Bergamot Has Positive Quantitative and Qualitative Effects of Plasma Lipids, Decreases Oxidative Stress, and Improves Control of Plasma Glucose Levels

Dyslipidemia is often treated with statins, which inhibit 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme-A (HMG-CoA) reductase. Some patients with dyslipidemia have adverse reactions to prescription statins or do not reach target plasma lipid levels with statins alone. Herbal treatments may help patients reduce total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglyceride (TG) levels. Citrus (Citrus spp., Rutaceae) fruits have been found to benefit lipid metabolism and may help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The fruit of bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is high in flavonoids and has been shown to be antimicrobial, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory, and to alter plasma glucose and lipid concentrations. The goal of this review was to summarize research on the effect of bergamot on plasma lipid concentrations and lipid metabolism.

PubMed and Scopus were searched up to September 2015 for preclinical and clinical studies with any of the following keywords: bergamot, cardiovascular risk, dyslipidemia, lipids, lipoproteins, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, lipid-lowering drugs, nutraceuticals, natural compounds, and the statin.

Eleven preclinical studies were found. These studies were conducted in animal models and in isolated cell lines. Bergamot contains the flavonoids neoeriocitrin, neohesperidin, naringin, rutin, neodesmin, poncirin, brutieridin, melitidin, and rhoifolin. In rats with hypercholesterolemia, brutieridin, melitidin, and neoeriocitrin have statin-like qualities and reduce TC, TGs, LDL-C, and very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C). Similar results were found in rats with hyperlipidemia. In addition, oxidation levels of LDL-C and malondialdehyde levels were lower in rats fed bergamot. These findings are consistent with a decrease in oxidative stress with bergamot consumption. Bergamot juice was also found to scavenge free radicals in vitro. Studies have also investigated the mechanisms by which bergamot acts on plasma lipid levels. A study in rats found increased excretion of sterols in a fecal material with consumption of bergamot. Bergamot flavanones from the peel (brutieridin, melitidin, and HMG-neoeriocitrin) also have been found to bind to the active site of HMG-CoA reductase, causing inhibition of the enzyme in a manner similar to statins. In human hepatoma cells (HepG2), the bergamot constituents naringenin and hesperetin decreased synthesis of apolipoprotein B-containing lipoproteins.

Three clinical studies were found. In one study, bergamot alone was compared to placebo, two dosages of rosuvastatin (10 or 20 mg per day), and bergamot plus the lower dose of rosuvastatin. Bergamot decreased TC and LDL-C to a similar extent as 10 mg per day of rosuvastatin. Bergamot also significantly reduced the ratio of LDL-C to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and markers of oxidative stress. Additionally, bergamot significantly enhanced the effect of rosuvastatin in patients with mixed hyperlipidemia. In a second study, the effect of bergamot versus placebo was compared in patients with metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease. Bergamot significantly reduced fasting glucose levels, LDL-C, TGs, and small, dense LDL levels, and increased HDL-C compared to placebo. In a final study, the effect of bergamot was assessed in patients who had to discontinue use of statins due to adverse effects. Patients were divided into four groups. One group had hypercholesterolemia, a second group had hyperlipidemia, the third group had hyperlipidemia plus metabolic syndrome, and the last group had discontinued statins due to muscle cramps and a significant increase in serum creatine kinase levels. In the first three groups, bergamot decreased plasma TC and LDL-C and increased HDL-C. In the group with metabolic syndrome, control of plasma glucose levels increased with bergamot consumption, and in the fourth group, TC and LDL-C decreased with bergamot consumption.

The results of these studies suggest that bergamot has positive quantitative and qualitative effects on plasma lipids, decreases oxidative stress, and improves control of plasma glucose levels. The dosages of bergamot used in human studies range between 500 mg and 1300 mg per day. It is unknown if these dosages are appropriate or if drug interactions could occur with bergamot consumption. In addition, the flavonoids are the most studied component of bergamot, but other active compounds are known to exist within bergamot. Studies of these compounds would be useful. The authors suggest that further studies should be conducted to determine appropriate dosage, drug interactions, and the mechanism of action of bergamot.

Giglio RV, Patti AM, Nikolic D, et al. The effect of bergamot on dyslipidemia. Phytomedicine. October 2016;23(11):1175-1181.

  • Bergamot Orange (Citrus bergamia, Rutaceae)
  • Dyslipidemia

Myrrh: Uses, Health Benefits, Precautions

Myrrh is a resin that comes from trees belonging to the genus Commiphora – which grow in Northern Africa and the Middle East.

The sap-like substance, which has a unique sweet and smoky aroma, has a wide range of uses.

Myrrh is mainly used:

  • as a fragrance
  • for embalming
  • to flavor food products
  • for its potential therapeutic properties.

The essential oil has been part of medical practice in traditional therapies for millennia.

The word myrrh comes from the Arabic word “murr” which translates into “bitter”.

In Ancient Egypt, myrrh was used to treat hay fever and herpes. The ancient Greeks used it as an antiseptic for soldiers to clean up battle wounds – myrrh was commonly carried into the battlefield.

Myrrh is mentioned in the New Testament as one of the three gifts the three wise men brought to Jesus when he was born (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh).

Potential health benefits of myrrh

A vial of myrrh essential oil.


Modern scientific research is beginning to find evidence suggesting that myrrh may offer some health benefits. However, it is important to note that many of these claims require further studies.

Antioxidant benefits

A study published in the prestigious journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found that myrrh (Commiphora molmol) emulsion was able to protect against lead (PbAc)-induced hepatotoxicity.

The authors of the study concluded that myrrh (Commiphora molmol) emulsion is a “powerful antioxidant” that can “protect against PbAc-induced hepatic oxidative damage and immunotoxicity by reducing lipid peroxidation and enhancing the antioxidant and immune defense mechanisms.”1

Possible anticancer properties

A group of Chinese researchers revealed that extracts and compounds from Commiphora myrrha resin may be effective against human gynecologic cancer cells.2 Their findings were published in the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research.

Other possible uses of myrrh

Man applying cream to his face.
Myrrh features in many products that are used to maintain healthy skin.


Many people use myrrh for treating:

  • Cough
  • Asthma
  • Indigestion
  • Ulcers
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Joint pain
  • Maintaining healthy skin.

Side effects of myrrh

People are advised not to consume high amounts of myrrh as it can potentially cause severe heart irregularities, according to a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research3.

In addition, people who have sensitive skin may develop allergic contact dermatitis. The finding was reported in a study published in Contact Dermatitis.4

Women who are pregnant should avoid taking myrrh by mouth as it may be a cause of miscarriage.

Side effects of Myrrh may include:

  • Making a fever worse
  • Heart Problems
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Uterine bleeding.

‘We Bring Gifts Of Gold, Myrrh, And Ovarian Cancer Treatment’

When you hear the word “frankincense,” no doubt you think of the biblical three wise men who presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newly born baby Jesus. But what you may be less familiar with is the medicinal properties of frankincense. Now, new research suggests it may help in the treatment of ovarian cancer.

