I’m a little confused about the difference between boswellia and frankincense.
Q. Dear Terry, "I’m a little confused about the difference between boswellia and frankincense. Can you please explain?" — Melissa B., Baltimore, MD
A. Dear Melissa, 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 an extract that can be used in supplements. There are over 20 species of boswellia and each specie 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.
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.
For frankincense oil, I recommend a supercritical CO2 extraction. This process works by preserving sensitive plant constituents and avoiding the risk of biologically active components being destroyed by oxidation and heat.
An extract from Boswellia serrata (which I’ll simply refer to as “boswellia” from now on) is one of best inhibitors of 5-LOX (5-lipoxygenase) inflammation. Excessive 5-LOX inflammation can lead 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.
When choosing a boswellia extract, I believe an extract standardized for AKBA is essential. 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