boswellia improves symptoms of osteoarthritis while helping to reverse the disease

Osteoarthritis of the knee is the most common form of arthritis. The most commonly used drugs not only have potentially serious side effects like GI bleeding, kidney and liver toxicity and cardiovascular disease, they also make the osteoarthritis worse while they kill the pain. A herb known as boswellia may be a really exciting alternative.

What We Already Knew
Boswellia is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb that prevents decreases in cartilage production. A number of studies have shown that boswellia helps osteoarthritis. Almost twenty years ago, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that boswellia significantly improves pain, swelling and motion (Phytomedicine 2003 Jan;10(1):3-7). Five years later, a study showed that boswellia improves pain, stiffness and functional ability. Unlike NSAIDs that inhibit cartilage repair and accelerate cartilage destruction, boswellia reduced an enzyme that degrades cartilage. 

What We Know Now
A new study has added important information. It included 42 people with newly diagnosed or untreated osteoarthritis of the knee. This double-blind study gave each person either a placebo or 169.33mg of boswellia extract twice a day for 120 days. The boswellia extract was standardized for 87.3mg of b-boswellic acids.

The boswellia was impressive. It improved scores on the Western Ontario McMaster Index (WOMAC), which assesses pain, stiffness and physical function, significantly better than the placebo. It was also significantly better than placebo in a six minute walking test, patient’s assessment of pain, doctor’s assessment of pain, and quality of life. Boswellia also reduced markers of inflammation significantly better than placebo.

Importantly, boswellia treated the disease and not just the pain symptoms by actually reversing the osteoarthritis. X-ray imaging showed an increase in the space between the knee joints and a decrease in spurs. Also importantly, and also unlike the drugs, the boswellia was safe with no adverse events.

This important study suggests that boswellia could be an exciting natural treatment for osteoarthritis.

Phytother Res May 2019;33(5):1457-1468

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For much more on treating osteoarthritis naturally, see our book The Family Naturopathic Encyclopedia.

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