Frankincense is an aromatic plant resin that comes from a tree called Boswellia sacra, found in Africa and Arabia.

According to researchers from the University of Leicester in the UK, led by Kamla Al-Salmani, frankincense has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory, making it useful for the treatment of conditions such as asthma, various skin conditions, and gastroenteritis.

Previous research has also suggested that frankincense may be useful for the treatment of some cancers, including breast, colon, and prostate cancer. This is due to a compound it contains, called acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA).

AKBA compound ‘effective against ovarian cancer cells’

After analyzing the AKBA compound in vitro for 1 year, the investigators tested it on a series of late-stage ovarian cancer cell lines, some of which were resistant to chemotherapy.

The compound effectively killed ovarian cancer cells. Furthermore, the researchers say they were surprised to find that chemotherapy-resistant cell lines appeared to become more sensitive when the AKBA compound was applied.

They say this suggests that frankincense may be useful for overcoming drug resistance, and it could also lead to an improved survival rate for patients with late-stage ovarian cancer.

Commenting on the findings, Al-Salmani says:

“After a year of studying the AKBA compound with ovarian cancer cell lines in vitro, we have been able to show it is effective at killing the cancer cells.

Frankincense is taken by many people with no known side effects. This finding has enormous potential to be taken to a clinical trial in the future and developed into an additional treatment for ovarian cancer.”

Importance of late-stage ovarian cancer treatment

Frankincense is an aromatic plant resin that is famous for its role in the story of Jesus’ birth, but researchers have found it also kills ovarian cancer cells.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are estimated to have been 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed throughout 2013, and there were 14,030 deaths from the disease.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, increased urgency or frequency of urination, and difficulty eating or feeling full quickly.

However, previous research has shown that these symptoms can often be misdiagnosed, meaning the cancer is often diagnosed in its late stages.

The researchers note that in countries such as Oman, ovarian cancer is often diagnosed late due to lack of visible symptoms and women’s lack of knowledge on what symptoms to look out for.

They stress that these factors further emphasize the importance of their findings, in that frankincense may be able to treat cancer in its late stages.

The researchers say they are looking to carry out more research to further understand exactly how the AKBA compound in frankincense kills cancer cells – another step toward clinical trials.

Quantitative Determination of 3-O-Acetyl-11-Keto-β-Boswellic Acid (AKBA) and Other Boswellic Acids in Boswellia sacra Flueck (syn. B. carteri Birdw) and Boswellia serrata Roxb

Giuseppe Mannino 1, Andrea Occhipinti 1,2 and Massimo E. Maffei 1,2,*
Biosfered S.r.l., Innovation Centre, Academic Spin-Off of the University of Turin, Via Quarello 15/A, Turin 10135, Italy
Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology, Innovation Centre, University of Turin, Via Quarello 15/A, Turin 10135, Italy
Correspondence: Tel.: +39-011-670-5967
Academic Editor: Vassilios Roussis
Received: 29 July 2016 / Accepted: 1 October 2016 / Published: 6 October 2016



Boswellia serrata and Boswellia sacra (syn. B. carteri) are important medicinal plants widely used for their content of bioactive lipophilic triterpenes. The qualitative and quantitative determination of boswellic acids (BAs) is important for their use in dietary supplements aimed to provide a support for osteoarthritic and inflammatory diseases. We used High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)-Diode Array Detector (DAD) coupled to ElectroSpray Ionization and tandem Mass Spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS) for the qualitative and quantitative determination of BAs extracted from the gum resins of B. sacra and B. serrata. Limit of detection (LOD), limit of quantification (LOQ), and Matrix Effect were assessed in order to validate quantitative data. Here we show that the BAs quantitative determination was 491.20 g·kg−1 d. wt (49%) in B. sacra and 295.25 g·kg−1 d. wt (30%) in B. serrata. Lower percentages of BAs content were obtained when BAs were expressed on the gum resin weight (29% and 16% for B. sacra and B. serrata, respectively). The content of Acetyl-11-Keto-β-Boswellic Acid (AKBA) was higher in B. sacra(70.81 g·kg−1 d. wt; 7%) than in B. serrata (7.35 g·kg−1 d. wt; 0.7%). Our results show that any claim of BAs content in either B. sacra or B. serrata gum resins equal to or higher than 70% or AKBA contents of 30% are simply unrealistic or based on a wrong quantitative determination.

Acetyl-11-Keto-β-Boswellic Acid; 11-Keto-beta-Boswellic Acid; boswellic acids; standardization; Boswellia serrata; Boswellia sacra; HPLC-DAD-ESI-MS/MS

1. Introduction

The genus Boswellia (Burseraceae), comprises 25 species of trees and shrubs which are widely spread in Arabia, the north-eastern coast of Africa and India [1]. Since ancient times, the natural resin of Boswellia trees has been collected and used to produce the oleo gum resin, frankincense (olibanum). The gum resin is harvested from incisions made on the trunk of the tree and the darkening of resin droplets is an index of oxidation [2]. Among Boswellia species, only a few are of economic importance as a natural source of phytopharmaceutical compounds, including B. serrata Roxb. and B. sacra Flueck (syn. B. carteri Birdw, syn. B. undulatocrenata Engl.) [3,4,5].
B. serrata is used for the treatment of oxidative and inflammatory damage [2], rhinitis [6] asthma [7], age-related disorders [8], neurorecovery [9], arthritis [10], skin disorder [11], cancer [12], and against several human pathogenic and plant pathogenic fungi [13]. Recently, the pharmacological properties and clinical effectiveness of B. serrata have been studied systematically [3].
B. sacra oleo gum resin is used in the treatment of gastric and hepatic disorders [14], skin disorders [15], for its hepatoprotective activity [16], analgesic effect [4], antiglycation and antioxidant activities [17], tumor suppression [18], anticoagulation effects [19], antinflammatory activity [20], and cardioprotective effects [21].
The main constituents of B. serrata and B. sacra are volatile oils, composed of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes [22,23], diterpenes including incensole, incensole acetate and cembrenol (serratol) [24], lipophilic pentacyclic triterpene acids of the oleanane-(α-boswellic acids), ursane-(β-boswellic acids) and lupane-type (lupeolic acids), as well as an ether-insoluble fraction containing polysaccharides (arabinose, galactose, xylose) [25]. Among triterpenoids, bioactive boswellic acids are of particular interest, particularly 3-O-Acetyl-11-Keto-β-Boswellic Acid (AKBA), 11-Keto-beta-Boswellic Acid (KBA), and the various β-boswellic acids (βBAs), and α-boswellic acids (αBAs) and their esters. The analysis of these triterpenes is performed by different analytical methods including High Performance Thin Layer Chromatography (HPTLC) [26], although the most used methods are based on HPLC coupled to both photodiode array detection [27] and mass spectrometry detection [28]. In accordance with the spectral properties of the boswellic acids, their analysis is performed at three different wavelengths, 210 nm for αBAs, βBAs as well as lupeolic acid, 250 nm for AKBA and KBA, and 280 nm for 9,11-dehydro-α- and -β-boswellic acids [27]. However, a precise identification and quantification of boswellic acids is usually obtained with liquid chromatography electrospray ionisation tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS) by using selected ion monitoring (SIM) detection [28].
In general, the total organic acids from B. serrata and B. sacra constitute approximately 65%–70% by weight of the total alcoholic extract. Of this fraction, approximately 25% is made of triterpenes. In market products, these percentages are often misinterpreted and it is not unusual to find claims of 70% boswellic acids content or 30% AKBA content, which is obviously misleading because the highest amounts so far reported of boswellic acids in B. serrata is about 140 mg/g (i.e., 14%) and in B. sacra is about 190 mg/g (i.e., 19%) [27]. Since both Boswellia extracts are used in several formulations, it is important to express unequivocally the “real content” of boswellic acids in both B. serrata and B. sacra. Therefore, the aim of this work is to provide a guideline for the accurate identification and quantification of boswellic acids in these two important Boswellia species by using HPLC-DAD-ESI-MS/MS.

