Boswellia supplements support joints, making it easier to stay active

Boswellia Serrata: Benefits, Uses and More

By: Stephen Tapanes, PhD

Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD

Joint discomfort: unfortunately, it happens to the best of us. Not only does it get in the way of your daily activities, but it can put a damper on events you were looking forward to, such as vacations or your grandchild's birthday party. It's hard to get excited about a long hike when you're not sure you'll make it to the next switchback—and sitting on the ground with a toddler gleefully opening presents may be a less than gleeful experience for your knees.

But have no fear, Boswellia is here! Boswellia serrata extract (also known as Indian frankincense) has been well studied in humans and was shown to help provide joint comfort, support a healthy inflammatory response and more.

So, put on your gardening gloves, lace up your hiking boots and get ready to give that pinata a thwack. Let's see what a Boswellia supplement can do for you!

What is Boswellia serrata?

Boswellia serrata, sometimes simply referred to as Boswellia, is a branching tree that grows in dry mountain regions of India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East.

Boswellia plants produce a gum resin called Indian frankincense or frankincense (not to be confused with the big green monster or, technically, his creator). This frankincense is edible, but more commonly, it is incorporated into essential oils or used to make a concentrated Boswellia extract that is packaged as an herbal supplement.

The primary active components in Boswellia are the boswellic acids found in the herbal extract of this gum resin and are responsible for its health benefits.

The five boswellic acids include:

  1. ß-boswellic (or beta-boswellic) acid
  2. Acetyl-ß-boswellic (or acetyl-beta-boswellic) acid
  3. 11-keto-ß-boswellic (or 11-keto-beta-boswellic) acid
  4. Acetyl-11-keto-ß-boswellic (or acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic) acid
  5. 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-ß-boswellic acid (AKBA)

Of these, AKBA is considered key to the action of frankincense, but all of these boswellic acids work together to achieve the clinically studied benefits of this plant's gum resin extract.

What are the health benefits of Boswellia serrata extract?

Boswellia serrata has a long history of use (references to frankincense date back to ancient scriptures). This herbal superstar is most famous for helping to support joint comfort and a healthy inflammatory response and has been used to support immune system health.

Today, Boswellia is used for a variety of purposes:

  • Inflammation support

    —Studies have found that Boswellia serrata extract helps support a healthy inflammatory response. In fact, this was shown in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study using 100 mg of a standardized Boswellia extract called AprèsFlex®. And even better—this was reported in as soon as 30 days!

    ApresFlex® is a registered trademark of PLT Health Solutions-Laila Nutraceuticals LLC.

  • Joint comfort

    —We could all use some support for our joints, right? Boswellia extract has you covered. Participants in the same study above also reported that Boswellia serrata extract helped relieve their occasional joint discomfort. A separate double-blind, randomized controlled trial using the same extract of Boswellia resin also showed impressive results. Boswellia resin extract led to significant improvements in physical function as well as joint comfort compared to placebo.
  • Skin health

    Boswellia-based topical creams containing boswellic acids have been investigated for their effects on skin health. One randomized controlled trial used a Boswellia cream in a "split-face," meaning the participants applied the cream with boswellic acids to half of their face, while the other half acted as a control with the cream alone. After 30 days, there was a significant improvement in elasticity and a reduction in oiliness compared to control.
  • Lung health

    —When combined with Aegle marmelos fruit, Boswellia serrata was shown in two clinical studies to inhibit inflammatory factors to support lung health. This is good news for people who are concerned about air quality or just need to be proactive about their lung function as they age.

If you're looking for a supplement to support healthy joints that keep you moving throughout the day, among other things, an herbal Boswellia extract is a great place to start.

How to take Boswellia serrata?

Boswellia serrata should be taken like any other supplement—as directed on the label. The dosing instructions are based on what was used in studies.

You might hear some people talk about boswellic essential oils, but your best bet is to get a high-quality supplement that provides an extract of the resin from Boswellia. In particular, pick a Boswellia supplement that has capsules which provide a clinically supported dose to get the most bang for your buck. If you have specific dietary concerns, go with gluten-free capsules for an easy and stress-free way to get your Boswellia.

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Can Boswellia serrata be taken with other supplements?

Yes! Boswellia serrata is often taken with other nutrients as part of a supplement routine. It is a great partner to curcumin, which is also known for its ability to support a healthy inflammatory response among other benefits. So, open your supplement bottle, grab a capsule, and get ready to add the benefits of Boswellia serrata to your routine!

If you are already taking a Boswellia herbal supplement, consider looking for additional supplements that have been shown to support a healthy inflammatory response so you can have comprehensive support.

Who should not take Boswellia serrata?

Boswellia serrata has a history of safe use and was well-tolerated in clinical studies. However, you should always consult with your doctor before you introduce a new supplement into your routine, especially if you are undergoing any medical treatment.

Other ways to support joint comfort

Looking to stay limber? Supplements are not the only way to go the extra mile (literally!). Follow these tips to keep moving comfortably at any age:

  • Exercise regularly.

    The expression "use it or lose it" certainly applies to a healthy range of motion. Whether you love a nice long walk or a strength-training session, make regular movement a regular part of your life—and for best results, include both cardio and resistance training. Also: swimming is the perfect form of exercise for those looking to nurture their joints.
  • Don't forget to stretch.

    Yoga is a great way to support your joints (not to mention your mind, mood, and so much more). But if saying namaste isn't your thing, just getting in some basic stretches is beneficial for your whole body and makes exercise recovery a little easier.
  • If it hurts, stop doing it!

    Listen to your body. Exercise should be challenging, maybe even temporarily uncomfortable, but never painful.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

    The heavier you are, the more pressure you're putting on your joints.
  • Eat foods that nourish your joints.

    This includes foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, so schedule salmon on the menu, snack on nuts and mix some avocado into your salads.
  • Support your bone health, too!

    Comfortable movement requires healthy joints, but bones are their partners in crime. Make sure you're eating a diet that contains enough calcium, and pair that calcium with vitamin D for optimal absorption.
  • Catch those Z's.

    Make sure to get enough sleep every night. Your body is able to rest and renew itself each night. This means your joints and muscles can repair themselves from working hard all day long. Not only that, but your whole body—ranging from your brain to your immune system—will benefit, too! The ideal amount varies per person, but aim for somewhere between 7-9 hours a night.
  • Stay hydrated.

    Our bodies are made up of a lot of water—up to 60%! Your joints are no exception. Water is a primary component of the fluid that helps minimize friction to keep your joints protected, lubricated, and flexible. This fluid also cushions your joints, which helps keep your bones from rubbing against one another. And of course, this comes with all the other benefits of water.
  • Minimize stress on your joints.

    Your joints will appreciate it if you work smarter, not harder. In general, try to avoid positions that put unnecessary stress on your joints. Consider using things like electric can openers, hand mixers, and grabber tools to avoid bending down.

Pro tip: not sure where to start? Take a quick quiz to get recommendations personalized just for you.

About the Author: Dr. Stephen Tapanes earned his doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Miami in 2021. His thesis investigated disease mechanisms and treatments following traumatic brain injury. Now, he is a scientist at Life Extension who enjoys using his skills in scientific reading and writing to promote health and wellness education.


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