Having painful joints is something many of us will encounter when we grow older. While some medications can help relieve the pain and stiffness, they also come with nasty side effects. Let’s examine if boswellia, a popular herbal extract, can help with joint pain. Boswellia is a key ingredient in our joint support product, Glucosamine Complex.
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What is Boswellia?
Boswellia refers to the genus of plants and trees known for their fragrant resins. More than 20 species have been identified in this genus, but we will only focus on the Boswellia serrata species for this article.
Boswellia serrata is also known as Indian Frankincense, mainly because it’s the species native to the Indian subcontinent. But it’s also found in the Middle East and North Africa. Its use in religious ceremonies, cultural events, and other important gatherings goes back thousands of years! It is also used in essential oils and added to soaps, cosmetics, food, and drinks.
What are the health benefits of Boswellia serrata?
Boswellia’s active compounds are known as boswellic acids. When taken by mouth or applied topically on the skin, boswellia may help with the following health issues (1):
- Arthritis like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin issues such as ringworm and boils
- Respiratory problems such as cough, asthma, and bronchitis
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Gut issues like diarrhea and dysentery
- Fever, irregular periods, and vaginal discharge
It’s only a partial list of boswellia’s benefits, but you now get a picture of why its extract is such a popular remedy for various health concerns. For this article, however, we will focus on boswellia’s joint health benefits.
What do studies say about taking boswellia for joint pain?
This section will discuss some studies on boswellia, specifically its effects on joint health. We’ll see if boswellia can help with arthritis mainly affecting the elderly, namely, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Known as the “wear and tear” disease, osteoarthritis is a painful joint condition that usually occurs in people in their 50s and 60s. But younger individuals who are overweight and obese are at risk of developing OA early. This is because the extra weight puts immense pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the ankles, knees, and hips. Other risk factors include genetics (it may run in families), injury, and bone deformities (2).
How can boswellia help people with osteoarthritis?
Several studies have shared positive results.
For example, Grover and Samson looked at herbal supplements used for OA treatment in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. They included boswellia in their final list of herbs that actually showed some tangible benefits for OA patients. Boswellia, along with curcumin, can help relieve pain and improve knee function (3).
Also, Cameron and Chrubasik reported that OA patients taking just 100mg of Boswellia daily experienced reduced pain and better physical function after just 90 days (4). Note that our Glucosamine Complex offers twice the dose at 200mg per serving, which may help provide faster relief from symptoms.
Likewise, Kimmatkar et al. reported similar findings. They treated 30 patients with OA and gave half of them boswellia and the other half placebo. After 8 weeks, the boswellia group reported less knee pain, increased knee movement, and the ability to walk longer distances! The frequency of knee swelling also went down (5).
Interestingly, Perlman et al. had a slightly different outcome. The group shared that taking boswellia alone may be insufficient to treat OA symptoms. But when taken in combination with other herbs, it may have a more pronounced effect on pain and function (6).
We agree with Perlman’s findings, which is why our Glucosamine Complex includes 8 different joint support ingredients! These are Glucosamine, Boswellia, Chondroitin, Turmeric, Quercetin, MSM, Methionine, and Bromelain. These ingredients work together to improve joint health by reducing inflammation, pain, and stiffness, and increasing flexibility and mobility.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that can inflict considerable pain simply because it affects multiple joints at once. Tissues and organs closest to the joints may also be affected. Also, more women than men are diagnosed with this disease. If left untreated, RA can progress to more widespread and damaging symptoms.
How can boswellia help people with rheumatoid arthritis?
The current treatment for RA patients includes NSAIDs to reduce inflammation. In a similar vein, boswellia’s anti-inflammatory action may provide relief to patients with RA. It may block inflammatory molecules that attack joints and other tissues (7).
Also, in animals induced with RA, researchers found that boswellia helped lower inflammation levels. They concluded that the effects of boswellia extract were comparable to the drug indomethacin. It may potentially be an effective antiarthritic drug (8).
That said, a human study supports the findings in the animal study above. More than 260 RA patients who took boswellia serrata extract reported feeling much better after the study. Their joint swelling, stiffness, and pain levels decreased considerably (9).
Are there any side effects when taking boswellia for joint pain?
Many of the studies we have referenced above reported that their subjects tolerated Boswellia serrata extracts very well. However, some of them did have minor gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea, diarrhea, bloating, and acid reflux (10).
But when compared to the side effects of NSAIDs (the primary medication for OA and RA), boswellia’s side effects fall on the mild side. Long-term use of NSAIDs is associated with an increased risk of stomach ulcers, stroke, heart attack, and heart failure (11).
Who shouldn’t take Boswellia?
Pregnant and breastfeeding women shouldn’t take boswellia without approval from their doctors. Also, if you are allergic to boswellia, you definitely should avoid it. If so, check out our blog post on joint supplements for alternative treatment options.
Lastly, anyone taking medication for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis should first speak with their doctors as boswellia may interact with their medications.
So, is it a good idea to take Boswellia for joint pain?
There is enough evidence to suggest that taking boswellia for joint pain may be a good idea. Those diagnosed with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis may benefit greatly from supplementing with our Glucosamine Complex, which includes 200mg of Boswellia serrata extract per serving. Keeping joints healthy as you age should be a top priority for everyone!