2. Results and Discussion

2.1. Identification of Boswellic Acids

Gum resin of B. sacra and B. serrata were extracted using methanol in order to evaluate the total BAs content. The total yield for B. sacra methanolic extract was 598.88 g·kg−1 (±11.40 g·kg−1) gum resin dry weight whereas the yield for B. serratawas 549.78 g·kg−1 (±29.31 g·kg−1) gum resin dry weight. The total recovery of methanolic extracts from B. sacra was 99.17% (±1.93%), whereas the total recovery from B. serrata was 98.96% (±1.97%). Our findings indicate that the total content of the lipophilic extracts (excluding the polysaccharide moiety of both species) never exceeded 60%, in agreement with previous works [27,29,30]. By considering that the methanolic fraction contains several lipophilic compounds, including mono-, di- and triterpenes, it is evident that a claim of 70% BAs is not sustainable, being the BAs only a portion of the total methanolic extract.
In order to define the content and to identify the BAs present in the two Boswellia methanolic extracts, we performed HPLC-DAD-ESI-MS/MS analyses. Several BAs were present in both methanolic extracts. Table 1 reports the molecular mass and the fragmentation pattern of compounds identified in the methanolic extracts, whereas Figure 1 shows the chemical structure of the identified BAs. The identification of these compounds was achieved by both mass spectrometry and comparison with pure standards (see Supplementary Figure S1 for mass spectra of identified compounds and Supplementary Figure S2 for UV chromatograms). In both species, the main BAs were represented by AKBA, KBA, αBA, βBA, acetyl-αBA (A-αBA) and acetyl-βBA (A-βBA), in accordance with the literature data [2,31,32].

Figure 1. Chemical structure of the boswellic acids identified in Boswellia serrata and Boswellia sacra. Numbers correspond to compounds listed in Table 1.
Table 1. Molecular mass and fragmentation pattern of compounds identified in the methanolic extracts of B. sacra and B. serrata.

2.2. Quantification of Boswellic Acids

Table 2 shows for both species the quantitative determination of the main BAs. The total amount of the main BAs was statistically (p < 0.05) higher in B. sacra than in B. serrata. In B. sacra, the total amount of the main BAs in the methanolic extract was lower than 50% and this value was reduced to about 29% when the amount was considered in terms of the total gum resin dry weight (Table 2). In B. serrata the total content of the main BAs in the methanolic extract was lower than 30% and the value dropped to 16% when BAs were calculated in terms of the gum resin dry weight (Table 2). In both species, the major BAs were represented by αBA and βBA, in agreement with literature data [32]. A direct comparison between the two species shows that the contents of B. sacra AKBA (about 10 fold), αBA (1.5 fold) and βBA (1.6 fold) were statistically (p < 0.05) higher than in B. serrata.

Table 2. Quantitative determination of boswellic acids in Boswellia sacra and Boswellia serrata by High Performance Liquid Chromatography-Diode Array Detector coupled to ElectroSpray Ionization and tandem Mass Spectrometry (HPLC-DAD-ESI-MS/MS), by using calibration curves from pure standards. Data are expressed as g·kg−1 gum resin dry weight. (Standard deviation), in the same row, different letters indicate significant (p < 0.05) differences.
In order to validate the quantitative analyses reported in Table 2, we calculated the linearity and precision of the identified BAs standard curves, the detection limit (LOD), the quantification limit (LOQ) and the Matrix Effect (ME). Table 3shows the validation results for the main identified BAs. All compounds showed a high R2 value, which indicates a high linearity in the calibration curves. The lowest LOD and LOQ values were found for A-βBA, followed by equal values for KBA and AKBA. The highest LOD and LOQ values were found for A-αBA. In order to complete the validation process, we assessed the ME, to assure that precision, selectivity and sensitivity were not compromised during HPLC-ESI-MS/MS analyses. The absolute ME was calculated by comparing the slope of matrix-matched standard curve with the slope of the standard calibration curve, according to [33]. Table 3 reports, for each species, the ME accuracy (expressed as percent values) of the main identified BAs. In B. sacra extracts, KBA (CV = 14.06) and A-βBA (CV = 11.61) showed the highest percentage of accuracy, followed by AKBA (CV = 7.53) and A-αBA (CV = 1.90). βBA (CV = 8.72) showed the lowest ME accuracy percentages. In B. serrata, the highest percentages of accuracy were found for αBA (CV = 0.22), followed by KBA (CV = 14.13), A-αBA (CV = 2.66) and AKBA (CV = 7.74).

Table 3. Validation of boswellic acids (BAs) quantitative analyses of methanolic extracts from B. sacra and B. serrata. (Standard deviation).
Finally, Table 4 shows the recovery of the identified BAs from B. sacra and B. serrata methanolic extracts. In both species, the total recovery was higher than 98%. In B. sacra, the highest recovery was found for AKBA and αBA, whereas in B. serrata the highest recovery was found for A-βBA and A-αBA (Table 4).

Table 4. Percentage of recovery of identified BAs from B. sacra and B. serratamethanolic extracts. Values are expressed as percentage of recovery.
The quantitative determination of B. sacra and B. serrata BAs content and the validation of the quantitative chemical analysis show that any claim of BAs content in either B. sacra or B. serrata gum resins equal to or higher than 70% or 30% AKBA are simply unrealistic or based on a wrong quantitative determination. The same is true when the percentage of BAs is calculated in the methanolic extract.

3. Materials and Methods

3.1. Plant Material and Chemicals

Boswellia serrata Roxb. and Boswellia sacra Flueck gum resins were purchased from Bauer S.r.l. (Udine, Italy). The origin of B. sacra samples was from Ethiopia, whereas B. serrata samples originated from India. The gum resins were milled to coarse powder and used for all extractions. All chemicals were of analytical reagent-grade unless stated otherwise. Pure standards were purchased for the quantification by external calibration curves: 11-Keto-β-boswellic acid, α-Boswellic acid and β-Boswellic acid (ExtraSynthese, Lyon, France), 3-O-Acetyl-11-keto-β-Boswellic Acid (Merck, Darmstadt, Germany), 3-O-Acetyl-α-boswellic acid, 3-O-Acetyl-β-boswellic acid (Sigma-Aldrich, St. Louis, MO. USA).

