Boswellia Serrata For Arthritis
Boswellic acids: the active ingredient in boswellia serrata
How does boswellia serrata help with arthritis?
Boswellia serrata is commonly used for arthritis treatment due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Its primary therapeutic functions work hand in hand to alleviate the symptoms of the disease.
Arthritis is characterized by inflammation, which sets off a destructive domino effect that begins with joint pain and swelling and develops into the breakdown of connective tissues.
The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis) and rheumatoid arthritis (misdirected attack of the immune system against the body’s own tissues).
Boswellia serrata has been clinically proven effective in treating both. Here are the ways it can assuage these diseases and their symptoms:
1.Boswellia serrata lowers inflammation
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural process that occurs in the body as a way to defend itself from any harmful foreign invaders. It is how the body heals from wounds, infections, and other damage to tissues. This means that inflammation usually just resolves itself after the job is done. However, in instances it doesn’t and it becomes chronic, diseases the likes of arthritis initiate.
Arthritis is literally the inflammation of the joints so inhibiting the mediators of inflammation has been found to be the most effective way to get relief and evade the rest of the symptoms.
How does boswellia serrata prevent inflammation?
Boswellia serrata tackles inflammation differently from NSAIDs in that it directly obstructs the 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX). This is the enzyme that instigates the production of inflammatory chemicals called leukotrienes, which are believed to be involved in the onset of a variety of disorders including arthritis (1).
Boswellia serrata then doubles down by also deterring the activity of HLE (human leukocyte elastase), which has been implicated in the development of rheumatoid arthritis (2).
Boswellia serrata’s anti-inflammatory activity seems to come from its ability to prevent the overexpression of a type of pro-inflammatory cytokine called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFa).
Cytokines like TNFa are essential in the body’s inflammatory processes, but can cause damage when generated in copious amounts. Boswellia serrata disables the TNFa buildup by blocking the source, the NF-κB pathway, which also happens to be instrumental in the activation of many other pro-inflammatory mechanisms that harm the body (3).
What do studies say?
The efficacy of boswellia serrata to reduce inflammation is well-documented in numerous trials (4).
In one notable trial, boswellia serrata was able to lower inflammation in rats by 54-84% (8). It was also able to take down another pro-inflammatory enzyme called the COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2) without damaging the inner surface of the stomach as NSAIDs tend to do (9).
2.Boswellia serrata reduces joint pain
What is joint pain?
Joint pain is another indicator of arthritis. The painful sensation and swelling are caused by inflammation, but they develop quite differently depending on the type of arthritis you have.
In rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial lining on the inside of the joint capsule doesn’t get enough synovial fluid to stay lubricated. In turn, it fails to prevent friction between the bones.
In osteoarthritis, wear and tear damages the cartilage, the rubber-like padding that wraps around the ends of bones.
When your synovial lining or your cartilage gets inflamed, you will experience joint pain.
How does boswellia serrata prevent joint pain?
As discussed above, joint pain can be alleviated and prevented with the instigators of inflammation like 5-LOX, HLE, and cytokines kept in check. When inflammation is blocked, boswellia serrata is able to shrink the source of pain, which is the swollen tissue (10).
As a natural pain killer, boswellia serrata also soothes the joints and keeps the synovial fluid in the joint cavities at healthy levels, restoring their strength and lubrication so you still get to move freely without pain.
What do studies say?
A wide range of clinical trials has established boswellia serrata as a go-to herb to ease joint pain. In one study, the herb reduced pain in the left and right knee joint and shoulders by 73.68%, 70.96%, and 83.33%, respectively. Pain in the spine was 100% eradicated (9).
In another study testing boswellia serrata formulations with concentrated AKBA (the most powerful boswellic acid), ApresFlex (20% AKBA with bioavailability enhancer) and 5-LOXIN (30% AKBA) reduced WOMAC pain scores by 30-62% with statistically significant improvements across the board between 18-60% (LFI, VAS, WOMAC stiffness, WOMAC functional ability) within 7 days of the treatment. Osteoarthritis patients ultimately reported improvements in physical function, quality of life, and joint health (11).
In two other studies, osteoarthritis patients not only experienced reduced joint pain, but also increased knee flexion and walking distance. Attacks of joint swelling in the knee were also drastically decreased with the knee-joint functions even improved (12), (13).
Finally, one study on boswellia serrata’s effects on rheumatoid arthritis revealed that it can alleviate pain and improve joint swelling (14).
3.Boswellia serrata fights cartilage degradation
What is cartilage degradation?
The cartilage is a smooth sponge-like tissue that acts as a cushion to avoid the bones from rubbing against each other. A compromised cartilage results to extremely achy joints.
In osteoarthritis, this exacerbates over time especially when you are overweight. The disease can eventually destroy the bone and cartilage and alter joint alignment, which will cause more pain and immobility. Damage in the cartilage is a marker of how severe osteoarthritis is.
How does boswellia serrata prevent cartilage degradation?
The main culprit in cartilage degradation is the enzyme called metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3). Boswellia serrata works by inhibiting its overexpression.
The herb also tends to protect the remaining healthy cells in the cartilage from injury (15). Boswellia serrata also makes sure the body produces the right amount of cytokines enough to fight inflammation when it needs to rather than induce it (12).
The result is an improved blood flow to the joints and restored strength of the damaged blood vessels.
What do studies say?
A large number of studies prove boswellia serrata’s ability to disrupt cartilage damage perpetrated by the MMP-3 (16), (17). In one study on ApresFlex, boswellia serrata showcased its added ability to halt the expression of the ICAM-1, adhesion molecules that make it easier for inflammatory cells to migrate over to the joints (11).
Also unlike NSAIDs, boswellia serrata can activate its anti-arthritic characteristics without degrading the glycosaminoglycans, which are in charge of keeping the moisture of the collagen and elastin (which enables the skin to stretch) in the connective tissues (18), (19), (20), (21).
Choosing boswellia serrata for arthritis: how to make sure you get the right one?
This decision is all about making sure you get much of the active ingredient and that it is absorbed in the body and reaches the right tissues that need repairing.
Boswellia serrata supplements are usually standardized to contain higher concentration of boswellic acids. These extracts have been known to work on arthritis and joint pain.
Although these are effective enough, they remain less potent than those formulated to have higher concentration of AKBA. Such formulation usually provides superior and quicker results when tending to chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Boswellia serrata also has a bioavailability issue in that it gets dissolved in the body faster than it could activate its medicinal properties. This problem is very rarely addressed in simple standardized extracts.
Some use black pepper extract (Bioperine). While this could only get you so far, they are still the better option over standardized extracts alone.
On the other hand, some opt to increase the AKBA concentration instead as it tends to compensate for the lack of bioavailability enhancers to a certain degree.
Either way, the supplement with an added bioavailability enhancer on top of higher AKBA levels is always the better choice.
Best boswellia serrata supplements for arthritis
Always take note of the must-haves we listed above when making a decision about taking boswellia serrata. To help you decide, however, we put together a small list of supplements below. These products are all guaranteed to help you in tackling arthritis, but our best pick, Life Extension 5-LOX Inhibitor, has more going for it than the other three: