How To Choose A Boswellia Serrata Supplement
There is a wide selection of boswellia serrata supplements available on the market and they come in different formulations. If you’re on the lookout for one, this article will help you choose which product is right for you.
What is boswellia serrata?
Boswellia serrata is an ancient herb that has been used in traditional Indian medicine or Ayurveda for centuries. It is a gum resin extracted from the resinous tree boswellia, which is native in the dry mountainous regions of India, Northern Africa, and Middle East.
Preferred over nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), boswellia serrata is most famous for its ability to reduce inflammation and joint pain associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia, but research has shown that it can also aid in fighting cancer as well as other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Active ingredients in boswellia serrata
Boswellia serrata owes much of its medicinal properties to its active ingredients, the boswellic acids, which have the unique ability to inhibit the 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX). This is a harmful enzyme that converts into pro-inflammatory substances leukotrienes, which contribute to the onset of a myriad of inflammatory diseases like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, and many others (1).
There are six types of boswellic acids, but AKBA (3-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid) is considered to be the most powerful. KBA (11-keto-beta-boswellic acid) and BBA (beta-boswellic acid) also seem to be more potent than the others.
Boswellia serrata supplements available today are typically standardized to contain high concentration of these active ingredients.
Things to consider when choosing boswellia serrata supplement
1. Look for high concentration of boswellic acids
The first thing you need to make sure when choosing a boswellia serrata supplement is that it has an adequate concentration of the active ingredients.
Research shows that boswellia serrata supplements should be standardized to have at least 37.5% of boswellic acids in order to be effective. Majority of what you will find available online have around 65%.
To find out how much boswellic acid the product contains, look at the label. Search for the statement that reads “standardized to X percent of boswellic acids.” This is often featured prominently alongside the product name and again at the back of the label, where you can read nutrition facts and more detailed supplement description.
2. Check the levels of AKBA (the most potent boswellic acid)
AKBA is the most powerful boswellic acid. The problem with most conventional boswellia extracts is that they contain very low levels of AKBA.
Out of the 50-60% of boswellia acids contained in the typical standardized boswellia serrata extract, only 2-3% is AKBA.
Some supplements, though, are standardized specifically to contain more AKBA. The levels of AKBA in these special supplements can be up to 10 times the amounts found in typical boswellia extracts.
These patented AKBA-centric solutions of boswellia serrata include ApresFlex, 5-Loxin, and BosPure. They are discussed in detail later in the article. As a rule, these extracts are considered more effective than the products standardized to all boswellic acids.
3. Look for supplements with enhanced bioavailability
Boswellic acids have a problem with low bioavailability. The reason for this is that they are not water soluble. Once ingested, they are poorly absorbed and eliminated quickly from the body. Only very little amounts get in the blood and to the major organs. As a result, boswellia supplements have difficulties achieving the desired therapeutic effects.
Several formulations have been developed to overcome this issue. We’ll discuss them in more details below.
Making boswellia more bioavailable with phytosome formulation
A patented solution called Boswellia Phytosome or Casperome uses soy lecithin phytosome formulation to increase bioavailability.
A study has found that Casperome increases the brain tissue levels of KBA and AKBA by 35 times and the BBA 3-fold (7). Boswellic acid levels in poorly vascularized organs like the eyes were 17 times higher and the overall plasma levels rose by 3 times for BBA and 7 times for KBA.
At the moment, there’s only one boswellia serrata supplement that uses Boswellia Phytosome: Thorne Research.
Increasing absorption of boswellia serrata with piperine (black pepper extract)
Some boswellia serrata supplements contain black pepper extract or piperine to improve the bioavailability of boswellic acids. Piperine is usually added in very small amounts and its effect lasts for only 1-2 hours.
Black pepper achieves better absorption by delaying the elimination of various substances from the liver and gut and increasing the production of glucuronic acid in the intestines. This enables the active substances from boswellia to get into the bloodstream in higher amounts.
