I have been taking boswellia to help with my COPD.
Q. Dear Terry, “I have been taking boswellia to help with my COPD. However, one of my friends suggested I also try frankincense. Is there a difference between boswellia and frankincense? Which should I take?” — Celia D., Houston, TX
A. Dear Celia, The boswellia tree creates a precious resin long used in perfumes and natural medicines. Oil produced from this resin is called frankincense oil. The resin can also be processed into a solid extract used in supplements. There are over 20 species of boswellia and each species produces a slightly different medicine. Frankincense can come from any boswellia tree, but boswellia extracts can vary greatly in the medicinal properties they possess.
The majority of clinical research has been on Boswellia serrata, which I believe is the most medicinal of the boswellia species, when it comes to oil or extract. While the extract and oil may go through different extraction processes, they are both powerful medicines in their own right.
Frankincense oil contains compounds that have been shown to be anti-cancer. 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 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, and pain from osteoarthritis.
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 to high levels of AKBA and virtually free of BBA.
I would take boswellia either by itself, or in combination with frankincense oil (from B. serrata) that is indicated for internal use, on a daily basis.
Terry . . . Naturally