Indian Frankincense

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What other names is Boswellia known by?

Arbre à Encens, Arbre à Oliban Indien, Boswella, Boswellia serrata, Boswellie, Boswellin, Boswellin Serrata Resin, Encens Indien, Franquincienso, Gajabhakshya, Indian Frankincense, Indian Olibanum, Oliban Indien, Resina Boswelliae, Ru Xiang, Salai Guggal, Salai Guggul, Sallaki Guggul, Shallaki.

What is Boswellia?

Boswellia is a tree that is native to India, Africa, and Arabia. It is commonly used in the traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda.

Olibanum is another word for boswellia. It refers to a resin or "sap" that seeps from openings in the bark of several Boswellia species, including Boswellia serrata, Boswellia carterii, and Boswellia frereana. Of these, Boswellia serrata is most commonly used for medicine.

Boswellia is taken by mouth for brain injury, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain, swelling of the fluid-filled pads in the joints (bursitis), and swelling of tendons (tendonitis). It is also taken by mouth for ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease that affects the colon (collagenous colitis), Crohn's disease, and abdominal pain. It is used for asthma, hay fever, sore throat, syphilis, painful menstruation, pimples, bruises, headache, diabetes, and cancer. Boswellia is also used as a stimulant, to increase urine flow, and for stimulating menstrual flow.

Boswellia is applied to the skin to tone the skin and decrease wrinkles. It is also used to reduce skin damage caused during radiation treatments for cancer.

In manufacturing, boswellia resin oil and extracts are used in soaps, cosmetics, foods, and beverages.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Osteoarthritis. Some research shows that taking certain extracts of boswellia (5-Loxin, Wokvel, ApresFLEX, formerly known as Aflapin) can reduce pain by up to 65% and improve mobility in people with osteoarthritis in joints. Other research shows that taking combination products containing boswellia and other herbal ingredients can also reduce pain and improve function in people with osteoarthritis.
  • Skin damage caused by radiation therapy. Some research shows that applying a skin cream containing 2% boswellia (Bosexil by Indena SpA) during radiation treatment helps prevent severe skin redness from developing.
  • Ulcerative colitis. Taking boswellia seems to improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis in some people. For some people, boswellia seems to work as well as the prescription drug sulfasalazine. Some research shows that it can induce disease remission in 70% to 82% of people.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Aging skin. Early research shows that applying boswellia cream to the face reduces fine surface lines, roughness, and sun damage in women with sun-damaged skin. But skin coloring and wrinkling are not improved.
  • Asthma. Early research shows that taking boswellia extract (S-compound by Rahul Pharma) might help improve breathing, reduce sudden attacks, and decrease some symptoms in people with asthma.
  • Brain tumors. Early research suggests that boswellia might benefit people with brain tumors. Taking 4200 mg of boswellia daily seems to reduce tumor size.
  • Cluster headache. Limited evidence suggests that boswellia might reduce the frequency and intensity of cluster headaches.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease that affects the colon (collagenous colitis). Early research shows that taking 1200 mg of boswellia daily for 6 weeks increases remission rate in people with collagenous colitis.
  • Crohn's disease. Some early research shows that taking boswellia extract reduces symptoms of Crohn's disease. But other research that is more reliable shows no benefit.
  • Diabetes. Research suggests that taking boswellia 800 mg daily after a meal improves levels of blood sugar and cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes.
  • Joint pain. Early research shows that taking a specific product containing glucosamine sulfate, methylsufonlylmethane, white willow bark extract, ginger root concentrate, boswellia extract, turmeric root extract, cayenne, and hyaluronic acid (Instaflex Joint Support, Direct Digital, Charlotte, NC) three times daily for 8 weeks reduces joint pain. But this product doesn't seem to help joint stiffness or function.
  • Neurological trauma. Early research suggests that taking boswellia 360 mg three times a day for 6 weeks does not help patients following a traumatic brain injury.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Research results are mixed so far about the effectiveness of boswellia in the treatment of RA.
  • Bruises.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate boswellia for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Boswellia work?

The resin of boswellia contains substances that may decrease inflammation and increase immune response.

Are there safety concerns?

Boswellia is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth for up to six months.

Boswellia is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin for up to five weeks. It usually does not cause important side effects. However, some people who took it reported stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, itching, headache, swelling, and general weakness. When applied to the skin, it can cause allergic rash.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Boswellia is LIKELY SAFE when used in amounts commonly found in foods. But don't use it in the larger amounts needed for medicinal effects. Not enough is known about the safety of using boswellia in these amounts during pregnancy or breast-feeding.

"Auto-immune diseases" such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other immune system conditions: Boswellia might make the immune system more active. This could worsen the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. Avoid using boswellia if you have any of these conditions.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) substrates)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Boswellia might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking boswellia along with some medications that are changed by the liver might increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking boswellia, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some of these medications that are changed by the liver include clozapine (Clozaril), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), fluvoxamine (Luvox), haloperidol (Haldol), imipramine (Tofranil), mexiletine (Mexitil), olanzapine (Zyprexa), pentazocine (Talwin), propranolol (Inderal), tacrine (Cognex), zileuton (Zyflo), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and others.



Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19) substrates)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Boswellia might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking boswellia along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking boswellia, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some of these medications changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), carisoprodol (Soma), citalopram (Celexa), diazepam (Valium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec), phenytoin (Dilantin), warfarin (Coumadin), and many others.



Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Boswellia might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking boswellia along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking boswellia, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), fluvastatin (Lescol), glipizide (Glucotrol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), irbesartan (Avapro), losartan (Cozaar), phenytoin (Dilantin), piroxicam (Feldene), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), tolbutamide (Tolinase), torsemide (Demadex), and warfarin (Coumadin).



Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6) substrates)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Boswellia might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking boswellia along with some medications that are changed by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking boswellia, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), codeine, desipramine (Norpramin), flecainide (Tambocor), haloperidol (Haldol), imipramine (Tofranil), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), ondansetron (Zofran), paroxetine (Paxil), risperidone (Risperdal), tramadol (Ultram), venlafaxine (Effexor), and others.



Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Boswellia might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking boswellia along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking boswellia, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), amiodarone (Cordarone), citalopram (Celexa), felodipine (Plendil), lansoprazole (Prevacid), ondansetron (Zofran), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), sertraline (Zoloft), and many others.



Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Boswellia seems to make the immune system more active. Taking boswellia along with medications that decrease the immune system might decrease the effectiveness of these medications.

Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), and other corticosteroids (glucocorticoids).

Dosing considerations for Boswellia.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • For osteoarthritis: 100-1000 mg of boswellia extracts (5-Loxin, Wokvel, or ApresFLEX, formerly known as Aflapin) or 300-600 mg of boswellia extract in combination with other herbs has been used daily.
  • For ulcerative colitis: 350 mg three times daily for 6 weeks.
ON THE SKIN:
  • For skin damage caused by radiation therapy: A cream containing 2% boswellia (Bosexil by Indena SpA) has been applied twice daily during radiation therapy.
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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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