Boswellia may be beneficial in treating Crohn’s disease.





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Boswellia, or olibanum, is a close relative of the Biblical incense frankincense and has been used historically in the Ayurvedic medical system of India for a variety of ailments. Supplement makers derive a boswellia extract from the gum resin of the stem bark of the plant. Modern scientists are now focusing their study of this remedy on its ability to manage pain and inflammation. To date, most of the available literature on this herb has centered around asthma and arthritis. Recently, however a study, published in the January issue of Gastroenterology examined the use of boswellia in Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is serious chronic illness that inflicts severe damage to the intestinal tract, causing diarrhea and abdominal pain. Though it can strike anywhere along the GI tract from the mouth to the anus, Crohn’s disease usually affects the endmost portion of the small intestine, called the "ileum."

Conventional treatment for Crohn’s disease targets three major goals. First, proper nutrition is of paramount importance. The inflamed and thickened intestinal lining cannot absorb nutrients properly, so extra care must be taken to keep the body’s nutrient levels up. Next, the inflammation must be reduced. Third, therapy aims at controlling the autoimmune response mentioned earlier, to keep the body from attacking itself. Some of the standard drugs used in Crohn’s disease are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which have significant side effects.

Researchers in Germany designed a randomised, double-blind, verum-controlled, parallel group comparison in which 102 patients were treated and evaluated. Of the 102, 44 patients received a specific extract of Boswellia known as H15, and 39 patients received mesalazine therapy. Both groups seemed to progress equally well leading the authors of the study to conclude that since there are few if any side effects known to be associated with the herb Boswellia, it would be a preferred treatment of choice over the standard non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy.1


1. Gerhardt H, et al. Therapy of active Crohn disease with Boswellia serrata extract H 15. Gastroenterol. 2001 Jan;39(1):11-7.