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Boswellia Beats Inflammatory Bowel Disease

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, over 1.6 million Americans suffer from some form of inflammatory bowel disease. If you’re one of them, you know that conventional drugs for these conditions may be required over a lifetime, and as a result, can cause serious side effects.

Boswellia serrata, a botanical long used in Ayurvedic medicine, could be a highly effective and safe option. Extracts of boswellia (which is also called “frankincense”) are sources of inflammation-fighting compounds, including acetyl-11-keto-β-Boswellic acid, generally known as AKBA.

The compound AKBA works along a number of inflammatory pathways, so it is useful for many health issues, but one thing that sets it apart is its ability to stop inflammation along the 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) pathway. Prescription drugs struggle to do the same, and can be dangerous. Even other safe and effective botanicals don’t have the same affinity for quelling that form of damaging irritation. This study showed that because of boswellia’s unique talents, the intestinal epithelium – the lining that normally allows nutrients to absorb, but can be damaged by IBD – is protected and secure. In practical terms, that could mean fewer concerns about leaky gut syndrome, brought about because of damage to the intestinal barriers that otherwise keep pathogens from entering the body.

Other research has shown that both boswellia and curcumin from turmeric (Curcuma longa) may help reduce intestinal inflammation, but through different pathways. In this case, curcumin directly affected inflammation, while boswellia’s effect was due to its ability to stop oxidative stress, and by do so, reduce inflammatory responses

When you choose a boswellia supplement, make sure that it is standardized to contain at least 10 percent of AKBA. Also, make sure it has reduced levels of beta-boswellic acids, which can cause the very inflammation and damage that you are trying to overcome. If you decide to use boswellia and curcumin, look for a curcumin that is blended with turmeric essential oil, a source of ar-turmerone (another anti-inflammatory compound) for better absorption and effectiveness.


Catanzaro D, Rancan S, Orso G, et al. Boswellia serrata Preserves Intestinal Epithelial Barrier from Oxidative and Inflammatory Damage. PLoS One. 2015;10(5):e0125375. Published 2015 May 8. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0125375

Aminosalicylates, corticosteroids and immunosuppressants are currently the therapeutic choices in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), however, with limited remission and often serious side effects. Meanwhile complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use is increasing, particularly herbal medicine. Boswellia serrata is a traditional Ayurvedic remedy with anti-inflammatory properties, of interest for its usefulness in IBDs. The mechanism of this pharmacological potential of Boswellia serrata was investigated in colonic epithelial cell monolayers exposed to H2O2 or INF-γ+TNF-α, chosen as in vitro experimental model of intestinal inflammation. The barrier function was evaluated by the trans epithelial electrical resistance (TEER) and paracellular permeability assay, and by the tight junction proteins (zonula occludens-1, ZO-1 and occludin) immunofluorescence. The expression of phosphorylated NF-κB and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation were determined by immunoblot and cytofluorimetric assay, respectively. Boswellia serrata oleo-gum extract (BSE) and its pure derivative acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA), were tested at 0.1-10 μg/ml and 0.027μg/ml, respectively. BSE and AKBA safety was demonstrated by no alteration of intestinal cell viability and barrier function and integrity biomarkers. H2O2 or INF-γ+TNF-α treatment of Caco-2 cell monolayers significantly reduced TEER, increased paracellular permeability and caused the disassembly of tight junction proteins occludin and ZO-1. BSE and AKBA pretreatment significantly prevented functional and morphological alterations and also the NF-κB phosphorylation induced by the inflammatory stimuli. At the same concentrations BSE and AKBA counteracted the increase of ROS caused by H2O2 exposure. Data showed the positive correlation of the antioxidant activity with the mechanism involved in the physiologic maintenance of the integrity and function of the intestinal epithelium. This study elucidates the pharmacological mechanisms mediated by BSE, in protecting intestinal epithelial barrier from inflammatory damage and supports its use as safe adjuvant in patients affected by IBD.

Link to complete article: Boswellia serrata Preserves Intestinal Epithelial Barrier from Oxidative and Inflammatory Damage

Governa P, Marchi M, Cocetta V, et al. Effects of Boswellia serrata Roxb. and Curcuma longa L. in an In Vitro Intestinal Inflammation Model Using Immune Cells and Caco-2. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2018;11(4):126. Published 2018 Nov 20. doi:10.3390/ph11040126

Inflammatory bowel diseases, which consist of chronic inflammatory conditions of the colon and the small intestine, are considered a global disease of our modern society. Recently, the interest toward the use of herbal therapies for the management of inflammatory bowel diseases has increased because of their effectiveness and favorable safety profile, compared to conventional drugs. Boswellia serrata Roxb. and Curcuma longa L. are amongst the most promising herbal drugs, however, their clinical use in inflammatory bowel diseases is limited and little is known on their mechanism of action. The aim of this work was to investigate the effects of two phytochemically characterized extracts of B. serrata and C. longa in an in vitro model of intestinal inflammation. Their impact on cytokine release and reactive oxygen species production, as well as the maintenance of the intestinal barrier function and on intestinal mucosa immune cells infiltration, has been evaluated. The extracts showed a good protective effect on the intestinal epithelium at 1 µg/mL, with TEER values increasing by approximately 1.5 fold, compared to LPS-stimulated cells. C. longa showed an anti-inflammatory mechanism of action, reducing IL-8, TNF-α and IL-6 production by approximately 30%, 25% and 40%, respectively, compared to the inflammatory stimuli. B. serrata action was linked to its antioxidant effect, with ROS production being reduced by 25%, compared to H₂O₂-stimulated Caco-2 cells. C. longa and B. serrata resulted to be promising agents for the management of inflammatory bowel diseases by modulating in vitro parameters which have been identified in the clinical conditions.

Link to complete article: Effects of Boswellia Serrata Roxb. and Curcuma longa L. in an In Vitro Intestinal Inflammation Model Using Immune Cells and Caco-2

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Terry is happy to provide his opinion on diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your physician and is not to be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any concerns please contact your physician directly.
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