Promoting a Healthy Inflammatory Response: Boswellia serrata inhibits 5-LOX Enzyme associated with Osteoarthritis


Herbal Medicine

Promoting a Healthy Inflammatory Response: Boswellia serrata inhibits 5-LOX Enzyme associated with Osteoarthritis

Boswellia and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats promote a healthy inflammatory response.

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss



Scientific Name: Boswellia serrata

Family Name: Burseraceae

Common Name: Frankincense, Indian

Indian Olibanum, Sallaki (Sanskrit)



In the United States, almost 60 million adults have arthritis, a leading cause of work disability, with annual costs for medical care and lost earnings of $304 billion. 

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis or OA. Other forms include gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Osteoarthritis is currently the most common joint disorder in the United States.

OA accounts for more than 25% of visits to primary care physicians who typically treat it with NSAID therapy. Safe and effective alternative treatments for Osteoarthritis (OA) are urgently needed for those who suffer from the pain it produces.

Osteoarthritis is a form of joint disease that develops when cartilage deteriorates. Over time, the space between bones narrows, and the surfaces of the bones change shape, eventually leading to friction and joint damage. OA is quite common in the hip, knee, lower back, neck, and certain finger joints but rare in the elbow.



Conquer Pain and Inflammation with Boswellia

Managing inflammation is essential for nearly every aspect of your health, from your joints to cognitive function. Inflammation doesn't only cause feelings of pain; it destroys joints.

The body has a multitude of inflammatory pathways, and one that is difficult to address is 5-lipoxygenase. 5-LOX is an enzyme that activates inflammation-inducing chemical molecules called leukotrienes, which stimulate and perpetuate inflammation.


Acute pain often has some level of 5-LOX activity



Boswellia serrata, nature's most powerful anti-inflammatory, is extracted from a deciduous tree called Boswellia. It has been used for centuries in Asian and African traditional medicines to treat inflammation.

Boswellia, also known as Indian Frankincense (although only a close relative of Boswellia), is an herbal extract containing compounds that inhibit 5-LOX. Compounds in Boswellia extract bind directly to 5-LOX. One compound called AKBA is the key to this beneficial action.

Moreover, researchers have found that people with OA who took Boswellia along with ashwagandha, turmeric, and zinc reported less joint pain and increased mobility and strength.


Be aware that one compound in Boswellia promotes, rather than blocks, inflammation. It is beta-boswellic acid, and it is undoubtedly NOT beneficial. Luckily, this "bad" boswellic acid compound can be filtered out to less than 5%.

Look for a standardized extract with a minimum of 70 percent boswellic acids that also include 10 percent AKBA.



 Boswellia sacra (Frankincense)


Habitat and Cultivation

The Boswellia serrata tree prospers in the dry mountainous forests of western and central India. It belongs to a family of resinous trees renowned for their aromatic oil.

Boswellia are large branching trees with thick, papery bark that secretes a resin gum containing natural sugars, essential oils, and several triterpene acids known as boswellic acids. These acids are the source of Boswellia's medicinal properties.

The gum resin secretes from the bark and is transparent gold in color. The resin material's dried, powdered form makes up Boswellia found in nutritional supplements. The wax also can be added to creams to treat sunburns.



Medicinal Actions, Uses, and Benefits

Traditionally, Boswellia was used to treat inflammation in conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and ulcerative colitis.


Making an Herbal Poultice with Boswellia

Just like you might apply a hand cream with active ingredients to relieve sore fingers and joints, using a poultice rich with anti-inflammatory herbs and roots essentially brings the ingredients' healing powers right to the spot where they're needed.

A poultice is a soft, moist material that can be spread over the skin. To create a dressing, combine pulverized or powdered herbs with a carrier oil or binding agent, like flour or honey, to make a paste.

Pat the mixture onto your skin and secure it with a piece of gauze or a cotton cloth. Use it several times a day to soothe sore muscles and aching joints.

Poultices gently reinvigorate the flow of what's called qi in TCM, or energy that moves along channels in the body from the organs to the extremities.


Making a Mouthwash with Boswellia Oil

Mouthwash is a rinse used to kill bacteria and germs in the mouth. There are two main types of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic.

Boswellic acids are thinly soluble in water. As regular tap water can contain bacteria, it's best to use spring water. But it is better to use a few drops of Boswellia oil instead as the solubility increases with oils. 

Mix the oil with ¼ teaspoon salt and 4 drops of peppermint essential oil into 1 cup of spring water to make a mouthwash to treat bad breath or other oral health issues.


Medicinal actions include: 

  • Analgesic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-rheumatic
  • Hepatoprotective


Clinical trials in Germany indicate Boswellia counteracts inflammation in arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, it has marked pain-relieving activity and promotes stable blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.

A study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2019 confirmed that Boswellia safely reduced pain and stiffness in people with knee osteoarthritis.

Other herbs, such as turmeric, ashwagandha, ginger, Triphala, Guggulu, and Shatavari, also decrease inflammation by interfering with the production of chemicals in the body’s inflammatory pathways.


Boswellia is used to: 

  • Treat arthritis
  • Help with asthma
  • Treat colitis (inflammation of your colon)
  • Help with inflammation (swelling and redness)
  • Help reduce cerebral fluid edema (brain swelling) after radiotherapy in patients with brain tumors
  • Help reduce skin damage due to radiotherapy in breast cancer patients




Unlike conventional drugs, Boswellia stops the inflammatory actions that cause pain and destroy joint structures. It is an effective herbal medicine that can provide pain relief without addiction.




It's generally safe to use Boswellia. However, talk with your healthcare providers before taking supplements. Herbal supplements can have higher amounts of Boswellia compared to Ayurvedic formulas



Be cautious if you take blood thinners

Talk to your doctor if you're taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin®). Boswellia may increase your risk of bleeding if you take it with blood thinners






© 2005 – 2023, Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing, LLC | The web property Garden of Healing dot com is wholly owned and operated by Garden of Healing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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