3.2. Solvent Extraction of Boswellia serrata and Boswellia sacra oleo Gum Resins

One hundred grams of ground B. serrata and B. sacra oleo gum-resins were extracted with 1 L methanol (VWR International, Radnor, PA, USA) (extraction ratio 1:10 w/v). Samples were then placed on an orbital shaker for 5 days in the dark. Extracts were then filtered and the resin was rinsed with 400 mL of methanol. To evaluate the recovery of analyzed compounds, the exhaust gum resin was re-extracted with methanol as previously described. Samples were then concentrated by vacuum evaporation (Rotavapor, Büchi, Flawil, Switzerland). Concentrated extracts were then dried in a ventilated oven at 70 °C for 4 h. The powdered extracts were stored at room temperature in the dark until chemical analysis. Extractions were performed in triplicate.

3.3. Isolation and Quantification of Boswellic Acids by HPLC-DAD-ESI-MS/MS

Boswellic acids were identified and quantified by liquid chromatography (1200 HPLC, Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA, USA) equipped with a reverse phase column, Luna C18 (3 µm, 150 mm × 3.0 mm, Phenomenex, Torrance, CA, USA). B. serrata and B. sacra powdered extracts were dissolved (30 mg·mL−1) in HPLC-grade methanol and properly diluted. The binary solvent system was: (A) MilliQ H2O (Millipore, Billerica, MA, USA):Methanol 50:50 containing 5 mM ammonium acetate (Sigma-Aldrich, USA); and (B) Methanol:1-Propanol (VWR International, Radnor, PA, USA) 80:20 containing 5 mM ammonium acetate. The chromatographic separation was carried out at constant flow rate (200 µL·min−1) with the following conditions: linear gradient from 30% to 50% of B in 2 min, then 80% of B in 35 min, then at 47 min B concentration was raised to 98%. The concentration of solvent B was maintained at 98% for 6 min. The initial mobile phase was re-established for 10 min before the next injection. The temperature of wellplate autosempler G1377A was set 4 °C while chromatography was carried out at constant temperature (30 °C) controlled by an Agilent 1100 HPLC G1316A Column Compartment.
Tandem mass spectrometry analyses were performed with a 6330 Series Ion Trap LC-MS System (Agilent Technologies, USA) equipped with an electrospray ionization source (ESI) operating in negative mode. The flow rate of nitrogen was set 325 °C and 5.0 L·min−1, while the Capillary Voltage was 1.5 kV. Helium was used as a collision gas.
Identification of Boswellia oleo gum resin compounds was performed by scan analyses with a 50–750 m/z scan range and by monitoring the absorption at 210, 250 and 280 nm. Quantitative analyses were performed by Multiple Reaction Monitoring (MRM) by monitoring the fragmentation of quasi-molecular ions for αBA and βBA and KBA (Table 1) and by Diode Array Detector (DAD) at 250 nm for AKBA and 210 nm for A-αBA and A-βBA. Quantification was performed by external calibration curves with pure standards dissolved in HPLC grade Methanol. Limit of Detections (LOD) and Limit of Quantifications (LOQ) for each compounds were determined as described in [34].
To evaluate the ME in the quantification of target compounds, B. serrata and B. sacra powdered extracts were dissolved (30 mg·mL−1) in HPLC-grade methanol and properly diluted. These sample solutions were used to prepare the calibration curves in the presence of other extracted gum resin compounds [33]. The slope of standard curves obtained with the solvent (methanol) and in the extracts were used to compare the ME percentage (%ME = Calibration Slope(sample)/CalibrationSlope(standard) × 100). 100% ME percentage indicates no ME, a ME% < 100% indicates ionization suppression and a ME% > 100% indicates ionization enhancement.

4. Conclusions

Boswellia sacra and Boswellia serrata extracts are widely used in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical preparations. The bioactivity of these Boswellia extracts is based on the content of BAs. Clearly, the dose of bioavailable BAs is central to the issue of Boswellia efficacy. Claims of 70% BAs or even 30%–40% AKBA are currently found, but this work confirms that the BAs content never exceeds 50% of the methanolic extract, whereas lower percentages are obtained when BAs are expressed in terms of the gum resin weight. Moreover, the highest percentage of AKBA found in B. sacra was below 8%. Only analytical methods based on HPLC coupled to mass spectrometry allow the precise quantification and identification of BAs in Boswellia extracts, whereas other methods based only on HPLC or spectrophotometric methods do not sufficiently allow an accurate quantification of BAs. Therefore, we recommend LC-MS technology for BAs determination and quantification.

Supplementary Materials

The following are available online at, Figure S1: mass spectra of boswellic acids isolated in this study; Figure S2: UV chromatograms of boswellic acids isolated in this study.


This work was supported by the PhD Program in Pharmaceutical and Biomolecular Sciences of the University of Turin and by the Academic Spin-Off Biosfered S.r.l.

Author Contributions

M.E.M and A.O. conceived and designed the experiments; A.O. and G.M. performed the experiments; M.E.M. and A.O. analyzed the data; M.E.M. contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools; M.E.M. wrote the paper.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Can Frankincense Treat Cancer?

Frankincense oil is derived from the Boswellia tree. It has a long history in myth and folk medicine. In the Bible, it is one of three gifts offered to Jesus by the wise men, possibly because of its apparent healing powers.

Some supporters of herbal medicine argue that frankincense offers numerous health benefits. These supposed benefits include controlling bleeding, speeding up the wound-healing process, improving oral health, fighting inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and improving uterine health.

Its most promising use may be as a cancer treatment. Cancer is a leading cause of death, killing 8.2 million people worldwide in 2012. Current research on the effectiveness of frankincense is limited, but early results are promising.

How might frankincense reduce inflammation?

Frankincense contains boswellic acid, which may help fight inflammation.

Inflammation is one of the key processes through which the body fights infection. When tissue becomes inflamed, white blood cells arrive to fight infection. Local inflammation causes redness, swelling, and heat. It can occur with injuries ranging from mild to life-threatening.


Frankincense is steeped in history, but will it work as a modern-day cure?


Pimples, for example, are pockets of inflammation. Serious skin infections such as cellulitis can cause inflammation to spread and become life-threatening.

Long-term inflammation, especially when it occurs in multiple areas of the body, is associated with a wide range of health issues. Arthritis is an inflammatory disease, and evidence increasingly points to inflammation as a factor in depression.

A 2006 study published in Planta Medica uncovered a number of ways the boswellic acid in frankincense might fight infection. Boswellic acid inhibited 5-lipoxygenase, a chemical involved in inflammatory processes. Researchers also found that boswellic acid might target free radicals and cytokines. Both of these play a role in inflammation.

This has important implications for the fight against cancer. Numerous studies have linked inflammation to cancer. By disrupting inflammatory processes, frankincense could stop cancer before it starts.

