It might sound off to call Bosweillia the “next” anything, considering it has been part of Ayurvedic and other traditional medical systems for millennia.
But in the current environment for herbal medicine, there are definitely currents that sweep up older botanicals into the world of research and into the news at the same time.
Boswellia is one of those herbs. Its unique attributes—especially its ability to inhibit 5-LOX inflammation, which most synthetic drugs can’t do safely— make it extremely worthy of attention. It modulates the body’s immune response to seasonal triggers, reduces asthma symptoms, and inhibits inflammatory gene expression.
It can help treat arthritis, joint disorders, and digestive diseases including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and colitis. In addition, it may also help stop the development of tumors and the spread of cancer.
Inflammation’s insidious effects
Mention the word “inflammation” to most people, and their first thoughts will probably be aches and pains.
While that’s certainly pertinent to much of your practice, inflammation is implicated in virtually all diseases, from asthma to tumor formation.
For pain relief, Boswellia is an excellent partner to curcumin, which enhances its effectiveness in reducing the inflammatory damage of osteoarthritis.
In fact, a clinical study comparing the combination of the two herbal ingredients versus a generic celecoxib showed that nearly 65 percent of participants taking the natural compounds improved dramatically, versus 30 percent in the drug group.
Boswellia is an especially potent therapeutic for respiratory conditions because it inhibits the “4-series leukotrienes” (LTB4, LTC4, LTD4, and LTE4) that are activated, in part, by 5- LOX, making it helpful for asthma, allergies, sinusitis, and emphysema.
In a six-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, Boswellia was tested in 40 individuals with asthma, a mix of 23 men and 17 women ranging from 18 to 75 years old. At the end of the study, 70 percent showed marked improvement.
Boswellia inhibits the action of histamine-producing mast cells, so it could be highly effective at reducing sinus pressure and swelling, without the side effects of conventional treatments. Boswellia also inhibits the human leukocyte elastase (HLE), making it an excellent treatment for the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In a clinical study of Crohn’s disease that compared Boswellia to the drug mesalazine, Boswellia proved just as effective but without the potential side effects. Another clinical study
compared Boswellia with sulfasalazine. Here again, the Boswellia group did very well. Most patients in the Boswellia group—18 out of 20—improved in at least one parameter, and for 14 participants symptoms ended entirely.
Boswellia can prevent damaged cells from duplicating, inhibit their growth, and prevent further damage. Age and environment can cause protective genes in the body to become inactive or “sleep.”
Because some of these genes direct the body to suppress tumors, that’s why the risk of cancer increases with age—the body’s defenses are increasingly inactive. Recently, researchers found that Boswellia helps “wake up” the sleeping genes that stop cancer cells from mutating and spreading, and reduces the survival rate of mutated cells, too.
The right extract
It may be surprising that Boswellia requires special standardization. Acetyl-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) is one of Boswellia’s most powerful components. Because of this, many extracts have artificially increased (or spiked) levels of AKBA, or are essentially all AKBA. But that isn’t necessary; there are other compounds in the plant that are beneficial, too.
However, unstandardized Boswellia is not the answer either. First, it can contain as little as 1 percent AKBA. Second, one of the naturally-occurring compounds in Boswellia—beta-boswellic acid—is actually pro-inflammatory.
Leaving beta-boswellic acid at its natural levels as found in unstandardized extracts can mean that up to 25 percent of the herb would have an inflammation-causing compound.
A balanced approach is best: Boswellia standardized for at least 10 percent AKBA and virtually no beta-Boswellia acids provides your patients with a true, complete Boswellia with all of the beneficial components they need, without potentially dangerous amounts of beta-boswellic acid.
Boswellia has been part of traditional medicine for thousands of years, and now it seems we are on the cusp of realizing the herb’s full potential. Its ability to treat respiratory diseases, digestive disorders, and the potential to help prevent cancer makes it a truly multitalented botanical, and one that could have a prominent and honored place in your practice.