Boswellia is an ayurvedic herb that is derived from the resin of the plant Boswellia serrata. It is used traditionally to treat arthritis, ulcerative colitis, coughs, and asthma. The major component is boswellic acid, which is a potent 5-lipoxygenase inhibitor with anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects. Indeed, data from some small-scale clinical trials indicate effectiveness of Boswellia for bronchial asthma, arthritic pain, and ulcerative colitis owing to its anti-inflamatory properties. From some studies it may also be inferred that Boswellic acid has similar activity as anti inflammatory but being natural it has fewer adverse effects than steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Convincing evidences come from a 90-day, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of 5-Loxin® in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. 5-Loxin® is a Boswellia serrata extract enriched with 30% 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid. 100mg and 250mg doses of 5-Loxin conferred clinically and statistically significant improvements in pain scores and physical function scores in osteoarthritic patients in as early as 7 days (with 250mg dose) after the start of treatment.
The long-term effects of Boswellic acid on humans are not completely clear but there are clinical evidences that boswellia acid is tolerated very well in humans in long-term use. For example, in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial, patients with Crohn's disease were treated with 800 mg Boswellia serrata extract or placebo three times daily for 12 months followed with observations for upto 4 years. This study showed no statistically significant difference in efficacy of Boswellia vs placebo in treating chron'd desease. Nevertheless, Boswellia did show good tolerability in these subjects with the long-term treatment. Convincing evidences from the animal studies indicate that Boswellia inhibits 5-lipoxygenase to reduce edema and inflammation in rodents, and inhibits NF-KB signaling pathways in macrophages in mouse model of psoriasis markedly decreasing the production of the proinflammatory key cytokine TNF-alpha and the chemokine MCP-1. In addition, it does not cause gastric ulcers in animals. Some studies also indicated anti-cancer activity by inhibiting various genes and enzymes.
A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled study of the efficacy and safety of 5-Loxin for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Sengupta K, Alluri KV, Satish AR, Mishra S, Golakoti T, Sarma KV, Dey D, Raychaudhuri SP. Arthritis Res Ther. 2008;10(4):R85. doi: 10.1186/ar2461.
Chrubasik JE, Roufogalis BD, Chrubasik S. Evidence of effectiveness of herbal antiinflammatory drugs in the treatment of painful osteoarthritis and chronic low back pain. Phytother Res. Jul 2007;21(7):675-683.
Dahmen U, Gu YL, Dirsch O, et al. Boswellic acid, a potent antiinflammatory drug, inhibits rejection to the same extent as high dose steroids. Transplant Proc. Feb-Mar 2001;33(1-2):539-541.