The anti-inflammatory properties of frankincense suggest that it might also be effective in the treatment of diseases such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Ulcerative colitis.

Could frankincense fight cancer directly?

Frankincense might not just reduce inflammation. It may also directly attack cancer cells.

[frankincense boswellia tree]
Frankincense comes from the Boswellia tree.


One of the challenges of cancer treatment is that, unlike bacteria or viruses, cancer cells are not foreign invaders. Instead, cancer occurs when the body’s cells grow out of control, attacking healthy tissue.

This process makes it difficult to fight cancer without also killing healthy cells. In fact, most cancer treatments do kill healthy cells.

Chemotherapy, for example, kills many healthy cells as it fights cancer. This is why cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy often lose their hair, experience nausea, and become more vulnerable to infection.

Some evidence suggests that frankincense might target cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

A 2009 study of bladder cancer studied how frankincense affected cultures of normal and cancerous bladder cells. The oil targeted cancerous cells, but it did not destroy healthy cells.

A 2015 study found similar effects in breast cancer. The researchers found that frankincense could kill breast cancer cells and disrupt the growth of future cancer cells.

The results of these studies are preliminary. However, they offer hope that frankincense might one day fight some forms of cancer without the potentially life-threatening effects of chemotherapy.

Future research: Is a cancer cure on the horizon?

Research on frankincense as a cancer treatment has only looked at cell cultures and not cancer growing in a living, human being. Before frankincense can be used to treat cancer, researchers must perform human trials to prove that it works and is reasonably safe.

A number of studies have uncovered substances that can kill cancer cells in a petri dish. Substances ranging from bleach to antiparasite drugs have killed cancer in a lab, but not yet in a human.

Human bodies are complicated systems. Before using frankincense on people, scientists must work out a safe dosage, explore potential side effects, and decide how best to deliver treatment. As research is still in its early stages, it is unlikely that frankincense will become a mainstream cancer treatment in the near future.

Safe use of frankincense

People should talk to a doctor before trying frankincense or any other essential oil.

Frankincense is not an alternative to mainstream cancer treatments. No research currently supports using the oil in place of other cancer treatments. Frankincense may, however, be used as a supplement to medical treatment.

Frankincense has not been approved as a drug for any specific disease, and there are no scientifically proven guidelines for its use.

These include:

  • Using frankincense in skin care products, for example, adding a drop or two of frankincense oil to a favorite lotion.
  • Soaking in frankincense in the bath tub. A few drops create an aromatic soak, and the body may absorb some of the oil.
  • Using frankincense on pulse points during meditation or yoga, or applying a few drops of oil to a hot compress.
  • Ingesting frankincense, but remembering to dilute the oil first. One popular recommendation advises a 10 to 1 ratio of water to frankincense.

People can also add frankincense to honey or another sweetener. They can conceal its pungent taste by adding the sweetener to coffee or tea. It is recommended to limit intake to just a few drops per day and to speak with a doctor for approval first.

Users should watch carefully for side effects, and they should stop use immediately if any ill effects develop. If anyone plans to use frankincense on their skin, they should try testing a diluted version of the oil on a small patch of skin first.

Essential oils can be diluted with olive oil. If someone intends to ingest the oil, they should start with a heavily diluted drop, then gradually increase the dosing over several days.

Frankincense is natural, but like many other natural substances, it can be poisonous. People who are pregnant, lactating, have a history of allergic reactions, or have a weakened immune system, should avoid using frankincense unless their doctor says otherwise.

Apricot Seeds: Cancer Treatment or Danger to Health?

An apricot kernel is a single seed found inside the stone of an apricot. Billed as a new “superfood,” apricot kernels are reported to have cancer-fighting and detox-enhancing properties.

However, scientists have warned that a compound in the apricot kernel converts to cyanide in the body at levels that could be harmful.

Is eating apricot kernels a safe alternative way to treat cancer or another dangerous health fad? We sort the facts from the fiction.

What are apricot kernels?

Apricots and a kernel.
The seed of an apricot is also known as a kernel.

Apricot kernels look similar in appearance to a small almond. Fresh apricot kernels are white. The skin becomes light brown when dried out.

Apricot kernels contain protein, fiber, and a high percentage of oil. The oil can be extracted from the kernel.

Oil pressed from the sweet kernel can be used for cooking in the same way as sweet almond oil. The kernels themselves are used in processed foods such as amaretto biscuits, almond finger biscuits, and apricot jams.

Oil and kernels from the bitter variety of apricot kernel are often used in cosmetics in body oil, face cream, lip balm, and essential oil.

What nutrients do apricot kernels contain?

Apricot kernels are made up of the following:

  • Oils – up to 50 percent
  • Proteins – around 25 percent
  • Carbohydrates – around 8 percent

Fatty acids

Apricot kernel oil is high in essential fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential to human health, but the human body is unable to produce them, so they must be taken in through diet.

There are two main types of essential fatty acids: linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3).

Linolenic acid plays a vital role in brain function and normal growth and development. Fatty acids also stimulate skin and hair growth, regulate metabolism, maintain bone health, and support the reproductive system.

Vitamins and minerals

Apricot kernels do not contain a significant amount of vitamins and minerals. However, apricot kernel oil is rich in vitamin E.

Why are apricot kernels considered good for fighting cancer?

Although apricot kernels have some health benefits, can they help fight against cancer or are they do more harm than good?

Some people regard a compound called amygdalin, which is found in apricot kernels, as a secret weapon to attack cancer cells, eradicate tumors, and prevent cancer.

What is amygdalin?

Amygdalin is a naturally occurring substance found in apricot kernels. Amygdalin is also present in other seeds of fruit including apples, cherries, plums, and peaches. Amygdalin can also be found in plants such as clover, sorghum, and lima beans.

A pile of apricot kernels.
People who eat large numbers of apricot seeds are at risk of cyanide poisoning.

When amygdalin is eaten, it converts to cyanide in the body. Cyanide is a fast-acting, potentially deadly chemical.

Cyanide prevents the cells in the human body from using oxygen, which kills them. As the heart and the brain use a lot of oxygen, cyanide is more harmful to those than other organs.

Research suggests that 0.5-3.5 milligrams of cyanide per kilogram of body weight can be potentially lethal.

It is estimated that eating 50-60 apricot kernels would deliver a lethal dose of cyanide. Cyanide poisoning can occur at much lower levels, however.

Web sites that promote the consumption of raw apricot kernels recommend between 5-10 kernels per day for the general population and up to 60 apricot kernels per day for people with cancer.

People who follow these dose recommendations are likely to be exposed to cyanide levels that cause cyanide poisoning.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) warned that a single serving of three small apricot kernels or one large apricot kernel could put adults over the suggested safe levels of cyanide exposure, while one small kernel could be toxic to a toddler.

The EFSA advise that no more than 20 micrograms of cyanide per kilogram of body weight should be consumed at one time. This limits consumption to one kernel for adults. Even half a kernel would be over the limit for children.

What is laetrile? What is vitamin B17?

Laetrile is a partly synthetic form of amygdalin. Laetrile is produced from amygdalin through a chemical reaction with water.

