How To Take Boswellia Serrata
Boswellia serrata is an ancient herb used in traditional medicine for arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Its ability to relieve inflammation-related pain and symptoms is well-documented in medical studies. Read on to learn how to take Boswellia serrata, the dosages for different medical conditions, and the necessary precautions to keep in mind.
Different types of Boswellia serrata supplement
When we talk about “how to take boswellia”, it all depends on which boswellia supplement you are taking.
There are 3 main types of Boswellia supplements:
- Supplements with dried Boswellia gum resin
- Boswellia extracts, standardized to a high percentage of boswellic acids
- Boswellia extracts that are high in AKBA, the most important boswellic acid
The main difference between these supplements is how potent there are.
Supplements with dried Boswellia gum resin are the least potent as they contain little amounts of the active ingredients in Boswellia.
Next in potency are standardized Boswellia extracts. These extracts contain a certain percentage of boswellic acids, which are the active ingredients in Boswellia resin. Typically, the extracts have somewhere between 30% and 65% of Boswellic acids. The higher the percentage, the more potent is the supplement.
Finally, there are special, patented formulations that are high in AKBA – which is the most important and beneficial type of boswellic acid.
>>> Read more on how to choose the right Boswellia supplement.
Avoid taking Boswellia serrata supplement during pregnancy because it can trigger bleeding, cause birth defects, and induce miscarriage.
Boswellia serrata dosage
General dosage recommendations for Boswellia
There are no general guidelines for Boswellia dosage. The dosages that we represent below are taken from manufacturers’ suggested use and studies made on Boswellia and various medical conditions.
Dosage for supplement that contain Boswellia gum resin (so-called whole herb supplements)
Typical dosage is 800 mg, taken twice or three times per day.
Dosage for standardized Boswellia serrata extracts
Standardized supplements usually contain 60-65% standardized boswellic acids. For these, the recommended dosage ranges from 300-500mg taken thrice a day. They are typically used for alleviating inflammatory symptoms and pain.
Dosage for AKBA-enriched solutions
These are patented technologies that are generally more powerful due to higher concentration of AKBA. They contain 10-30% of AKBA as opposed to 1-3% in normal standardized extracts.
Supplements with 20 to 30% AKBA can be taken in much lower dosage – 100mg to 300 mg taken once per day.
For products with 10% AKBA, the suggested dosage is up to 500mg taken once or twice daily.
Boswellia serrata dosages for specific medical conditions
For best results, go for special Boswellia serrata formulations with 20-30% AKBA. You’ll only need 100-300mg a day.
If you’re taking regular standardized extracts with 60-65% boswellic acids, raise the dosage to 300-400mg three times daily.
For rheumatoid arthritis
AKBA-concentrated formulations are believed to be more effective than normal standardized extracts at just 100-300mg per day dosage.
For bronchial asthma
German study has shown that taking 3 capsules of Boswellia resin daily (each with 300mg of gum resin) eased the symptoms of bronchial asthma (3).
For ulcerative colitis
The results have shown that Boswellia is more successful than the drug sulfasalazine in treating ulcerative colitis and triggers remission of the disease in larger percentage of patients.
For Crohn’s disease
400mg of standardized Boswellia serrata extracts taken thrice daily is clinically proven effective and well-tolerated in Crohn’s disease patients (6).
One study shows that a total of 900mg Boswellia serrata gum resin taken daily for 6 weeks increased levels of blood HDL, lowered cholesterol, LDL, fructosamine, and other blood parameters in type 2 diabetes patients (7).
Studies on cerebral edema and glioma have used a total daily intake of 3,600-4,200mg of standardized Boswellia serrata extracts.
Clinical trials on Boswellia treatment for cancer
- Patients receiving irradiation of the brain for primary brain tumors or brain metastases of solid tumors were administered 4,200mg a day of Boswellia serrata extracts during radiotherapy. 60% of patients had more than 75% decrease in the edema by the end of the treatment (8) (9).
- A study on glioma patients who took 3,600mg a day for 7 days prior to surgery ended up with greatly reduced perifocal edema plus improvement in clinical symptoms. Those who took 2,400mg per day had a lower degree of perifocal edema reduction (10) (11).
