Boswellia: A superplant for the ages? No other plant comes close in medical or ritualistic uses as the ancient Boswellia tree. Frankincense – the resin derived from the sticky sap of the Boswellia tree – was highly valued the in the age of the fertile crescent, and across other areas in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Its popularity predates the concept of marketing. Frankincense even made its way into the Bible as one of the Three Kings’ gifts for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
But how did Boswellia become such a well-known and highly valued commodity?
Its presence on the Silk Road trading route was one reason: it gave Boswellia a unique exposure to many cultures, all of which experimented with their own style of consumption. Another reason was its sheer versatility. Boswellia’s large variety of uses made it sought after by many different cultures. It was a healer of many immunity problems, and its warm incense smell was an important part of many ritualistic traditions.
In India, Boswellia has been used for hundreds of years for treating arthritis, healing wounds, strengthening the female hormone system and purifying the air.
And with modern science, we’re now starting to discover what our ancestors have known for millenias.
Boswellia serrata is known as a “phytopharmaceutical”. It has effectiveness against inflammation – particularly joint inflammation – makes it seem like a lab-created drug, yet it's made from 100% natural sources. In osteoarthritis of the knee, Boswellia serrata has been shown to make symptoms more manageable for those suffering from joint stiffness and pain. Additionally, Boswellia serrata reduced symptoms in asthmatic patients during a 6 week placebo-controlled trial.
Recent research shows why: A group of Triterpenoids called boswellic acids are responsible for these effects. Triterpenoids reduce the density of fluids, easing the strain your cells have in repairing damaged joints. A triterpenoid-based treatment is more beneficial, more potent and less toxic than standard anti-inflammatory drugs.
Respiratory disorders like bronchitis and asthma could be treated with Boswellia frankincense. Its ability to suppress 5-lipoxygenase – an enzyme that regulates the body’s immunity responses – gives relief to many sufferers chronic respiratory and inflammatory conditions. The ancients may not have known exactly why boswellia was effective, but with modern science we’re beginning to understand what 5000 years of first-hand experience already knew.
While Boswellia is noted for treating physical symptoms, it has also been praised for its effect on mood disorders. Incensole Acetate – a neuroactive agent that has a profound effect on emotions – is found in rich amounts of Boswellia serrata. This powerful agent is believed to interact with the limbic system to influence the nervous system, and has been shown in animal studies to relieve anxiety and depression.
As we enter a period of colder weather, keep in mind that there are natural, non-synthetic medical alternatives that may be worth a try. Boswellia is backed by thousands of years of positive results and has more than proved itself as an herbal powerhouse. Whether it’s stiff joints or a winter cold, consider rediscovering what the Ancients knew so well.So remember, there are non-synthetic options out there to treat a wide range of conditions. And they aren’t new: Boswellia’s popularity and reach overtime is proof of its grand herbal power. The ancients knew, and it’s time we rediscover these essential traditions.