Laetrile was patented in 1961, but it did not become popular until 1970. The biochemist, Ernst T. Krebs, Jr., stated that cancer was a vitamin deficiency disease and the missing vitamin in cancer was laetrile. He named laetrile “vitamin B17.”

B17, or laetrile, is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the United States and is deemed unsafe for food and drug use. It has not been shown to have any use in the treatment of any disease.

There is currently no evidence that laetrile helps with cancer. However, some people choose to use laetrile in the hope that it will cure cancer when conventional treatments have failed. People may take laetrile to:

  • Improve energy levels and well-being
  • Detox the body
  • Help them live longer

There is no scientific evidence to support these reasons.

The FDA say: “There are no published clinical studies that demonstrate that laetrile is safe and effective and cancer patients who take it sometimes forgo conventional therapies to their detriment.”

“Despite repeated warnings by FDA, the products continued to be promoted through numerous websites for the cure, treatment, and prevention of cancer.”

Existing research into laetrile as a cancer treatment

Most websites that support laetrile as a cancer treatment base their claims on anecdotal evidence and unsupported opinions. No reliable evidence confirms laetrile as an effective treatment for cancer.

The Cochrane Library conducted a review in 2015 of studies that have looked at laetrile or amygdalin as a treatment for cancer. They found no reliable evidence to show any benefit from using laetrile or amygdalin in the treatment of cancer.

Alternative cancer treatments are used instead of regular cancer treatments such as cancer drugs or radiation therapy. Using unproven methods in place of conventional medicine can cause serious harm.

Consumption of apricot kernels and laetrile is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women because of lacking data on the potential risk of congenital disabilities.

Cyanide poisoning and death have resulted from ingestion of laetrile and apricot kernels.

There may be promise with using chemicals from apricot kernels for cancer treatments after harmful elements have been removed.

Can You Treat Psoriasis with Turmeric?

Turmeric is a yellow-colored, aromatic spice commonly used in Indian cuisine. Its use in food, as well as natural medicine, has been prevalent in Eastern cultures for thousands of years.

Research has confirmed that turmeric contains potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may play a role in combating many diseases.

Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is where many of the spice’s health benefits stem from.

Current evidence suggests that this spice may help in the management of certain skin disorders like psoriasis.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis on an elbow
Psoriasis is a common skin disorder with a number of associated risk factors.

Psoriasis is a skin disorder marked by inflamed, scaly skin. People with the disorder often report heat, pain, and swelling. Many experience embarrassment in social situations, due to the redness and swelling of the skin.

In psoriasis, skin cells rise to the surface faster than usual. This results in a rapid turnover of cells.

In people with psoriasis, the white T cells of the immune system are triggered by mistake. This is what causes the uncontrolled inflammation and increased cell turnover.

Since the condition involves a problem with the immune system, psoriasis is considered an autoimmune disease.

The inflammation tends to affect the skin of the legs, elbows, knees, scalp, back, and face.


A number of risk factors are associated with psoriasis.

It tends to run in families. A person who has a parent or sibling with psoriasis is more likely to have it than others.

Psoriasis is more likely to affect adults than children.


The symptoms of psoriasis vary from one person to the next.

The main symptoms include red, dry skin that is flaky and scaly. It can also be itchy. There may be a pain in the joints and the skin.

Conventional treatments

The conventional treatments that are currently available aim to stop, or drastically slow, the rate of cell turnover. They also aim to prevent ongoing inflammation.

Topical creams or ointments can be used to suppress the immune system, reduce inflammation, and soothe the skin of patients with psoriasis.

Light therapy from the sun or artificial ultraviolet light sources also appears to help fight the disorder.

Prescription drugs are available for more severe forms of the disease. Some anti-inflammatory medications are used to reduce the swelling and redness.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is known mainly for adding flavor to Indian dishes, like curry. It is a yellow-colored spice that appears to have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Turmeric is a yellow spice that may often be found in Indian cuisine.

Turmeric may be used in powdered or root form, or as a dietary supplement.

Researchers have investigated the use of turmeric in preventing and managing a range of conditions, particularly those that involve inflammation. It may help to relieve psoriasis and other inflammatory-related skin conditions, but more research is still needed.

Turmeric is generally considered safe for most people, but there are some precautions.

People with gallbladder disease, for example, should not use turmeric supplements, as they may worsen the condition.

Turmeric in high doses over a prolonged period of time can cause nausea, diarrhea, and indigestion.

People using turmeric supplements for psoriasis should speak to their doctor first to ensure that it will not interfere with current medications.

Can turmeric treat psoriasis?

A study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research examined the potential benefit of a topical preparation of turmeric for psoriasis.

After 9 weeks of applying the turmeric preparation, participants noticed a significant improvement in their symptoms and a reduction in lesions.

A more recent study suggested that the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric may have a role to play in the treatment of psoriasis.

Another study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology looked at the effect of oral curcumin on psoriasis. However, this study found that a dietary supplement resulted in low benefit if any.

Other possible health benefits of turmeric

Depression has sometimes been linked to inflammation, and some studies have found that the curcumin in turmeric can alleviate depression in some cases. Researchers believe there is a further link, apart from inflammation, but the exact mechanism behind curcumin’s potential mood-boosting effects remains unknown.

The curcumin compound in turmeric may also be useful for rheumatoid arthritis. Patients can utilize a topical ointment with curcumin or via supplements to help manage the swelling and pain associated with the disorder.

Some research suggests that curcumin can help balance blood sugar levels and manage type 2 diabetes if it is combined with lifestyle modifications and insulin therapy.

Others have suggested that turmeric may help to burn fat and to lose weight. It is not known whether turmeric encourages the body to burn fat, or if the weight loss stems from other factors.

People with a condition called vascular thrombosis often use anticlotting drugs to slow or prevent blood clotting. Turmeric has shown promise for helping reduce clotting in these situations.

Turmeric should never be used as a replacement for prescribed drugs. Any use of turmeric for a diagnosed condition should be discussed with a physician.

Spices That Heal: Pumpkin Spice

Spices are so revered by humans that travelers ventured into the great unknown to seek out the healing and culinary delight they offered. Luckily, all you have to do is venture to your cupboard to unlock the healing potential of culinary herbs and spices. Here’s a closer look at the wonders of Pumpkin Spice.

— Tieraona Low Dog, M.D

It’s that time of year again. The sun sets a little earlier, we start to dress with more layers, and pumpkin spice fans rejoice as their favorite fall flavor begins to pop up everywhere from coffee shops to the supermarkets. Why do we love it so much? Maybe it’s because the comforting, spicy aroma and rich harmony of flavors can instantly turn an everyday latte into a seasonal celebration.

There’s nothing quite like the warmth of holding that pumpkin spice cup, and most of us instinctively know that a warm soothing beverage is an act of self-care. But there are some other wellness benefits in that special spicy concoction, too. In fact, when we break down the ingredients of pumpkin spice flavoring, each component has its own healing powers, aromatherapy benefits, and medicinal properties.