- In a smaller trial with 12 patients with brain tumors and progressive cerebral edema, 3 of the 7 people with glioblastoma and tumor progression plus 3 of the 5 patients with radiochemotherapy-related leukoencephalopathy had reduced edema after taking 3,600mg daily for 12 weeks. All leukoencephalopathy patients also reported a clinical improvement (12).
- A 39-year-old woman with symptomatic multiple brain metastases of a mammacarcinoma took 2,400mg per day of standardized Boswellia serrata for 10 weeks. At the same time, she began receiving brain radiation therapy and capecitabine chemotherapy. Her brain metastases were no longer visible in the CT scan by the treatment's conclusion (13).
When and how to take Boswellia serrata supplement
Most Boswellia extracts are packaged in capsule or softgel form. Take your supplement with a glass of water after having a high fat meal. Boswellia is fat-soluble so it will be better absorbed this way (14).
Boswellia serrata for colon conditions
If using Boswellia serrata for inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), it is thought to be best to take the supplement before meals.
Recommended time of day to take Boswellia serrata supplement
AKBA-rich Boswellia serrata supplements like ApresFlex and 5-LOXIN can be taken during the first meal of the day.
For the less potent standardized extracts, take one capsule every 8 hours. This is how long the substance stays in the body after taken orally (15).
Boswellia side effects and safety
- Acid reflux
- Skin rash
- Allergic reactions—if you experience symptoms like chest pain, difficulty in breathing, swelling in different areas of the body, stop taking Boswellia serrata. Consult your doctor to make sure you don't have allergic reactions to the herb.
There has been one case of a woman who ended up with a bezoar, a solid mass of indigestible material that builds up in the digestive tract (19). However, it has been speculated that her celiac disease might have been the culprit behind this complication and not Boswellia serrata.
How can you minimize the side effects of Boswellia serrata?
There is no definite way to avoid side effects. However, it has been suggested that if Boswellia serrata causes you to suffer from heartburn, taking esomeprazole (Nexium) alongside it might help.
Boswellia serrata and long-term supplementation
Majority of studies on Boswellia lasted somewhere between 2-12 weeks. However, there have been a few studies that lasted 6, 9, and even 12 months.
People who shouldn’t take Boswellia supplements
Pregnant and breastfeeding women
Boswellia serrata can induce menstruation, birth-related problems and even miscarriage. If you are pregnant, lactating or planning to have a baby, stay away from Boswellia serrata.
Patients with liver failure
Those who are suffering from liver failure are at greater risk of the side effects because the damaged liver will not be able to process Boswellia serrata properly. This might result in higher levels of Boswellia in blood and increased side effects.
Patients with stomach ulcer or GERD
Steer clear of Boswellia serrata if you have stomach ulcer or GERD as it might worsen your symptoms.
Patients with degenerative lung disease
Boswellia serrata can potentially cause more harm to your lung tissues. Further investigation is needed to confirm this.
Boswellia serrata's safety in children is not well-researched. It is best if you don't give this herb and its extracts to children.
Boswellia serrata: interactions with food, drugs or medications
Blood sugar medications
Boswellia serrata has been found to stabilize blood sugar levels. If you are taking medications for blood glucose regulation, don't take Boswellia serrata extracts as your blood sugar might fall to low.
Other pain relievers (ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen)
Refrain from taking Boswellia supplements with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) of similar purpose. The combination could cause damage to the liver.
Taking Boswellia serrata with warfarin, a medication that inhibits blood clotting, can trigger excessive bleeding (22).
