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Boswellia serrata

An Ayurvedic herb also classified as a phytopharmaceutical (H15; Europe) which appears to be quite anti-inflammatory, helpful against osteoarthritis, and may help cerebral edema. Boswellia serrata appears to have preliminary evidence for anti-inflammatory joint disorders.

Our evidence-based analysis on boswellia serrata features 151 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Boswellia serrata

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

Boswellia Serrata is a gum resin extracted from a tree, which is sometimes burnt (the entire species of Boswellia is commonly known as Frankinsence) as an aromatic or otherwise administered as medicine. It has most usage for medicine in Ayurvedic medicine, some reading into Traditional Chinese Medicine, and its usage extends to the Middle East and other tropical regions.

Boswellia Serrata, via its active boswellic acids, appears to be a novel inhibitory of a pro-inflammatory enzyme called 5-Lipoxygenase and may possess other anti-inflammatory effects (such as nF-kB inhibition, which are not as novel). These anti-inflammatory effects have been investigated for their benefits in osteoarthritis (OA), and it appears that oral Boswellia supplements can suppress pain and immobility associated with OA quite significantly with the effects taking as little as a week to occur. The studies are well conducted, but funded by the producers of the tested supplements. There are limited non-funded interventions with Boswellic for this claim, but they seem to agree with the battery of funded study in effect size.

Remarkably, Boswellia appears to be quite anti-cancer that appears to be more anti-proliferative rather than apoptotic (the latter meaning to induce regulated cell death) since it is a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis and cell invasiveness. There are not a large battery of studies on these claims, but preliminary mouse and rat evidence where the rodents are injected with tumors suggest that Boswellia can potently suppress tumor growth (Pancreatic, Colorectal) and in some cases actually outright prevent tumor growth (Prostatic, Glioma). Boswellia appears to be a very promising anti-cancer herb due to the potency it exhibits in animals, with one study noting this after oral administration (100mg/kg of the main boswellic acid in animals). The potency has been replicated in other cancer cell lines in vitro (including breast, cervical, myeloma and leukemia) but these cancers do not yet have animal interventions yet.

Boswellia appears to be fairly nontoxic, has a history of usage as a phytopharmaceutical for brain edema associated with radiotherapy (a cancer treatment), and the general anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects make it a fairly interesting herb relative to others that have subpar evidence.

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How to Take

Medical Disclaimer

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

If using boswellia serrata resin itself, doses can increase up to 1,800 mg taken thrice a day (5,400 mg daily), but are usually in the range of 800-1,200 mg taken thrice a day to total a daily dose of 2,400-3,600 mg. Within this range benefits appear to be dose-dependent.

Brand name products of boswellia serrata (ex. 5-LoxinTM, AflapinTM, AprèsFLEXTM) tend to have higher concentrations of AKBA, and are usually once daily doses of 100-250 mg taken with the first meal of the day.

For all forms of boswellia serrata, start at the lower end of the dosage range for 2-3 months and afterwards increase the dose. If greater benefits are not seen with the higher dose (ie. the benefits are similar to the lower dose) then continue supplementation with the lower dose.

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Human Effect Matrix

The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (it excludes animal and in vitro studies) to tell you what effects boswellia serrata has on your body, and how strong these effects are.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-b Notable Very High See all 4 studies
The reduction observed with Boswellia serrata for pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis are more profound than other supplements including that of glucosamine (reference), but study robustness is limited by industry influence.
grade-c Notable - See study
Preliminary evidence, but boswellia appeared to benefit much more people than did placebo in symptoms of asthma.
grade-d Notable - See study
A lone case study of eliminating a brain tumor
grade-d Minor - See study
Lack of reference drugs limits conclusions that can be made in regards to the potency
grade-d Minor - See study
Not enough evidence to evaluate potency, but an increase in skin elasticity has been noted with topical boswellia
grade-d Minor - See study
Somewhat effective, not enough evidence to fully evaluate potency.
grade-d Minor - See study
Increase in well-being was likely secondary to reducing joint pain from osteoarthritis

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Frequently Asked Questions and Articles on Boswellia serrata

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Things to Note

Primary Function:

Also Known As

Indian Frankincense, Salai, Salai Guggul, Gajabhakshya

Do Not Confuse With

Boerhaavia Diffusa, Guggul (another gum)

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Click here to see all 151 references.