Boswellia—also known as Indian frankincense—is obtained from the Boswellia serrata tree, which grows in India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. Purified before use, the gum resin from the trunk of the tree contains four triterpenic acids (called boswellic acids) that specifically inhibit pro-inflammatory enzymes. The resin of Boswellia species has been used as incense in religious and cultural ceremonies and in medicines since time immemorial.
Boswellia has been known to possess anti-inflammatory abilities. Owing to this, it has been tested for a number of inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis. In recent times a number of research studies have also established the role of Boswellia extract in the treatment of arthritis. The aromatic resin from Boswellia, frankincense, was once highly prized from Rome to India and considered essential for a host of uses ranging from religious to cosmetic to medicinal. Medical investigations into Boswellia show that the gum is beneficial in cases of arthritis, asthma, and ulcerative colitis. According to a review of unpublished studies, preliminary double-blind trials have found Boswellia effective in relieving the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Two placebo-controlled studies, involving a total of 81 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, reported significant reductions in swelling and pain over the course of 3 months.
Boswellia contains a broad range of phytochemicals in its gum, including a group called the Boswellic acids, which are terpenes. These compounds possess anti-inflammatory properties, which may possibly explain the contemporary and traditional anti-arthritic uses of Boswellia.