Most recipes for pumpkin spice call for cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Let’s take a look at the wellness attributes and medicinal properties of each one.



Delicious and popular year-round, cinnamon is derived from the bark of trees in the Cinnamomum genus. Cinnamon is packed with antioxidants and can help the body maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which reduces carbohydrate cravings, an important component to supporting a healthy weight. And cinnamon is also heart healthy. A review in the Annals of Family Medicine concluded that based upon clinical research, cinnamon improves fasting blood sugar and cholesterol levels.



One of my personal favorite remedies for calming an upset stomach, quelling nausea, fighting off a cold, easing muscle aches and pains, and maintaining healthy blood sugar.  This warming rhizome adds an unmistakable zing and brightness in pumpkin spice. Even the aroma of ginger is stimulating and refreshing.



It’s used in lots of cookie and coffee drink recipes, but did you know nutmeg can also help relieve pain, quell indigestion, boost cognitive function, and strengthen your immune system? A pinch of nutmeg is an excellent addition to your cup if you’re feeling a little under the weather.



Another hallmark aroma of fall and the holiday seasons is allspice, the only spice that grows just in the Western hemisphere. These little berries are a wonderful digestive aid, helping to reduce bloating, gas and ease stomach cramps. Allspice is the aroma found in many men’s toiletries (think Old Spice).



The scent of cloves is strong, but pumpkin spice would not be pumpkin spice without it. Cloves are actually the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree that turn brown upon drying. “Clove” is derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail, pretty appropriate. From reducing inflammation to stimulating digestion, to using clove bud oil topically for a toothache, cloves are loaded with health benefits.

If you’re a fan of pumpkin spice and want to reap the benefits, I recommend trying your hand at making your own spice blend so you can control the ingredients and choose organic components. Or look at your natural foods store for seasonal blends with organic, sustainably harvested spices.


Pumpkin Spice

2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cloves

Mix together in a small bowl and put in a jar with tight fitting lid.

Add a teaspoon to your drip coffee maker. Mix 1 tbsp of sugar and ½ teaspoon of pumpkin spice and sprinkle over popcorn. Heat one quart of organic apple juice and add 1 tsp pumpkin spice. There are so many ways to use these wondrous spices. Mmmm, there’s nothing quite like it in fall.

Resource: Allen RW, et al. Ann Fam Med 2013 Sep-Oct;11(5):452-9.

What are the Health Benefits of Eucalyptus?

Eucalyptus is a fast-growing evergreen tree that is native to Australia. As an ingredient in many over-the-counter products, it is used to reduce symptoms of coughs, colds, and congestion. It also features in creams and ointments aimed at relieving muscle and joint pain.

[eucalyptus leaves]
Eucalyptus leaves and essential oil are used in complementary medicine.

The oil that comes from the eucalyptus tree is used as an antiseptic, a perfume, as an ingredient in cosmetics, as a flavoring, in dental preparations, and in industrial solvents.

Chinese, Indian Ayurvedic, Greek, and other European styles of medicine have incorporated it into the treatment of a range of conditions.

Eucalyptus products

There are over 400 different species of eucalyptus. Eucalyptus globulus, also known as Blue Gum, is the main source of global eucalyptus oil production. The tree can grow up to 230 feet high. The leaves are long and narrow, and the bark is blue-gray in color.

Eucalyptus leaves are steam distilled to extract the oil from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree.

The oil is a colorless liquid with a strong, sweet, woody scent. It contains 70 percent to 85 percent 1,8-cineole, known as eucalyptol. It can supplement treatment for a wide range of medical conditions.

The leaves also contain flavonoids, volatile oils, and tannins. Flavonoids are plant-based antioxidants, and tannins may help to reduce inflammation.

Properties of eucalyptus

Eucalyptol is thought to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties.

In February 2016, researchers from Serbia found evidence supporting the antimicrobial action of eucalyptus.

They concluded that a positive interaction between E. camaldulensis essential oil and existing antibiotics could lead to the development of new treatment strategies for certain infections and that this could reduce the need for antibiotics.

A study published in Clinical Microbiology & Infection has suggested that eucalyptus oil may have antibacterial effects on pathogenic bacteria in the upper respiratory tract, including Haemophilus influenzae, responsible for a range of infections, and some strains of streptococcus.

Uses of eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is thought to have a number of medicinal properties, although not all of them have been confirmed by research.

Eucalyptus as a remedy for colds and respiratory problems

[vapor bath]
Eucalyptus leaves can be used in a vapor bath.

Eucalyptus features in a range of preparations to relieve symptoms of the common cold, for example, cough lozenges and inhalants.

Herbal remedies recommend using fresh leaves in a gargle to relieve a sore throat, sinusitis, and bronchitis.

Eucalyptus oil vapor appears to act as a decongestant when inhaled. It is a popular home remedy for colds and bronchitis.

It may act as an expectorant for loosening phlegm and easing congestion.

Researchers have called for further studies to clarify the possible therapeutic role of eucalyptus leaf extract in the treatment of respiratory tract infection.

Eucalyptus and dental care

The antibacterial and antimicrobial potential of eucalyptus has been harnessed for use in some mouthwash and dental preparations

In promoting dental health, eucalyptus appears to be active in fighting bacteria that cause tooth decay and periodontitis.

The use of eucalyptus extract in chewing gum may promote periodontal health, according to a study published in the Journal of Periodontology into the effect of chewing gum containing eucalyptus extract.

Other uses of eucalyptus

The University of Maryland Medical (UMM) Center describe how traditional Aboriginal medicines used eucalyptus to treat fungal infections and skin wounds. Eucalyptus tea was also administered to reduce fevers.

Fast facts about essential oil safety

  • Keep essential oils away from children and pets
  • Avoid prolonged use of a single essential oil
  • Do not use undiluted oil on the skin or near the eyes.
  • Check the safety information before using any oil.

Towards the end of the 19th century, eucalyptus oil was used in most hospitals in England to clean urinary catheters.

Eucalyptus is an effective insect repellent and insecticide. In 1948, the United States officially registered eucalyptus oil as an insecticide and miticide, for killing mites and ticks.

The Mayo Clinic recommend oil of lemon eucalyptus as one of the most effective insect repellants in the U.S. They suggest using it for keeping mosquitoes away.

In 2012, researchers from New Delhi, in India, found that E. globulus oil was active against the larvae and pupae of the housefly. They suggested that it could be a viable option for use in eco-friendly products to control houseflies.

Eucalyptus extract may act as a pain reliever, and research indicates that the oil may have analgesic properties. In a study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, scientists applied Eucalyptamint on the anterior forearm skin of 10 people.

Eucalyptamint, an over-the-counter preparation with the generic name methyl salicylate topical, is used to treat muscle and joint pain linked to strains and sprains, arthritis, bruising, and backache.

The scientists concluded that “Eucalyptamint, produced significant physiologic responses that may be beneficial for pain relief and/or useful to athletes as a passive form of warm-up.”

Other conditions that eucalyptus may help with include:

  • Arthritis
  • A blocked nose
  • Wounds and burns
  • Acne
  • Ulcers
  • Bladder diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Fever
  • Flu.

