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Does Boswellia Decrease IBD Inflammation?


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What is Boswellia?

Boswellia! Have you heard of this powerful herb before? It is commonly found in Asia and Africa from a tree called the boswellia serrata tree. It has been extracted and used in Ayurvedic medicine for many years to help treat inflammatory conditions. But…does it have evidence to help inflammatory bowel disease? Keep reading to find out!

Boswellia (also known as Frankincense) contains 30-60% resin, 5-10% essential oils, and the rest is made up of polysaccharides (which are a chain of carbohydrates essential for the structure of plants). The resin contains components that aid in decreasing pro-inflammatory enzymes, with acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid being the most powerful. 

Lowering inflammation is one of the main goals in IBD care. With boswellia’s anti-inflammatory nature, how does it stack up against Crohn’s Disease and Colitis? 

Boswellia for Crohn’s Disease

A study conducted on 102 patients with Crohn’s disease found that supplementing with bosewellia was as effective as using Mesalamine. In both treatment groups of the study, CDAI scores were reduced. 

Another study was performed with 82 participants with Crohn’s disease and it was found that boswellia supplementation was not effective in maintaining remission when compared to the placebo group. 

More studies are needed to understand the full extent of boswellia in Crohn’s Disease, however, its antiinflammatory properties cannot go unnoticed. 

Note: CDAI stands for Crohn’s Disease Activity Index score where one fills out a questionnaire assessing their disease activity. Scores can range from 0-600 and the lower the score, the greater one feels. 

Boswellia for Ulcerative Colitis

A study conducted in 1997 showed positive effects after use of boswellia in Ulcerative Colitis patients. The study explored two groups – one group taking boswellia and the other group using sulfasalazine.

Parameters measured included the effects on stool patterns, the pathology of the disease process, changes in the rectum (taken via biopsy), as well as various blood samples. The study showed that 82% of those taking boswellia achieved remission and 75% of those in the sulfasalazine group reached remission. 

Another study was conducted in 2001 with similar parameters mentioned above. Remission was achieved in 14 of 20 patients upon use of boswellia.

A positive effect can be observed in the two studies above, however, larger sample sizes are recommended in nutrition science to come to a definitive conclusion for boswellia and its use in UC. 

In Closing

With more and more people looking forays to support their IBD care, the potential for the inclusion of supplements should not be ruled out. However, more research is needed to support its efficacy. 

Like any new supplement, always check with your healthcare provider to see if it is appropriate for you.