Boswellia is a genus of trees which provides a fragrant resin, known for their various pharmacological uses, especially as an anti-inflammatory. These moderately sized trees and shrubs are native to the tropical areas within Asia and Africa, with the greatest diversity of species in Africa and India.

From this genus of trees, frankincense is produced. Four species of Boswellia yield true frankincense, which are then available in various grades. This is why Boswellia is often referred to as Indian Frankincense. The grades depend on the time of harvesting and resin is sorted by hand to promote quality.

The resin from Boswellia extract has been used within Asian and African medicine for centuries, mainly to target chronic inflammation. Studies have shown that Boswellia is effective when targeting symptoms of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.


How Does it Work?

In some studies, it’s been found that Boswellic acid may prevent the formation of leukotrienes. This is what’s been identified as the core cause of inflammation and may also trigger symptoms of asthma. There are four acids that are found within Boswellia resin that strongly influence the anti-inflammatory effects of this supplement.

The acids inhibit the enzyme, known as 5-lipoxygenase, which is what produces leukotriene. By inhibiting the production of leukotriene, you can essentially treat inflammation. This is why products are typically rated based on their concentration of Boswellic acid.

What is Boswellia Used For?

There are multiple applications of this supplement, mainly focusing on inflammation and joint health, including:

Osteoarthritis (OA)

More common in later adult years, osteoarthritis is painful and uncomfortable. Studies have shown that Boswellia is an effective treatment regarding OA inflammation and pain. One study, in particular, published in Phytomedicine, found that Boswellia decreased knee pain in all 30 participants. They also reported the ability to walk further based on the application of Boswellia.

In another study, it was found that doses of enriched Boswellia extract improve physical functioning and performance. After 90 days, OA knee decreased in comparison to a placebo and lower concentration control group. It also supported a decrease in an enzyme that causes cartilage to degrade.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Once again, this condition is highly painful and can limit the amount and range of activity people can do when suffering from this condition. When studying Boswellia in terms of its effects on RA, results have been mixed. Research suggests that Boswellia may interfere with the autoimmune process of RA, potentially making it a reliable treatment.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Based on Boswellia’s anti-inflammatory properties, it may be effective when treating conditions such as Croon’s, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis. A study compared H15 (a Boswellia extract) with an anti-inflammatory prescription drug known as mesalamine. There was no significant difference in the Crohn’s Activity Index. These results show that Boswellia may be just as effective at treating inflammatory bowel diseases as certain prescription medications.


This respiratory condition can be highly dangerous if not properly cared for, especially when having an attack. While focusing on Boswellia, it’s been found that it has beneficial effects on asthma symptoms. Since asthma is marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, Boswellia plays a key role in reducing leukotrienes.

Since these cause bronchial muscle contractions, Boswellia could potentially reduce the number of attacks. A study found that Boswellia decreased symptoms of asthma, as well as asthma indicators. In a 1998 German study, similar results were found as Boswellia played an important role in treating asthma.


As a possible anti-cancer remedy, Boswellic acids may actually inhibit cancer growth by preventing specific enzymes from damaging DNA. Studies have reported that Boswellia could potentially fight breast cancer cells, as well as reducing the spread of brain tumor cells.

What are the Side Effects?

Boswellia is considered to be fairly safe, especially when users take the recommended dosage. However, it’s possible that Boswellia could stimulate blood flow to the pelvis and uterus. Meaning, it may increase the rate of menstrual flow and could potentially cause a miscarriage in women who are pregnant.

If taken in high doses, you may also experience mild symptoms, including a skin rash, acid reflux, nausea, and diarrhea. If you’re currently taking any medication, including NSAIDs, or aspirin, please speak with your doctor before your first dose.

What’s the Recommended Dosage?

Depending on the Boswellia product you purchase, doses will vary. You should always source supplements from a trusted source and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. As mentioned, speak with your doctor before you begin taking Boswellia.

General dosing typically suggests a dose of 300 to 500 mg, taken orally, two to three times a day. If you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, you may need to increase your dosage, which is something that should be discussed with your doctor. For arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation suggests users take 300 to 400 mg, three times daily (when the product contains 60 percent Boswellia acids).