Boswellia and Joint Health

Boswellia is a hearty, drought-resistant tree or shrub native to India and Pakistan.  The variety boswellia serrata often goes by the common name of Indian Frankincense, and it produces a fragrant gummy sap or resin in which a range of triterpene acids, including boswellic acid, have been found.[1]  This boswellic acid has long been used for its pharmacological properties. 

In fact, the use of boswellia extracts in Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine has been practiced for thousands of years.[2]  Boswellia, as a supplement, is especially useful in the support of healthy joints and joint tissue and the amount of medical research exploring boswellia’s potential benefits and how it can positively affect joint health is expanding quickly.

This research, which is examined in further detail below, can be grouped into three helpful categories: laboratory studies examining how and why boswellia works and how it supports the body’s systems; research studies involving clinical trials and subjects to compare boswellia’s efficacy; and finally, literature reviews, which have compiled and analyzed a substantial body of relevant and reliable data, and using these results, have attempted to draw conclusions and to make recommendations for further research involving boswellic acid.

Firstly, several laboratory studies from around the world examining the efficacy of boswellic acid have all yielded positive evidence for its support of healthy joints.  These include results from a 2008 study of the chemical components and interactions of boswellic acid from the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) in France,[3] a 2006 study, based in Japan, which focused on the activities of the triterpene acids found in boswellic acid,[4] and a 2005 collaborative study from the University of Maryland and Harvard Medical School in the United States.[5]  Recent research coming out of Germany has also explored the effect of boswellic acid on joint health.  The 2011 report, published in Clinical Pharmacokinetics, provides new insight into just how the chemical makeup of boswellic acid may work with the body’s systems to produce such positive support for healthy joints and the authors suggest that as researchers continue to build on these studies, the beneficial effects of taking boswellia are becoming much better understood and are largely confirming, as well as adding to, what previous studies have already suggested.[6]

Secondly, clinical trials and research studies making use of subjects to compare the effects of boswellia extract with that of a placebo or a substitute have also largely found that boswellic acid helps maintain joint health and flexibility.  In one example from India, Boswellia’s support of strong, healthy joints was demonstrated in a 2003 crossover study consisting of 30 subjects divided into two groups.  For four weeks, one group took an oral dosage of 65% concentrated boswellia extract and the other a placebo.  Three weeks later, the groups were switched: those previously receiving the placebo were given boswellia extract, and the group taking boswellia received a placebo.  Participant feedback indicated that taking boswellia supported joint flexibility, among other benefits to the joints, significantly more often than did the placebo.[7]  Likewise, a 2004 study consisting of 62 participants and lasting eight months compared an herbal supplement, which included boswellic acid, with a placebo.  The authors reported that taking boswellic acid appeared to significantly benefit and support the maintenance of healthy joints.[8]

Similar results were reported in a 2007 study that included 66 participants who received either boswellia extract or a substitute for a duration of six months.  Those taking boswellia reported benefits to their joints and indicated that the positive effects lasted beyond the designated time of the study.[9] 

Moreover, research from 2008 reports the same positive findings.  A group of 75 subjects received either a high dose or low dose of a boswellia extract or a placebo for a total of 90 days.  Participants delivered feedback at regular intervals and at the conclusion of the study.  The authors reported that the use of boswellia extract was beneficial for the support and maintenance of healthy joints.[10]

In addition to these particular studies, several compelling reports have been published in the previous decade, which have endeavored to compile and review the broad research and clinical data now available.  For example, a brief 2008 review of select literature from 1998 to 2007 on the benefits of boswellic acid found that in randomized trials, boswellia supplements showed positive results for healthy joint function[11].  The studies were carried out by a variety of researchers, based mainly in Germany and India, and in the seven studies that met the inclusion criteria for this particular review, subjects taking boswellic acid showed stronger positive results for joint health than those taking a placebo or those receiving other active treatments.  The author also reported that the clinical trials not included in his particular review all seemed to indicate comparable benefits though the methodologies were quite different. 