Boswellia serrata may also increase the effects of:
- Anti-cancer medications
- Asthma medications like Singulair
- Glucosamine or chondroitin (supplements for joint health)
- Garlic and red yeast (allergic reaction)
- Soeken K. L., Miller S.A, Ernst A. Herbal medicines for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review. May 2003. https://academic.oup.com/rheumatology/article/42/5/652/1784589
- Etzel R. Special extract of BOSWELLIA serrata (H 15) in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. November 2011. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711396800195?via%3Dihub
- Gupta I., Gupta V., Parihar A., Gupta S., Lüdtke R., Safayhi H., Ammon H.P. Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical study. November 1998. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9810030
- Gupta I., Parihar A., Malhotra P., Singh G.B., Lüdtke R., Safayhi H., Ammon H.P. Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with ulcerative colitis. January 1997. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9049593
- Gupta I., Parihar A., Malhotra P., Gupta S., Lüdtke R., Safayhi H., Ammon H.P. Effects of gum resin of Boswellia serrata in patients with chronic colitis. July 2001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11488449/
- Gerhardt H., Seifert F., Buvari P., Vogelsang H., Repges R. [Therapy of active Crohn disease with Boswellia serrata extract H 15]. January 2001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11215357
- Ahangarpour A., Heidari H., Fatemeh R. A. A., Pakmehr M., Shahbazian H., Ahmadi I., Mombeini Z., and Mehrangiz B.H. Effect of Boswellia serrata supplementation on blood lipid, hepatic enzymes and fructosamine levels in type2 diabetic patients. February 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3929136/
- Kirste S., Treier M., Wehrle S.J., Becker G., Abdel-Tawab M., Gerbeth K., Hug M.J., Lubrich B., Grosu A.L., Momm F. Boswellia serrata acts on cerebral edema in patients irradiated for brain tumors: a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind pilot trial. August 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21287538
- Kirste, S. Antiödematöse Wirkung von Boswellia serrata auf das Strahlentherapie-assoziierte Hirnödem. January 2009. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/48546773_Antiodematose_Wirkung_von_Boswellia_serrata_auf_das_Strahlentherapie-assoziierte_Hirnodem
- Heldt R.M., Winking M., Simmet Th. Cysteinyl-leukotrienes as potential mediators of the peritumoral brain oedema in astrocytoma patients. 1996. http://www.boswellia.org/blog/klinische-studien/tumore/?lang=en
- Böker, D. K., Winking, M. Die Rolle von Boswellia-Säuren in der Therapie maligner Gliome. 1997. https://www.aerzteblatt.de/archiv/6223/Die-Rolle-von-Boswellia-Saeuren-in-der-Therapie-maligner-Gliome
- Streffer J.R., Bitzer M., Schabet M., Dichgans J., Weller M. Response of radiochemotherapy-associated cerebral edema to a phytotherapeutic agent, H15. May 2001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11342692
- Flavin, D.F. A lipoxygenase inhibitor in breast cancer brain metastases. March 2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17001517
- Sterk V., Büchele B., Simmet T. Effect of food intake on the bioavailability of boswellic acids from a herbal preparation in healthy volunteers. December 2004. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15643550
- Robinson N. G. 16 - Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Cancer: The Good, the Bad, and the Dangerous. Withrow and MacEwen's Small Animal Clinical Oncology (Fifth Edition). 2013. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9781437723625000165
- Kimmatkar N., Thawani V., Hingorani L., Khiyani R. Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee--a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. January 2003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12622457/
- Anthoni C., Laukoetter M.G., Rijcken E., Vowinkel T., Mennigen R., Müller S., Senninger N., Russell J., Jauch J., Bergmann J., Granger D.N., Krieglstein C.F. Mechanisms underlying the anti-inflammatory actions of boswellic acid derivatives in experimental colitis. June 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16423918/
- Ernst E.1, Pittler M.H., Wider B., Boddy K. Complementary therapies for back pain: is the evidence getting stronger? May 2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16941201/
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- Lampl C., Haider B., and Schweiger C. Long-term efficacy of Boswellia serrata in 4 patients with chronic cluster headache. February 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3620238/
- Holtmeier W., Zeuzem S., Preiss J., Kruis W., Böhm S., Maaser C., Raedler A., Schmidt C., Schnitker J., Schwarz J., Zeitz M., Caspary W. Randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of Boswellia serrata in maintaining remission of Crohn's disease: good safety profile but lack of efficacy. February 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20848527
- Paoletti A., Gallo E., Benemei S.,1 Vietri M. Lapi F.,Volpi R., Menniti-Ippolito F., Gori L., Mugelli A., Firenzuoli F., Vannacci A. Interactions between Natural Health Products and Oral Anticoagulants: Spontaneous Reports in the Italian Surveillance System of Natural Health Products. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2011/612150/