I am confused about the difference between boswellia and frankincense.
Q. Dear Terry, “I am confused about the difference between boswellia and frankincense. Are they the same thing? Is one better than the other? I am interested in taking them as a supplement but don’t know which one to choose. Please help!” — Payton S., Cleveland, OH
A. Dear Payton, The boswellia tree creates a precious resin long used in perfumes and natural medicines. Oil produced from this resin is called frankincense oil. However, there are a few different subtypes of the boswellia tree, each producing resins with slightly different medicinal components. Frankincense can come from any boswellia tree, but boswellia trees can vary greatly in the type of boswellia extracts they produce.
I believe that Boswellia serrata is the most potent source of supplemental boswellia extract, and Boswellia carteri is what most people are familiar with as frankincense oil. While the extract and oil may come from different boswellia trees, they are both powerful medicines in their own right.
Boswellia carteri, which I will now refer to as frankincense is typically considered a Middle Eastern herb. It probably originated in East Africa and was also known – through trade – in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine. As it turns out, frankincense oil shows a variety of ways to interfere with tumors. Scientific research has shown that frankincense oil can stop the progression of breast cancer cells, pancreatic cancer cells, and bladder cancer cells. Aside from fighting cancer, compounds from frankincense oil have been researched for liver and brain cell protection, and anti-inflammatory abilities as a potential treatment for ulcerative colitis.
An extract from Boswellia serrata (which I’ll simply refer to as “boswellia” from now on) is one of a few, and certainly one of the most effective, inhibitors of 5-LOX inflammation. 5-LOX (5-lipoxygenase) enzyme activity leads to tumor formation and inflammatory digestive, respiratory, and cardiovascular conditions. One of the primary beneficial anti-inflammatory compounds in boswellia is AKBA (acetyl-11-keto-B-boswellic acid). AKBA’s strength has been shown in laboratory studies where it has inhibited the replication of leukemia and prostate cancer cells, oral pathogens and bacteria, pain from osteoarthritis, and the release of NF-kB – a marker for many diseases, including clogged arteries.
For frankincense oil, I recommend a supercritical CO2 extract. This process works by preserving sensitive plant constituents and avoiding the risk of biologically active components being destroyed by oxidation and heat.
When choosing a boswellia extract, I believe an extract standardized for AKBA is essential. As I mentioned, one of boswellia’s most powerful components is AKBA, which is why it is so often the focus of research. However, there is another compound in boswellia that is actually pro-inflammatory, which is called beta-boswellic acid (BBA). The boswellia extract I recommend is standardized so that you’re getting at least 10 percent AKBA and virtually no beta-boswellic acids.
Look for a combination of Boswellia serrata and Boswellia carteri. I would take 300 mg per day.
Terry . . . Naturally