Chances are that if you've ever considered buying frankincense, it was as a stick or a cone of incense. However, German pharmacists say it has another use. They believe its anti-inflammatory properties could benefit treatments for disorders such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, or atopic dermatitis. This is welcome news to our family.
Researchers at the University of Saarbrucken teamed with a new company to study the curative benefits of frankincense, states Medical News Today. The scientists concluded that frankincense, a fragrant gum resin of Boswellia trees, contains anti-inflammatory properties.
The resin is perhaps best known through a Biblical reference to gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Planet Botanic states that it's mentioned a number of places in the Bible, and some of its uses included being part of temple worship and being burned at the funeral processions of kings. It was also well known in ancient Egypt, where it was used in medicine, temple practice, cosmetology, and embalming.
Boswellic acids are the substances responsible for the health benefits the German researchers confirmed. The scientists were able to demonstrate how these acids, present in frankincense, interfere with the process of inflammation.
The most dramatic result involved learning how boswellic acids interact with an enzyme responsible for producing prostaglandin E2, which has a major role in the inflammatory process, pain, and fever. The team showed that the acids actually block the enzyme to put a damper on the inflammatory process.
Since more than 10 Boswellia species grow in various parts of the world, the researchers compared the resin of different types of frankincense. They found that the frankincense from the Boswellia papyrifera, which grows primarily in northeastern Africa and along the Arabian Peninsula, has particularly potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Unfortunately, the only source of frankincense is the Boswellia trees, which are an endangered tree species. Scientists as yet have found no practical way to synthesize the acids required to block inflammation. Although the study of frankincense continues, they already foresee that boswellic acids will have fewer side effects than some of the drugs used to combat inflammatory illnesses.
The results of this research provide hope for many patients with inflammatory conditions, including a family member recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. He is already concerned about some of the medications used for this condition. Among the potential side effects cited by the Mayo Clinic are liver damage, bone marrow suppression, severe lung infections, susceptibility to infection, cancer, and congestive heart failure.
By comparison, frankincense seems benign. While it's best known for its aromatic fragrance, it's been utilized for thousands of years in Ayuvedic medicine. The possibility that this resin could provide anti-inflammatory benefits is exciting to patients who fear the potential side effects of medications available to treat their illnesses.
Vonda J. Sines has written thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She has a special interest in diseases and conditions that affect the quality of life.
- Pharmaceuticals & Drug Trials
- rheumatoid arthritis
- Boswellic acids