Boswellia – A Natural Anti-inflammatory with Additional Anti-Cancer Properties
Source: Integrative Cancer Therapy Journal (2017)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (November 16, 2021)
You may be aware that certain natural agents like curcumin, from the spice turmeric, and white willow extract, are often used as natural anti-inflammatory agents. In fact, recently published clinical trials have shown their value as an adjunct in reducing inflammation and pain in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis management.
But very few people are aware of the natural herb known as Boswellia. Boswellia is a tree native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East. The tree gives rise to a resin, which is rich in boswellic acids, which have natural anti-inflammatory properties. Like Curcumin, White Willow Extract, and Ginger, recent clinical studies have shown that supplementation with Boswellia (standardized grade of 70% boswellic acids) can reduce pain and inflammation in patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, two important human studies published in 2020 confirmed these findings. The other impressive finding is that Boswellia does not have any noteworthy side effects, and thus most patients with joint inflammation can take it safely. But what is also noteworthy are the experimental studies showing that boswellic acids are toxic to certain types of human cancer cells and can even prompt cancer cells to commit suicide (apoptosis).
These findings have prompted its use in several human cancer trials in recent years, where Boswellia supplementation was shown to reduce brain swelling in patients with an aggressive brain cancer known as glioblastoma. The same 2017 published paper also cited research showing that Boswellia supplementation reversed multiple brain metastases in a breast cancer patient. In another study involving forty-four patients with brain tumors, Boswellia supplementation reduced brain swelling after radiation treatment to a much greater degree than did the placebo. This is very promising as very few chemotherapy drugs can cross the blood-brain barrier. But boswellic acids are able to cross into the brain from the bloodstream and appear to exert some very impressive effects. In another case report published in the 2017 update, a patient using Boswellia supplementation showed a remarkable ability to prevent the recurrence of bladder cancer, after undergoing bladder cancer surgery. After his surgery the patient refused any follow-up chemotherapy and radiation treatment, which had been prescribed. This is not to say that the patient made the right decision. In my view, he should have had the follow-up conventional medical treatment in conjunction with adding Boswellia supplementation, as an adjunct to the treatment program. But using Boswellia supplementation he continued to be cancer-free during the first two years of follow-up. In a study published in 2015 involving 144 breast cancer patients who were undergoing radiation treatment, the group who applied Boswellia cream to their skin after each radiation treatment had less of a sun-burn-type reaction or intense redness and pain (erythema) from the radiation than did the group given the placebo cream.
So, what is the take-away message here? The bottom line is that ingesting a Boswellia supplement (standardized to 70% boswellic acids) is likely to be very helpful in the management of joint inflammation problems seen in osteoarthritis and in some autoimmune conditions that affect the joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The usual daily dosage is 250 mg per day if used as a single supplement. Many companies combine Boswellia with other proven anti-inflammatory herbs, such as curcumin, white willow extract and ginger to get a synergistic and more robust anti-inflammatory and pain-killing effect. Like Boswellia, some of these natural anti-inflammatory agents also show impressive anti-cancer properties. Thus, when these natural anti-inflammatories are combined, they may provide secondary health benefits, over and above their anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties, that are very desirable. Finally, if a person is undergoing radiation treatment where a sun-burn, painful, skin reaction is likely to occur, they may want to ask their doctor about the value of using a Boswellia cream to reduce the redness, pain, and swelling that is typically caused by radiation treatment.
I have included the references for Boswellia in the text below.
Integr Cancer Ther 2017: Urothelial Cell Carcinoma (Bladder Cancer)
Cancer chemotherapeutic effects of Boswellia sacra gum resin hydrodistillates on invasive urothelial cell carcinoma: Report of a case. Integr Cancer Ther 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739138/
Khan MA et al. Pharmacological evidence for cytotoxic and antitumor properties of Boswellia acids from Boswellia serrata. Ethnopharmacol 2016 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27346540/
Reduction of Brain Swelling in Patients Undergoing Radiation for Brain Tumor:
Reduction in Skin Erythema in Patients Undergoing Radiation for Breast Cancer:
Anti-inflammatory Studies in Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.