But it doesn’t seem to reduce the need for steroid drugs, which are also used to reduce this swelling. It’s unclear if boswellia helps reduce brain swelling in children with brain tumors.
- Cluster headache. Limited evidence suggests that boswellia might reduce the frequency and intensity of cluster headaches.
- A type of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease). Some early research shows that taking boswellia extract reduces symptoms of Crohn disease. But other research that is more reliable shows no benefit.
- Diabetes. Research suggests that taking boswellia daily after a meal improves levels of blood sugar and cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.
- A long-term disorder of the large intestines that causes stomach pain (irritable bowel syndrome or IBS). Early research shows that taking boswellia extract seems to improve symptoms of IBS and decrease the need for extra medications and visits to a doctor or hospital.
- A rare type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the colon (microscopic colitis). Early research shows that taking boswellia daily for 6 weeks increases remission rate in people with a type of microscopic colitis called collagenous colitis.
- Injury to the brain, spine, or nerves (neurological trauma). Early research suggests that taking boswellia for 6 weeks does not help patients following a brain injury.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Research results are mixed so far about the effectiveness of boswellia in the treatment of RA.
- Hay fever.
- Joint pain.
- Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea).
- Painful conditions caused by overuse of tendons (tendinopathy).
- Sore throat (pharyngitis).
- Stomach pain.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate boswellia for these uses.
Side Effects & Safety
When taken by mouth: Boswellia is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth as a medicine. Boswellia extract has been safely used in doses up to 1000 mg daily for up to 6 months. A specific boswellia extract called “H15” has also been safely used in doses up to 1200 mg three times daily for up to 8 weeks. Boswellia usually doesn’t cause important side effects. However, some people who took it reported stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, itching, headache, swelling, and general weakness.
When applied to the skin: Boswellia is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin for up to five weeks. When applied to the skin, it can cause allergic rash in some people.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Boswellia is LIKELY SAFE when used in amounts commonly found in foods. But there isn’t enough reliable information to know if boswellia is safe to use in the larger amounts needed for medicinal effects while pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other immune system conditions: Boswellia might make the immune system more active. This could worsen the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. Avoid using boswellia if you have any of these conditions.
We currently have no information for Boswellia Interactions.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For osteoarthritis: 100-1000 mg of boswellia extracts (5-Loxin, Boswellin, Wokvel, or ApresFLEX, formerly known as Aflapin) or 300-600 mg of boswellia extract in combination with other herbs has been used daily.
- For a type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis): 350 mg three times daily for 6 weeks.
On the skin: For skin damage caused by radiation therapy (radiation dermatitis): A cream containing 2% boswellia (Bosexil by Indena SpA) has been applied twice daily during radiation therapy.