10 Healing Herbs for Hounds and Humans: #3 The benefits of Boswellia

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By Tracie Korol

For more than three millennia, Boswellia has been long recognized for its anti-inflammatory benefits. Plus, this oleogum resin also has anti-cancer, immunomodulatory properties — that means Boswellia has the ability to modulate the immune system and inhibit inflammatory activity, thereby helping with a number of autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. A must for your and your dog’s medicine chest.
Boswellia, or frankincense, harkens back to ancient India and Egypt.

Frankincense was one of the four components in the medicinal “Balsam of Jerusalem” from the Franciscan Monastery and, as noted in the Papyrus Ebers, circa 1500 BCE, had applications in Egypt for mummification, cremation and the treatment of skin wounds. In the Indian medical system Ayurveda, Boswellia goes by the term salai guggul. Its Sanskrit name, gajabhakshya, suggests that humans observed elephants ingesting the plant. That is, ancient Indian Ayurvedic healers witnessed these huge animals feeding on Boswellia serrata trees, which grow widely across the dry hills of northwest India. Given that elephants tend to last a long time with few infirmities, these early docs figured the elephants’ dietary intake of Boswellia might offer similar benefits to humans, though in much smaller amounts.

To harvest, bark of the boswellia tree is stripped back to reveal a sticky resin underneath.  This resin consists of essential oils, gum, and terpenoids, the terpenoid being the component known for potent anti-inflammatory activities. Chemically, it contains a compound known as boswelic acid. This compound inhibits the enzyme 5-lipoxygenase. The inhibition of this enzyme stops one of the major biochemical pathways involved in inflammation. The beauty is, unlike most of the common anti-inflammatory drugs used to help arthritis sufferers, human and dog, it only inhibits this one enzyme. As a consequence we see all the positive anti-inflammatory effects and none of the negative ones like gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding. For horse fanciers, Boswellia has been shown in studies to eliminate inflammation more effectively than phenylbutazone or “bute.”

My personal involvement with this wonderful herb began when my knee began to give out after a couple of decades of frenetic volleyball. In researching solutions to knee pain, I discovered a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial wherein boswellia demonstrated beneficial effect on knee osteoarthritis! Thirty patients were given either 1,000 mg Boswellia daily or placebo in three divided doses for eight weeks. Patients in the Boswellia group experienced significant decreases in pain and swelling and increase in range of motion compared to placebo. I was convinced; the bonus was that it also improved low back pain and general joint stiffness.

Our old dog friends can experience the same pain relief. In animal studies, dogs suffering from osteoarthritis received Boswellia extract once daily for six weeks. After just two weeks, 71% of the animals showed significant improvement in clinical symptoms of arthritis, including reduced pain, stiffness, and lameness.
Dosage depends upon the weight of the animal.

Herbal remedies were once our mainstream medicines. Much information has been lost, or at least crowded out by the all-too-common quick fix that many of our modern, potent drugs provide. Remember, quality is the number one requirement in using herbal remedies. The one that will give you positive results comes from reputable health and supplement shops, not big box or chain stores.