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Calm inflammation and relieve pain without side effects Inflammation, the hallmark of arthritis and other conditions, is tricky to treat.

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Most doctors prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can have harmful side effects. Boswellia serrata is an herbal anti-inflammatory that may offer a safer solution. The herb has a long tradition of use in ayurvedic medicine, and in the past few decades, studies have shown that it reduces inflammation and can relieve joint pain and stiffness, as well as improve inflammatory bowel diseases and, in some cases, asthma.

Relieving Arthritis

Test-tube, animal, and human trials have shown boswellia’s anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps prevent deterioration of arthritic joints by reducing the degradation of glycosaminoglycans, substances found in cartilage, joint fluid, and connective tissue. In contrast, NSAIDs disrupt these substances and contribute to joint damage. Researchers have also found that boswellia extracts reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness, and improve joint function:

  • One study of 75 people with osteoarthritis, published in Arthritis Research & Therapy, tested a boswellia extract (5-Loxin) against a placebo for 90 days. A 250-mg daily dose of the extract reduced pain and improved joint function in as little as seven days.
  • Two other studies, published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, compared another proprietary extract (Aflapin) with a placebo among people with osteoarthritis. People taking the extract experienced significant relief from pain and better joint function in as little as 5-7 days. Test-tube studies indicated that this extract also helps protect against cartilage degradation.

Autoimmune Diseases

In addition to fighting inflammation, boswellia also calms autoimmune reactions-when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. Through the combination of calming this reaction and reducing inflammation, the herb may help relieve rheumatoid arthritis, bronchial asthma, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

How to Use Boswellia

Always take boswellia extracts with food to avoid possible stomach upset.

5-Loxin or Aflapin: Many supplements contain 5-Loxin or Aflapin as ingredients. Take 100 mg daily of either extract. For faster relief, take 250 mg daily of 5-Loxin.

Other Boswellia Extracts: Most studies have used 300-400 mg, three times daily. However, since the strength of individual extracts varies, follow product directions or the advice of a health professional who uses herbal treatments.

Dr. Venessa’s Formulas
Inflama-Flexx boswellia with several other anti-inflammatories to keep joints moving.

Terry Naturally
Healthy Knees & Joints by EuroPharma features 70% organic boswellic acids along with curcumin and vitamin D3.

Rainbow Light
Herbal Prescriptives TheraMend COX-2 Flex boasts a standardized extract of boswellia, shown ease pain and stiffness fast.

Eye on NSAIDs
Commonly used as pain relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) cause more than 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths per year, mostly due to stomach bleeding. A few you may know:

Over-the-counter: Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve).
Prescription: Celebrex (side effects include increased risk for heart attack and stroke), Indocin, Lodine, Naprosyn, Relafen, Vimovo, and Voltaren.

Steven Rosenblatt, MD, PhD, LAc ( is an integrative physician in private practice in Los Angeles and a leading pioneer in combining Eastern and Western medicine.