Boswellia: Benefits, Side Effects, And More

Never use this herbal extract more than the recommended dosage to avoid its side effects.

Medically reviewed by Tracy Tredoux, DipION, mBANT, CNHC, AFMCP Tracy Tredoux Tracy TredouxDipION, mBANT, CNHC, AFMCP facebook_icontwitter_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach Varsha Patnaik MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years
Edited by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health linkedin_icon Experience: 8 years
Fact-checked by , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach Payal Karnik MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 2.5 years
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Boswellia is an herbal extract derived from the bark of the Boswellia serrata tree. The resin made from boswellia has been used in traditional African and Asian medicine for centuries. Boswellia is rich in a natural compound called boswellic acid which has anti-inflammatory properties and may help boost the immune system (1). Its various medicinal properties may be essential in treating chronic inflammatory conditions as well as a host of other diseases. In this article, we get a deeper understanding of boswellia, its potential health benefits, and the side effects it may result in.

protip_icon Know Your Ingredient: Boswellia

What Is It?
A herbal extract derived from the bark of the Boswellia serrata tree.

What Are Its Benefits?
Helps in reducing heavy menstrual bleeding and in diabetes management, and is beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel diseases.

Who Can Consume It?
People struggling with osteoarthritis, asthma, diabetes, and stroke should consume Boswellia. However, it is not suitable for pregnant women.

How Often?
Around 300–500 milligrams daily, or 2 to 3 times a day.

Caution
Boswellia is safe for most adults except pregnant women. However, excessive intake might cause stomach pain, nausea, headache,and itching.

What Is Boswellia?

Also known as Indian frankincense, Boswellia serrata comes from the Bursacrea family. Native to the dry mountainous regions of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the resin is extracted by tapping the boswellia tree. For thousands of years, boswellia has been used by Chinese and Ayurvedic healers to treat different medical conditions. Boswellia gives off a sweet and exotic scent when burned as incense or in combination with other resins.

Apart from its uses in traditional medicine, boswellia also has a few potential benefits. Know more about these in the next section.

8 Potential Health Benefits Of Boswellia

Studies show great promise when it comes to boswellia and its potential health benefits. Let’s take a look at the different health conditions it may be useful in treating.

1. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Boswellia may help treat rheumatoid arthritis
Image: Shutterstock

Boswellia may be effective in reducing the severity of the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis such as joint pain. A study of Boswellia Serrata extract on rats with rheumatoid arthritis revealed a significant decrease in inflammation after 15 days (2). More clinical studies need to be conducted to understand the association between boswellia and rheumatoid arthritis.

2. Osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis may not be the only type of arthritis boswellia may be useful in treating. A study was conducted to see the effect of boswellia extract on patients with osteoarthritisi  A condition in which flexible tissue at the end of the bone wears down which causes joint pain, especially in the knees and lower back. affecting  the knee. The groups were given either boswellia extract or placeboi  A treatment used to trick the body into reacting to a substance that has no therapeutic or medicinal value. for 120 days. The results showed that boswellia extract improved physical functionality by significantly reducing knee pain and joint stiffness in comparison to the placeboi  A treatment used to trick the body into reacting to a substance that has no therapeutic or medicinal value. (3).

A YouTuber describes her experience of using Boswellia or Frankincense oil for joint pain. She shared, “2 years ago, I was suffering from terrible joint pain and swelling around the legs and arms as well. When I went to doctors that had no idea, I did all the tests, everything was clear then I decided to give frankincense capsules a try and it was amazing. It worked within the first weeks; less joint pain and less swelling (i).”

3. Asthma

Boswellia may help treat asthma
Image: Shutterstock

A study on asthmatic rats suggested that boswellic acid may be effective in suppressing the inflammation in the airway (4). Research also suggests that boswellia may help decrease the need for inhalation therapy for people with asthma (5).

4. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Boswellia may help treat inflammatory bowel diseases
Image: Shutterstock

The anti-inflammatory effects of boswellia may also be beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as colitis. Research on rats indicates that boswellic acid may improve the symptoms of IBD without causing any adverse effects (6). Another study suggests that Boswellia Serrata extract may be effective in the treatment of patients with collagenous colitis (7).

protip_icon Trivia
People traditionally used to chew boswellia like gum to treat digestive ailments.

5. Parkinson’s Disease

A 2019 study examined the effect of boswellia extract on oxidative stress and motor dysfunction in rats with Parkinsoni  A disorder of the central nervous system which causes impaired muscle coordination, leading to tremors or involuntary movements. ’s disease. On administering the extract for 3 weeks, researchers saw that the extract appeared to protect the neurons in the brain and improve motor function (8). While the results are promising, more studies need to be conducted to understand its effect in humans.