Eucalyptus oil may stimulate an immune system response, say findings published in BMC Immunology.

Precautions and side effects

According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), some essential oils can be hazardous, but those that are available commercially, from reputable sources, are safe to use if handled appropriately. It is important to use “pure, authentic and genuine essential oils.”

Eucalyptus products can generally be used safely on the skin, as long as the oil is diluted. It should not be applied directly to the skin if it is undiluted. It can be diluted with a carrier oil, such as olive oil. The dilution should be between 1 percent and 5 percent eucalyptus oil to between 95 percent and 99 percent carrier oil.

Eucalyptus can produce irritation and a burning sensation. It should not be used too close to the eyes.

It is not safe to take eucalyptus oil orally because it is poisonous.

Some people may be allergic to eucalyptus. In some individuals with asthma, eucalyptus can make their condition worse. Others find that it helps to relieve their asthma symptoms.

Side effects may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach upset.

Signs of eucalyptus poisoning include dizziness, feelings of suffocation and small pupils.

Eucalyptus may also interact with other medications, and it can impact the liver.

Children are more sensitive to essential oils, and care should be taken when using eucalyptus with children. Use should be avoided during pregnancy.

Can Essential Oils be Used for Treating Asthma?

Asthma is a long-term lung disease. The airways in the lungs become inflamed and swollen, causing the airways to tighten. This makes it difficult for air to pass through and for the person to breath.

According to The American Lung Association, nearly 26 million Americans have asthma, including more than 7 million children. It is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children.

There is no cure for asthma at present, but there are many treatment plans that can help people lead normal lives. Although there is a variety of asthma medicines on the market, some people prefer more natural treatment options.

Many people looking for a natural and more cost-effective treatment option have turned to essential oils. This article will look at the use of essential oils to treat asthma, along with other treatments for the condition.

What is asthma?

Asthma makes breathing difficult, which can lead to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. This sequence of events is referred to as an asthma flare-up or an asthma attack.

It is not known what causes asthma, but some people are more at risk of developing the disease than others. It is not uncommon for asthma to run in families and for environmental factors to play a role.

Exposure to dust, chemicals, or irritants in the workplace can increase the risk for asthma. Damage from respiratory infections during infancy or early childhood as well as bad allergies can lead to asthma.

An asthma attack can happen at any time and anywhere. There are certain situations where people are more likely to have an asthma attack, however. These cause the following types of asthma:

  • Exercise-induced asthma
  • Occupational asthma
  • Allergy-induced asthma

Exposure to any type of irritant can cause allergies to flare up or simply irritate the respiratory system, triggering an asthma attack.

Natural essential oils for asthma

The therapeutic capabilities of essential oils are nothing new and may be helpful for some people with asthma. The following oils have some evidence to suggest a health benefit for people with asthma:

  • Peppermint: One of the common causes of asthma attacks is exposure to allergens that trigger the release of a compound called histamine. Peppermint can help to stop the release of histamine in the body. A substance called methanol is present in peppermint and can relieve stuffy or blocked noses, which can help people with asthma to breathe better.
  • Lavender: This essential oil is used for a variety of things. It has natural sedative and anti-inflammatory characteristics that may help people with asthma fight inflammation.
  • Eucalyptus: Research suggests that eucalyptus oil may have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Tea tree oil: This essential oil helps by reducing inflammation. In doing so, tea tree oil can help reduce the body’s allergic response.
  • Roman chamomile: Another essential oil with anti-inflammatory properties. It can also help part of the lungs called the bronchus to relax as well as relieve coughing.

Using essential oils

There are three common ways that people with asthma can use essential oils.

  • Aromatically: Some essential oils such as lavender and eucalyptus can bring relief through inhalation. Diffusing essential oils into the air could also help to purify the air and get rid of potential allergens.
  • Topically: Essential oils can be absorbed through the skin. People should be sure to research the oils properly as some must be mixed together to avoid skin irritation.
  • Internally: Some essential oils are available as supplements and can be taken internally. Not only are essential oils a natural way for people to treat asthma symptoms but they can also help patients avoid side effects from allergy shots or other medications.

Risks and considerations

People should always be careful when using essential oils. They may not be a good fit for every person with asthma. Some oils can give off a strong odor that can trigger asthma symptoms and attacks.

A bottle of eucalyptus oil with some leaves.
Essential oils can cause an asthma attack in people who are easily triggered by strong smells or chemicals.

Essential oils are not recommended for people with asthma who are very sensitive to smells and whose symptoms are easily triggered by them.

People should make sure that the fragrance does not cause a problem before using any essential oil. Some essential oils can also irritate the skin, so people should test a few drops on the skin first.

Oils should always be diluted because they can cause skin rashes when pure. Essential oils should not be given to children without a consulting a doctor. They can cause skin irritation, and some of them contain some strong ingredients that are not child-friendly.

Though some people with asthma have had success with essential oils, they are not a replacement for medical care. Research studies are being carried out, but there is no firm evidence that proves essential oils are a reliable treatment option.

Asthma patients should take any medicine prescribed by their doctor and go for regular checkups. If anyone experiences any asthma symptoms that do not seem to go away or get worse, they should see a doctor. There is no cure for asthma and, left untreated, it can be very dangerous.

Other treatments for asthma

To diagnose asthma, a medical doctor will perform a series of tests. They will carry out a complete physical exam and obtain the patient’s medical history. Other possible tests to diagnose asthma include:

  • Lung function tests
  • Allergy testing
  • Imaging tests

After a doctor diagnoses asthma, they will prescribe medication to help control the problem. There are several medicines commonly prescribed including:

  • Bronchodilators: These relax the muscles around the airways
  • Anti-inflammatories: Commonly referred to as corticosteroids or steroids, these reduce the swelling and mucus inside the airways
  • Antibiotics: These can treat attacks caused by bacterial infections

Some people have well-controlled asthma that does not cause many problems. Others may experience attacks that can be severe and even life-threatening. Asthma medicines do not cure asthma but they do help to improve symptoms. As a result, it is important to follow a doctor’s orders.

Though effective, some of these medicines can cause some unpleasant side effects and can be expensive.

Preventing asthma from getting worse

People cannot always prevent asthma but there are things they can do to keep it from getting worse. It is vital to follow a doctor’s prescribed treatment plan.

Essentials oils may be a helpful treatment but people should always consult a doctor before using them. They are not recommended for some patients such as pregnant women.

People should also stay up to date with influenza and pneumonia vaccinations. These illnesses can trigger attacks. Identifying and avoiding things that can possibly trigger asthma attacks is also important. These can include certain foods, pets, and chemicals.

Those with asthma who have been approved to use essential oils can use them to supplement their current treatment. They can be helpful in relieving some asthma symptoms but should be used with caution and extreme care.

People with asthma should always pay attention to their breathing to learn to recognize their asthma attack warning signs. If an attack comes on, they should be sure to treat it immediately. Asthma is dangerous and quick response and treatment could be the difference between life and death.