Boswellia: The Sacred Herb with Health Benefits

by Melissa Chichester

Throughout history, humans have been using plants as a source of food, clothing, and shelter. Today, we still rely on plants for many of the same things, but with modern research we know more than ever about how beneficial plants are for our health. One of those plants is the boswellia tree family that grows in dry mountain regions throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Interestingly, boswellia is highly regarded not only as a supplement for health, but also has cultural significance in ancient religious ceremonies.

The history of boswellia

Boswellia is part of a flowering plant family that produces a fragrant resin that dates back to biblical times and was used to produce frankincense. Boswellia is also known as “Indian frankincense.” The resin produced by boswellia trees provides protection to the plant against damage and injury caused by nature or animals. Native to tropical regions in Africa and Asia, the traditional folk medicine use of boswellia dates back many centuries. It was especially regarded by Ayurvedic herbalists, known in Sanskrit as “gajabhakshya”. For use in healthcare, boswellia is gathered as an extract from the tree and can be found as an herbal supplement, in cream form, as a powder, in perfumes, and as an ingredient in some teas. Boswellia also had cosmetic and religious uses. Egyptians used to grind up boswellia into a powder to make kohl eyeliner, while Roman Catholics used boswellia for incense during religious rituals. Hindus, Greeks, and Egyptians used the resin from the boswellia tree to embalm bodies. These resins were also burned to create smoke that was believed to ward off evil spirits and honor the dead.

Boswellia essential oil

A quick search for boswellia essential oil quickly brings up an aromatherapy crowd favorite: frankincense. Boswellia cartieri is responsible for providing this spicy and soothing oil that carries rich balsamic undertones. To bask in an aromatic blend of oils, combine 5 drops of frankincense essential oil with 3 drops of orange oil and 2 drops of pine oil in your diffuser to fill your home.

Health benefits of boswellia

Boswellia is best known for its use in joint health.* Since healthy joints are important at any age, this herb has also been studied for its ability to assist in supporting joint comfort.* According to an article in Canine Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy (Second Edition) published in 2014, boswellia also had a positive impact on joint health and comfort in 24 dogs.