6. Cancer And Cancer Treatment

An in-vitro study suggested that the essential oil from boswellia may impair the growth of skin cancer cells without causing any damage to the liver and healthy cells nearby (10). A 2016 study reports that boswellia exhibits antitumori  They are drugs that inhibit the growth of abnormal cells, which in turn inhibits or stops the formation of tumors or cancerous cells. properties and may be toxic to cancerous cells. While further studies are warranted to confirm this, boswellia does show significant potential as an option for cancer treatment (9).

7. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

If you are looking for a natural alternative to help you with heavy menstrual bleeding, boswellia may be a good option. A study was conducted to examine the effect of boswellia and ginger on women with heavy menstrual bleeding. The women received either boswellia or a placeboi  A treatment used to trick the body into reacting to a substance that has no therapeutic or medicinal value. for seven days of their menstrual cycle. The researchers saw a decrease in the menstrual bleeding in women who were given boswellia and ginger (10).

8. Diabetes

Boswellia may help treat diabetes
Image: Shutterstock

Scientific literature suggests that boswellia may keep your blood sugar levels under control. One study evaluated the effect of boswellia extract on diabetic rats and saw a significant decrease in blood sugar levels (11). Studies also indicate that boswellia gum resin may decrease blood sugar levels in comparison to standard antidiabetic medicines (12).

protip_icon Fun Fact
Boswellia extract contains 30-60% resin, 5-10% essential oils (which are soluble in organic solvents), and the rest is made up of polysaccharides (13).

Even though most of these studies are animal studies, boswellia may potentially benefit our health in many ways. Let’s head onto the next section where we look at the different ways in which we can use boswellia.

How To Use Boswellia For Maximum Benefits

Boswellia comes in different forms and the quality of the product may vary. Available in both retail and online health stores, you can use boswellia in the following forms to gain maximum benefit.

  • Capsules/ supplements
  • Boswellia extracts
  • Raw Boswellia resin
  • Formulas with turmeric and other herbs
  • Boswellia essential oil

Since there is no set dose for consuming boswellia, you can follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label. But if you are still unsure about the appropriate dose, consult a doctor before proceeding.

Check out the next section to explore the health benefits of boswellia and turmeric.

Boswellia Vs. Turmeric

Boswellia and turmeric are herbal supplements known for their anti-inflammatory properties (14), (15). Both have been traditionally employed in managing conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory disorders (15), (16). While they can be used separately, they are more effective when combined. Both may help reduce inflammation and alleviate joint pain.

As per a study, boswellia contains a substance called AKBA that can significantly reduce bone loss (17). Similarly, curcumin found in turmeric has also been shown to improve bone density (18). This dual approach can be advantageous for individuals seeking natural remedies for bone health.

However, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before combining these supplements, as they may interfere with other drugs or food supplements.

Boswellia may be an herbal extract, but it may show some side effects. Let’s take a look at what they are in the next section.

Side Effects And Risks

Nausea due to boswellia
Image: Shutterstock

Studies show that boswellia comes with the following potential side effects (19), (20).

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Acidity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation

Research also suggests that boswellia along with other herbs, may interact with blood thinners such as warfarin and may cause adverse effects (21). If you are on blood thinners or have a medical condition that affects clotting, consult a doctor before using boswellia.

To Sum It Up

Boswellia is a natural extract that has been used in alternative medicine for centuries for its medicinal properties. Modern research suggests that boswellia may be effective in treating diseases such as arthritis, asthma, and diabetes. Small scale studies have identified boswellia to be a potential anti-cancer agent. However, more studies are required in this area. Boswellia is easily available across health stores and can be used as a cream, supplement, or essential oil. It is imperative that you consult a doctor before consuming boswellia as it may produce side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Boswellia cause liver damage?

No. Several studies have not found a convincing link between Boswellia extract and clinically apparent liver damage (20).

Does Boswellia rebuild cartilage?

While Boswellia may help prevent cartilage damage and protect it as it has anti-inflammatory properties, there is a lack of studies proving that it may rebuild cartilage (22).

Can Boswellia cause anxiety?

Possibly not. Boswellia extracts contain incensole acetate which acts as a potent anti-anxiety agent that may help relieve anxiety and lower the symptoms of depression (23).

Is Boswellia good for weight loss?

Possibly. Boswellia extracts have anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory, and antihyperglycemici  properties which may help lose weight (24).

Does Boswellia increase testosterone?

There is a lack of scientific evidence suggesting that Boswellia extract may affect testosterone levels.

Can Boswellia help improve skin health?

Yes, it contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that fight acne and fade blemishes. It also exhibits anti-aging effects and thus improves skin tone, elasticity, and firmness of the skin (25).

