Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Boswellia

This is my favorite herb for personal use – it works really well for me as an anti-inflammatory compound. Boswellia or Indian frankincense is derived from the resin of Boswellia serrata. There are no known contraindications, it is deemed safe for use in pregnancy and breast feeding. However, a few people have had mild diarrhea or skin rash as an allergic reaction. I have had one case in ten years of clinical use.

The key constituents of Boswellia serrata include the boswellic acids but the resin also includes essential oil. The typical dosage is 600 to 1200mg/day of extract standardized to contain 60% boswellic acids.

I use a complex that also includes some Celery Seed fruit, ginger, and Turmeric. This combination will target leukotriene and cytokine inflammation with some benefit in reducing prostaglandin inflammation as well. Although it works in the same pathway, it does not prevent the production of leukotrienes and cytokines like ginger. It has an effect on the Vagus nerve that stimulates the breakdown of these immune inflammatory compounds in the liver.

Boswellia is extremely effective in the treatment of asthma as well. It is thought that the effect on the Vagus nerve also has a calming effect on the goblet cells lining the respiratory tract. The result is a reduction in both bronchial inflammation and mucous production in the respiratory tree.

Absorption of Boswellia is an important issue. The resin is mostly fat and therefore is not absorbed into the portal vein for transport to the liver like carbohydrates and amino acids. Rather, the GALT (gut associated lymphatic supply) absorbs Boswellia along with other fats and deposits them into the general circulation near the heart.

Clinical studies have shown that Boswellia serata blood levels increase by 500% when taken with meals containing fat versus an empty stomach or food without sufficient fat content. Many years ago, I quickly discarded Boswellia as an anti-inflammatory supplement until I learned this key to absorption. Supplemental fat is the difference between a highly successful product and one that is seemingly worthless for the treatment of pain and inflammation.

I typically will take 2 tablets in the morning (554mg) with an English muffin smeared with butter and peanut butter and 2 more with dinner when I have musculoskeletal complaints. I generally note significant relief within 45 minutes to an hour.

Boswellia is about three times more expensive than ginger. In the clinical setting, I first test to see if the patient is producing excess leukotrienes and/or cytokines. If so, then I test both ginger and Boswellia. However, if both test, I default to the ginger based solely on cost.

Much like ginger, if there is a strong autoimmune component at work, neither herb will test favorably and we have to look at more specific autoimmune support like St. John’s Wort or Echinacea. Protomorphogins (specific glandular extracts) can be very effective in these cases. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Lupus (SLE), and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are examples of common autoimmune conditions that do not generally respond well to ginger or Boswellia.

Boswellia serrata can be an excellent anti-inflammatory herb when the inflammation is immune based. However, make sure that you use an extract standardized to 60% boswellic acids and that you take it with adequate fat to ensure absorption.