Likewise, a German review of studies, focusing on the effects of boswellic acid, from the University of Tuebingen, in 2006 found similar patterns of results.  Subjects taking boswellia in a variety of comparable research studies noted the positive effect it appeared to have on joint health and flexibility.[12]  And most recently, in 2011, a British overview of research examining the use of alternative health products concluded that boswellic acid consistently performed well when taken for the maintenance of joint health.[13]

Our joints are complex mechanisms that, with the proper care, can serve us well into our senior years.  Of course, the best things we can do to take care of our joints and joint tissues are to maintain a healthy weight and to exercise regularly.  Strengthening the muscles that support and move the bones associated with the joints protects the joint against the risk of strain or injury and helps the joint to better handle any stress it might come under[14]

Maintaining a healthy diet rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals ensures your joints get access to the resources they need to stay in great shape[15].  Adding a supplement containing boswellic acid, like Bendy (produced by Tabak’s Health Products), is a positive choice for maintaining healthy joints and flexibility and its benefits continue to be well demonstrated.


[1]“Boswellia Serrata,” Consortium of Micropropagation Researchers and Technology Development, Accessed April 11, 2012, http://dbtmicropropagation.nic.in/protocols/boswellia.htm.

[2] “Boswellia (Boswellic Acids),” Treating Glioblastoma, Accessed April 10, 2012, http://www.treatingglioblastoma.com/supplements/boswellic_acids.htm.

[3] Clarisse Cuaz-Pérolin, et al., “Antiinflammatory and Antiatherogenic Effects of the NF-kB Inhibitor Acetyl-11-Keto-β-Boswellic Acid in LPS-Challenged ApoE-/- Mice,” Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 28 (2008): 272-277.

[4] N. Banno, et al., “Anti-inflammatory activities of the triterpene acids from the resin of Boswellia carteri,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 107, no. 2 (2006): 249-253.

[5] A. Y. Fan, et al., “Effects of an acetone extract of Boswellia carterii Birdw. (Burseraceae) gum resin on adjuvant-induced arthritis in Lewin rats,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 101, no. 1 (2005): 104-109.

[6] Mona Abdel-Tawab, Oliver Werz, & Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz, “Boswellia serrata: An Overall Assessment of In Vitro, Preclinical, Pharmacokinetic and Clinical Data,” Clinical Pharmacokinetics 50, no. 6 (2011): 349-369.

[7] N. Kimmatkar, V. Thawani, L. Hingorani, & R. Khiyani, “Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee – A randomized double blind placebo controlled trial,” Phytomedicine 10 (2003): 3-7.

[8] Arvind Chopra, Phil Laven, Bhushan Patwardhan, & Deepa Chitre, “A 32-Week Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Evaluation of RA-11, an Ayurvedic Drug, on Osteoarthritis of the Knees,” Journal of Clinical Rheumatology 10, (2004): 236-245.

[9] S. Sontakke et al., “Open, randomized, controlled clinical trial of Boswellia serrata extract as compared to valdecoxib in osteoarthritis of knee,” Indian Journal of Pharmacology 39, no. 1 (2007): 27-29.

[10] Krishanu Sengupta, et al., “A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled study of the efficacy and safety of 5-Loxin for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee,” Arthritis Research & Therapy 10, no. 85, (2008).

[11] Edzard Ernst, “Frankincense: systematic review,” BMJ, 337, no. a2813 (2008), URL: http://www.bmj.com/highwire/section-pdf/9114/3/1.

[12] H. P. T. Ammon, “Boswellic Acids in Chronic Inflammatory Diseases,” Planta Med 72, no. 12 (2006): 11000-1116.

[13] Vijitha De Silva, et al., “Evidence for the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines in the management of osteoarthritis: a systematic review,” Rheumatology 50, no. 5 (2011): 911-920.

[14] Lesley Alderman, “Caring for Hips and Knees to Avoid Artificial Joints,” NYTimes.com, April 23, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/24/health/24patient.html?_r=1.

[15] “Caring for Your Joints,” WebMD, Last modified April 3, 2010, http://arthritis.webmd.com/caring-your-joints?page=2.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.