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Boswellia has anti-inflammatory properties that have been compared to those of the NSAIDs used by many for inflammatory conditions.1 Clinical trials have found that boswellia is more effective than a placebo for relieving pain and swelling and preventing loss of function in people with osteoarthritis.2 Boswellia has also been found to be as effective as the anti-inflammatory drug valdecoxib (Bextra). In addition, while the improvements occurred more slowly in the boswellia group than in the valdecoxib group, they persisted for a longer period of time after treatment was discontinued.3 One clinical trial found that a combination of boswellia, ashwagandha, turmeric, and zinc effectively treated pain and stiffness associated with OA but did not improve joint health, according to X-rays of the affected joint.4 Unlike NSAIDs, long-term use of boswellia does not lead to irritation or ulceration of the stomach.
1. Safayhi H, Mack T, Saieraj J, et al. Boswellic acids: Novel, specific, nonredox inhibitors of 5-lipoxygenase. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1992;261:1143-6.
2. Kimmatkar N, Thawani V, Hingorani L, Khiyani R. Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee - a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine 2003;10:3-7.
3. Sontakke S, Thawani V, Pimpalkhute S, et al. Open, randomized, controlled clinical trial of Boswellia serrata extract as compared to valdecoxib in osteoarthritis of knee. Indian J Pharmacol 2007;39:27-9.
4. Kulkarni RR, Patki PS, Jog VP, et al. Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. J Ethnopharmacol 1991;33:91-5.
Boswellia is an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine (the traditional medicine of India) to treat arthritis. Boswellia has reduced symptoms of RA in most reports.1 While some double-blind trials2 using boswellia have produced positive results, some equivocal results3 and negative findings have also been reported.4 In some trials where boswellia has appeared ineffective, though, patients have been allowed to continue use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Such use of NSAIDs can confound experimental results, because boswellia and NSAIDs work in a similar fashion to reduce inflammation. Some doctors suggest using 400–800 mg of gum resin extract in capsules or tablets three times per day.
Ginger is another Ayurvedic herb used to treat people with arthritis. A small number of case studies suggest that taking 6–50 grams of fresh or powdered ginger per day may reduce the symptoms of RA.5 A combination formula containing ginger, turmeric, boswellia, and ashwagandha has been shown in a double-blind trial to be slightly more effective than placebo for RA;6 the amounts of herbs used in this trial are not provided by the investigators.
1. Etzel R. Special extract of Boswellia serrata (H15) in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Phytomed 1996;3:91-4.
2. Singh GB, Singh S, Bani S. New phytotherapeutic agent for the treatment of arthritis and allied disorders with novel mode of action. 4th International Congress on Phytotherapy, Munich, Germany, Sep 10-3, 1992.
3. Chopra A, Lavin P, Patwardhan B, Chitre D. Randomized double blind trial of an Ayurvedic plant derived formulation for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol 2000;27:1365-72.
4. Sander O, Herborn G, Rau R. Is H15 (resin extract of Boswellia serrata, “incense”) a useful supplement to established drug therapy of chronic polyarthritis? Results of a double-blind pilot study. Z Rheumatol 1998 ;57:11-6 [in German].
5. Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Med Hypoth 1992;39:342-8.
6. Chopra A, Lavin P, Patwardhan B, Chitre D. Randomized double blind trial of an Ayurvedic plant derived formulation for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol 2000;27:1365-72.
While there have been few studies on herbal therapy for bursitis, most practitioners would consider using anti-inflammatory herbs that have proven useful in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. These would include boswellia, turmeric, willow, and topical cayenne ointment.1, 2
One double-blind trial has investigated the effects of the Ayurvedic herb boswellia in people with acute bronchial asthma.1 Participants took 300 mg of powdered boswellia resin extract or placebo three times daily for six weeks. By the end of the study, the number of asthma attacks was significantly lower in the group taking boswellia. Moreover, objective measurements of breathing capacity were also significantly improved by boswellia.
A small clinical study found that people with UC taking 550 mg of boswellia gum resin three times daily for six weeks had similar improvement in symptoms and the severity of their disease as people with UC taking the drug sulfasalazine.1 Overall, 82% of patients receiving boswellia, along with 75% of patients taking sulfasalazine, went into remission.
Boswellia is a moderate to large branching tree found in the dry hilly areas of India. When the tree trunk is tapped, a gummy oleoresin is exuded. A purified extract of this resin is used in modern herbal preparations.
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.