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What Are the Uses and Benefits of Boswellia Powder?

Posted by Dr. Ian Bier on Sep 21, 2020 4:26:04 PM


When naturopaths and naturopathic doctors (NDs) are looking to regulate inflammation, they tend to favor a few herbs and mineral compounds.

One of the herbs that I regularly reach for is Boswellia powder. Its uses have been documented in ancient Ayurvedic science texts as far back as 600BC, and it’s still one of the most popular herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine today.

Despite its use throughout multiple millennia and its current popularity in Western culture, Western healthcare practitioners have only utilized Boswellia powder for the past 20 or 30 years.

In North America, naturopaths have been around for a century, but Eastern and Ayurvedic medicines are relatively new. Western Europe and North America didn't really adopt Chinese medicine principles until the 1970s when acupuncture and herbs like ginseng were popularized. And it wasn't until the ‘90s that Ayurvedic medicine started gaining ground. However, there is now a newfound synergy between traditional medicine and modern science that has created an acceleration of knowledge from which we benefit greatly.

What is Boswellia Powder?

Boswellia serrata is a type of plant native to India and parts of Pakistan, which produces Indian Frankincense and the resin from which Boswellia powder is made. When used as a nutritional supplement, Boswellia commonly comes in the form of pill capsules, resin, and topical cream.

In general, herbs tend to contain dozens of active ingredients and, at times, hundreds of constituents that work synergistically on one bodily system or within multiple different pathways simultaneously. Boswellia is no different.

Boswellia resin is loaded with organic compounds called terpenic acids, including monoterpenes, diterpenes, and triterpenes. It also contains tetracyclic triterpenic acids and pentacyclic triterpenic acids, the most active of which is 11-keto-beta-boswellic acid. Because Boswellia resin contains this diverse set of compounds, it can deliver multiple benefits through different pathways simultaneously.

In a 2017 study, a collaborating team of researchers from Germany and Switzerland found that Boswellia serrata contains 15 active compounds, eight of which are diterpenoids that may have an anti-plasmodial impact.*[1] This could help to reduce unwanted invaders within the body.*

Of the 15 active compounds isolated, three of them were found for the first time: β-boswellic aldehyde, 5α-tirucalla-8, 24-dien-3α-ol, and isoflindissone lactone. Another compound was isolated for the first time in a plant: isodecaryiol.[2]

By identifying these compounds within Boswellia serrata, practitioners can better understand how Boswellia will interact with the body and its potential benefits. The practice of using contemporary research studies to explore traditional herbs is a perfect example of the beauty of modern naturopathic medicine.

What Are the Benefits of Boswellia Powder?

Boswellia powder has a broad range of traditional uses. However, I use Boswellia powder primarily to help regulate a normal inflammatory response.* The main active ingredient, 11-keto-beta-boswellic acid, is responsible for inhibiting pro-inflammatory enzymes such as 5-lipo-oxygenase.*[3][4]

5-lipo-oxygenase is a key component in the synthesis of leukotrienes. Leukotrienes are a family of inflammatory mediators, meaning they influence the quantity and quality of inflammation triggered by the body. Just a few decades ago, many medical practitioners believed inflammation was an isolated, specific mechanism, like what happens when your knee swells or your ankle is sprained. Of course, now we know that inflammation is an underlying aspect of many health challenges and is a mechanism involved in everything from heart health to brain health, and immune response.

Can You Take Boswellia with Tumeric?

Yes. Curcuma longa and Boswellia serrata are both well-tolerated and create a synergistic effect when taken together. They both have excellent inflammatory regulation properties, and one study even showed that taking Boswellia serrata along with Curcumin was more effective than Curcumin by itself.*[5]

RELATED CONTENT: How Does Inflammation Impact Heart Health?

Are There Any Adverse Effects?

Boswellia powder is surprisingly well-tolerated. However, at higher doses, it can upset the digestive tract and may cause loose stool. Also, when ingesting capsules filled with Boswellia powder, another interesting thing might happen. We affectionately call it Dragon Breath. About 10 minutes after taking Boswellia powder pills, you might burp out a powdery cloud.


Modern medicine tends to focus on single mechanisms of action, whereas herbal extracts like Boswellia have a blend of constituents that yield multiple mechanisms of action. Because of this multi-modal response, as with many other herbs and essential nutrients, we are still learning about Boswellia’s broad-base of effects. We know for certain that Boswellia resin has been used for millennia in ancient traditions, and we now have scientific evidence for its ability to support a healthy inflammatory response.*

Joint Health

[1] "Terpenoids from the Oleo-Gum-Resin of Boswellia ... - PubMed." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28738439/. Accessed 13 Sep. 2020.

[2] "Terpenoids from the Oleo-Gum-Resin of Boswellia ... - PubMed." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28738439/. Accessed 13 Sep. 2020.

[3] "Boswellia Serrata, A Potential Antiinflammatory Agent ... - NCBI." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3309643/. Accessed 13 Sep. 2020.

[4] "Boswellic acids: novel, specific, nonredox inhibitors ... - PubMed." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1602379/. Accessed 14 Sep. 2020.

[5] "Efficacy and safety of curcumin and its combination ... - PubMed." 9 Jan. 2018, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29316908/. Accessed 14 Sep. 2020.


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