As a side effect of black pepper, harmful substances and toxins also stay longer in the body. This may lead to liver damage in the long run. That is why it is better to find other ways to achieve enhanced bioavailability or at least make sure that the supplement has small concentration of piperine (recommended dosage is up to 5-15mg per day).
Wokvel Boswellia: Biovailable form with boswellic acids in natural ratios
A less known special formulation that tackles boswellia serrata’s bioavailability issue is Wokvel, which is literally marketed as the “biovailable form of boswellia serrata.” It contains only 40% of standardized boswellic acids (which is less than what other supplements have), but preserves these boswellic acids in natural ratios. This way the boswellia serrata extract remains as close to its natural form as possible. Wokvel is made more water soluble and absorbable with Solid Lipid Particle (SLP) technology.
The only supplement with pure Wokvel you can find is the one by Progena. This is because it is often paired with another herbal ingredient called curcumin. We’ll talk about Wokvel boswellia serrata supplements towards the end of this article.
4. Pay attention to additives and fillers
As with any supplement, make sure your boswellia serrata supplement has little to no fillers or additives. These are added just for manufacturing efficiency and potentially do more harm than good in the body. Check to see if the boswellia serrata supplement is free of allergens. Manufacturers will usually indicate the purity of their product in the packaging and description, but make it a habit to check the “other ingredients” section on the back of the packaging.
Also take a look if the product was third party tested or was manufactured in a facility compliant with GMP (good manufacturing practices), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), or USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). This is an assurance of the supplement’s quality.
You would also want the product free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are ingredients altered on a molecular and cellular level that pose potential health risks. Determine this by checking for “non-GMO” or “GMO-free” in the packaging.
Boswellia can trigger miscarriage
Boswellia serrata has been proven to be generally safe. However, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive are not advised to take boswellia serrata supplement as it can trigger menstruation and induce birth-related problems including miscarriage.
Don’t take boswellia alongside NSAIDs
Don’t take boswellia serrata supplements alongside non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) without consulting your doctor because of possible harmful interactions.
Types of boswellia serrata supplement
There are a lot of boswellia serrata supplements available on the market. They come in many forms, which include capsules, softgels, and powder form. You can also get tablets and hybrids called caplets.
It doesn’t really matter which form you take; this depends solely on your preference. What’s important is the potency of boswellia extract in the supplement.
Based on potency, we can roughly divide boswellia supplements into a couple of categories:
- Standardized boswellia extracts
- Boswellia supplements with higher AKBA concentration
- Supplements that contain a combination of boswellia serrata and curcumin
In this article, we’ll first describe the least potent formulations, which are those standardized to a certain concentration of boswellic acids. These supplements are commonly used for mild arthritis pain, asthma, and overall subjective well-being.
Then, we’ll talk about the more powerful supplements that have up to 10 times more AKBA than regular boswellia extracts. People take them for managing chronic inflammatory conditions and report better and quicker results than with the regular standardized boswellia extracts.
We’ll conclude with supplements that contain boswellia and curcumin. Like boswellia, curcumin is also a powerful anti-inflammatory substance, so these supplements are generally used for chronic inflammation treatment and additional intestinal health benefits from curcumin.
Standardized boswellia serrata extracts
These supplements are extracted from boswellia serrata gum resin and are almost always standardized to contain at least 65% of boswellic acids.
By taking this kind of extracts you know exactly how much of the healing ingredients from boswellia you are getting.
Despite having a high concentration of boswellic acids, standardized boswellia supplements still have a problem with low bioavailability. The best you can do to address this issue is taking the supplement with a high-fat meal. Boswellic acids are lipophilic, which means they are better dissolved in fats, which in turn increases their absorption in the body.
Who should take standardized boswellia extracts?
If you are simply looking to lower inflammation and acquire joint and hip pain relief and overall improved mobility, standardized boswellia extracts should do the trick. However, they have very limited bioavailability, so you would get better results by taking patented formulations that solve this issue.
Best standardized boswellia serrata extracts
Here we’ll introduce some of the most popular standardized boswellia extracts and explain which one is our top pick and why.