Infographic: 5 Good Reasons For Using Boswellia

Boswellia is a herbal extract derived from the resin of the boswellia tree and offers a lot more than its sweet and exotic scent. This ancient herbal remedy may reduce menstrual pain and treat various other health conditions. Check out the following infographic to know the positive effects of boswelia on your health.

5 good reasons for using boswellia (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Key Takeaways

  • Boswellia is extracted from the bark of the Boswellia serrata tree and used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
  • Studies suggest that it may be of great help in treating bone or joint disorders.
  • This extract may interact with blood thinners and have side effects like diarrhea, nausea, acidity, etc.
boswellia benefits_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Delve deeper into the amazing benefits of boswellia and its role in inflammation and pain relief. Watch this video to learn how this natural remedy can improve your overall health and well-being.

Personal Experience: Source

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Therapeutic Importance and Application of Boswellic Acid From the Plant Boswellia serrata
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340494159_Therapeutic_Importance_and_Application_of_Boswellic_Acid_From_the_Plant_Boswellia_serrata
  2. Effect of Boswellia Serrata Extract on Acute Inflammatory Parameters and Tumor Necrosis Factor-α in Complete Freund\’s Adjuvant-Induced Animal Model of Rheumatoid Arthritis
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6477955/
  3. A pilot randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial to assess the safety and efficacy of a novel Boswellia serrata extract in the management of osteoarthritis of the knee
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ptr.6338
  4. Boswellic acid attenuates asthma phenotypes by downregulation of GATA3 via pSTAT6 inhibition in a murine model of asthma
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4348891/
  5. Functional study on Boswellia phytosome as complementary intervention in asthmatic patients
    https://www.europeanreview.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/3757-3762.pdf
  6. Investigation of mitigating effect of colon-specific prodrugs of boswellic acid on 2 4 6-trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid-induced colitis in Wistar rats: Design kinetics and biological evaluation
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5323440/
  7. Boswellia serrata extract for the treatment of collagenous colitis. A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled multicenter trial
    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00384-007-0364-1
  8. Effects of Boswellia serrata resin extract on motor dysfunction and brain oxidative stress in an experimental model of Parkinson’s disease
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6526039/
  9. Pharmacological evidences for cytotoxic and antitumor properties of Boswellic acids from Boswellia serrata
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27346540/
  10. The effect of frankincense (Boswellia serrata oleoresin) and ginger (Zingiber officinale rhizoma) on heavy menstrual bleeding: A randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30670277/
  11. The Antioxidant Capacity and Anti-diabetic Effect of Boswellia serrata Triana and Planch Aqueous Extract in Fertile Female Diabetic Rats and the Possible Effects on Reproduction and Histological Changes in the Liver and Kidneys
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3941871/
  12. The Effects of Boswellia serrata Gum Resin on the Blood Glucose and Lipid Profile of Diabetic Patients: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5960856/
  13. Boswellia Serrata, A Potential Antiinflammatory Agent: An Overview
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3309643/
  14. Acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (akba) prevents lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation and cytotoxicity on h9c2 cells
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8986374/
  15. Herbal medicine: biomolecular and clinical aspects. 2nd edition
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/
  16. Boswellia for osteoarthritis
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9558225/
  17. The Beneficial Effect of Boswellic Acid on Bone Metabolism and Possible Mechanisms of Action in Experimental Osteoporosis
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7603128/
  18. Protective effects of curcumin against osteoporosis and its molecular mechanisms: a recent review in preclinical trials
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10544586/
  19. Boswellic Acids and Their Role in Chronic Inflammatory Diseases
    https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-41334-1_13
  20. Boswellia Serrata
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK563692/
  21. Warfarin Interactions with Medicinal Herbs
    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1934578X1400900835
  22. Effectiveness of Boswellia and Boswellia extract for osteoarthritis patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7368679/
  23. The Therapeutic Effect of the Aqueous Extract of Boswellia Serrata on the Learning Deficit in Kindled Rats
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4050676/
  24. Inhibition of adiposity and related metabolic disturbances by polyphenol-rich extract of Boswellia serrata gum through alteration of adipo/cytokine profiles
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30069718/
  25. Biochemical Properties and Cosmetic Uses of Commiphora myrrha and Boswellia serrata
    https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9284/9/6/119
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Tracy Tredoux

Tracy TredouxDipION, mBANT, CNHC, AFMCP

Tracy is a fully qualified nutritional therapist with 10 years of experience specializing in gut and immune health. She is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and uses her knowledge to address the root causes of illness rather than merely manage the symptoms. She motivates and supports her clients along their journey to achieve peak health and wellness through personalized dietary...read full bio

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