Boswellia Travels Many Routes to Stop Tumors

Most people may be aware of Boswellia serrata as an anti-inflammatory for stopping rheumatoid arthritis pain or asthmatic flare-ups. However, it may come as a surprise that it can stop even more deadly forms of inflammation – and other factors – that can lead to cancer, too.

But boswellia is more than an anti-inflammatory agent for stopping cancer. This study shows that acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA) from the botanical also activates proteins and enzymes in the body that stop cancer cells – and are even programmed to kill them.

AKBA has frequently been cited as the most important anti-inflammatory compound in boswellia – the one primarily responsible, in fact, for mitigating joint or respiratory disorders. That’s why it is so important to find supplemental boswellia that is standardized for at least 10 percent AKBA – it can provide up to 10 times the AKBA of unstandardized supplements. Additionally, supplemental boswellia should be prepared in such a way that it reduces levels of beta-boswellic acid, an inflammatory compound that could ultimately assist the formation of tumors rather than defeat them.

The researchers behind these findings acknowledge that there is still a long ways to go before boswellia – long trusted as it is – will take the place of chemotherapy drugs or radiation treatments. However, it seems like botanical studies are uncovering exciting news, and that is reason for hope.



Khan MA, Ali R, Parveen R, Najmi AK, Ahmad S. Pharmacological evidences for cytotoxic and antitumor properties of Boswellic acids from Boswellia serrata. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Sep 15;191:315-323.

ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Increasing research on traditional herbal medicines and their phytoconstituents has recognized their usefulness in complementary as adjuvant to chemotherapy in various types of cancers. The oleo-gum resin of Boswellia serrata tree is one such folk medicine, which has been traditionally used for religious, cosmetic as well as medical purposes since ages. The oleo-gum resin of the plant has been used in traditional medicine to treat variety of conditions including inflammatory diseases like arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, bowel conditions and many other diseases. This review presents an overview of scientific studies on cytotoxic and antitumor properties of B. serrata and its constituents.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Literature search was carried out for activities of B. serrata and various isolated boswellic acids such as β-boswellic acid, 11-keto-β-boswellic acid and acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid reported in various cancer types in vitro as well as in vivo.

RESULTS: The triterpenoidal fraction of B. serrata (containing boswellic acids) is responsible for the cytotoxic and antitumor properties. Among the screened compounds, 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid has been found to be most promising cytotoxic molecule. The cytotoxic and antitumor effects are mainly due to induction of apoptosis through caspase activation, increased Bax expression, NF-κB down regulation and induction of poly (ADP)-ribose polymerase (PARP) cleavage.

CONCLUSIONS: Boswellic acids appear to be promising candidates for anticancer drug development in future. However, further in vivo studies are needed. Studies in combination with clinically used anticancer drugs and QSAR studies on individual boswellic acid also need to be carried out.

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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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