Frankincense resin crystals on a rustic background

An age-old substance could provide new hope for sufferers of inflammatory arthritis and the more common osteoarthritis. That material is frankincense, a resin derived from the rugged Boswellia tree. Frankincense has been traded for over 5000 years, and is famous for its aroma. It is widely used in perfumes and incense.

What is Frankincense?

Frankincense is also widely utilized in various religious rites, and has been said to be one of the gifts presented to baby Jesus from the biblical Magi, or wise men, together with gold and myrrh (a similar red resin). Frankincense remains burned from the Roman Catholic Church.

Frankincense has also long been valued for its medicinal properties. The resin is edible, and is employed in Asian traditional medicine to assist digestion and promote healthier skin. Frankincense has also been applied in Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medication for centuries, and is known as dhoop. Dhoop is used for treating arthritis, healing wounds, strengthening the female hormonal system and combating mosquitoes and germs.

A treatment for inflammatory issues?

Scientists have been exploring frankincense as a cure for chronic inflammatory conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, asthma, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis In 2008, researchers reported that frankincense smoke was a psychoactive drug that alleviated depression and anxiety in mice.

In another 2008 study, osteoarthritis patients carrying a frankincense extract showed a substantial improvement in their condition at under seven days, with no significant adverse effects.

Recently, scientists noting that frankincense was a traditional herbal treatment for arthritis in the area Somali community, started to research it at the laboratory. Their study focused on whether extracts of frankincense might decrease arthritic inflammation and decrease pain.

They were able to demonstrate that an infusion of a rare frankincense species, Boswellia frereana, inhibited the production of key inflammatory molecules, helping to stop the painful breakdown of cartilage that’s characteristic of arthritis and gouty arthritis.

Arthritis is the most common kind of disability. Arthritis can be categorized as either inflammatory or non-inflammatory. Inflammatory arthritis is characterized by the presence of inflammatory white blood cells in the joint fluid.

Gout is an inflammatory type of arthritis, as is rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a non-inflammatory form of the disease. Both forms are incurable, but can be managed with lifestyle changes and arthritis or gout medications.