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Boswellia: Bank on This Herb for Better Health

A quick search on "boswellia" will yield many pages — after all, there are 16 known boswellia species. Boswellia serrata,1 or Indian frankincense, is mostly used for medicinal purposes.2 It's extracted from a moderate- to large-sized tree3 that's native to India, Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia.4,5

Resin made from boswellia serrata extract was utilized in Asian and African folk medicine for disease treatment,6 and was highly prized during the peak of Roman and Indian civilizations.7 This boswellia herb shouldn't be confused with boswellia sacra (commonly known as frankincense) that can be identified by its papery and peeling barks and clustered leaves at the ends of its tangled branches,8 or boswellia carterii, which is often used to make frankincense essential oil.9

Health Benefits of Boswellia

Boswellia serrata is abundant in benefits such as reducing body inflammation10 and helping treat conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. It's also a painkiller, and can help inhibit cartilage loss.11 Boswellia can be used to alleviate asthma and may have protective effects against diseases like leukemia and breast cancer.12,13

The boswellic acid in the herb assists with preventing leukotriene formation in the body. Leukotrienes have been identified as a cause of inflammation and may trigger asthma symptoms. Four other acids located in boswellia were found to help impede the development of a leukotriene-producing enzyme called 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO). Out of these four, the acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) is the most powerful.

What Is Boswellia Used For?

Boswellia use is divided into three categories: religious, cosmetic and medicinal. The Egyptians used boswellia serrata gum, or frankincense, to embalm their dearly departed, while Egyptian women made heavy kohl eyeliner by grinding frankincense into a fine powder.

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