Boswellia serrata is a herb that has been found to be helpful in osteoarthritis in several clinical studies.
It has been referenced in ayurvedic texts for providing relief in inflammatory conditions including arthritis.
In research studies, Boswellia has been shown to have anti-inflammatory action by inhibiting the 5-lipoxygenase enzyme which causes inflammation.
The chief constituents of Boswellia are volatile oil (4-8%), acid resin (56-65%) and gum (20-36%). The triterpenoids are the active constituents and are called boswellic acids. These boswellic acids help to maintain joint cartilage structure and healthy immunity at a cellular level, which help in preventing pain and inflammation by blocking leukotriene synthesis.
The results of a study showing the efficacy of Boswellia in knee arthritis were published in the Phytomedicine January 2003 issue. A randomized double blind placebo controlled crossover study of 30 patients with knee arthritis was conducted over 8 weeks. Patients who received the Boswellia serrata extract indicated reduced pain in the knees, greater range of motion and ability to walk longer distances. Swelling in the knee joint also decreased.
In another study Boswellia serrata was compared to Valdecoxib (a selective COX-2 inhibitor). In a randomized, comparative study 66 patients with knee osteoarthritis were assessed for 6 months. Patients who were given the Boswellia serrata extract reported marked reduction in pain, stiffness and mobility within 2 months. Moreover the effects remained 1 month after treatment was stopped. Patients who were administered Valdecoxib reported improvement within 1 month however the effect stopped after the drug was discontinued. Three patients from the Boswellia group and two from the Valdecoxib group complained of acidity. One patient from the Boswellia group group complained of diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
In a study published in Ayu. 2011 Oct, 56 patients with osteoarthritis were divided into two groups. Patients of Group A were given 500 mg capsule of Boswellia (Shallaki), 6 g per day (in three divided doses) with lukewarm water and Group B patients were given the same dosage of Boswellia orally along with topical application of Shallaki (Boswellia) ointment on the affected joints. After 2 months, an improvement in symptoms was seen in both the groups at various levels.