A bowl of boswellia resin, also known as frankincense

What can you do for the aches and stiffness of arthritis? Nearly all of the pain relievers that people may use have significant drawbacks if they are taken daily. That is no doubt why so many people have sought out herbal medicines or home remedies that may help ease the pain and inflammation. We were impressed with this report from a pharmacist.

Pharmacist Worries about Taking NSAIDs:

Q. I am a clinical pharmacist and know very well the potential adverse effects of the chronic use of NSAIDs. That is why I have avoided ibuprofen and other such agents.

I saw my primary care provider for a physical in April and asked him about the pain in my hands, wrists, elbows and feet. He tested me for autoimmune diseases (negative) and recommended Tylenol. It didn’t help. My son, who is studying to be a chiropractor, suggested boswellia, an Indian herb.

I am completely amazed! Over a period of three weeks my pains have gradually improved. I am able to do all of my daily activities like mowing the lawn or working in the garden with much less stiffness and pain. I still get sore muscles, but I don’t have that constant achy feeling I had before that wore me out.

I have had very few side effects. Boswellia is a mild diuretic and should be taken with food to avoid stomach irritation. Consider this agent instead of taking Motrin, Advil or Aleve.

The Benefits of an Indian Herb:

A. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can cause bleeding ulcers, high blood pressure, dizziness, ringing in the ears, kidney problems and rash. There is growing concern that NSAIDs also increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes (American Journal of Medicine, July, 2011).

Boswellia is a tree resin that has traditionally been used in India to treat rheumatism, ulcers and skin disorders. Research shows it has anti-inflammatory activity. Reviews of small studies suggest that this Indian herb is potentially useful for treating osteoarthritis in the knee or other joints (Nutrition Journal, Jan. 5, 2016; Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, May 22, 2014). To learn more, visit the Herb Library at peoplespharmacy.com.

Revised 4/21/16

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  1. Corinne
    Florida
    Reply

    Does anyone know of a natural remedy for shingles?

  2. Valerie
    Seattle area, WA
    Reply

    I am an advanced practice registered nurse with ailing joints and suspected fibromyalgia. How do we know that Boswelia does not have the same side effects/adverse effects as NSAIDs? To quote a previous commenter, an acupuncturist: “I would not recommend taking this long term. For long term use, I recommend Bromelain or other anti-inflammatory enzymes. Ginger root or turmeric are also effective anti-inflammatories.” Are studies done or underway to review long term effects of Boswellia, or for that matter, ginger root or turmeric?

  3. Katherine C
    Greensboro
    Reply

    This item on boswellia brings back a memory circa 1997-98 when listening to your radio show. A few days before that Saturday 7:00 a.m. show, I got out of bed and unexpectedly fell to the floor from arthritic pain in my back. Like a blessing, Joe, that Saturday you described boswellia as likely reducing the pain of arthritis. I immediately sought it out and I have never stopped taking it since. I also take turmeric. Yes, I still have some discomfort but I can function and do whatever I want (for an 80 y.o. lady).

  4. Karmel
    Australia
    Reply

    I tried bromelain for 6 weeks but NO relief on my rheumatoid. Then tried boswellia – same no relief. Now trying Cats claw only 2 weeks so far. Also trying Nigella Sativa capsules of oil. It has Omega 3 + 9 oil and is an anti-histmine. I find histamine is involved somewhere in rheumatoid/arthritis….the less histamine the better

  5. Dr Bob
    Reply

    Consumers are at risk for herbal quality control issues. Many herbal purveyors don’t know what they’re doing and retail sources are not always the best value.
    Always look to ethical sources for herbs where a licensed practitioner can be helpful.

  6. Dr Bob
    Reply

    Ultimately, much of this needs to be addressed to the gut microbiome health. Ref: program with Jeffery Bland.

    • dg
      Reply

      I totally agree. This is why I don’t buy herbal remedies.

  7. cpmt
    Reply

    For mild pain cherries, grape seed oil will also help.

  8. Jane W
    Reply

    I was on Mirapex for restless leg syndrome. It caused such problems with cognition that it took 4 months to clear up after I had stopped taking it. I had four infusions of iron in two weeks which helped some but did not end it completely.

  9. Jeanette G.
    Reply

    My husband has restless legs and takes Mirapex for this condition….is there any herb that would help to get off the medication?
    People’s Pharmacy response: We don’t know of any herbs that have been proven effective for restless leg syndrome. We have seen some research suggesting that correcting an iron deficiency, if one exists, can work. Japanese researchers have used a B-vitamin product (not available in the US), apparently with benefit. Some visitors to our website report that magnesium supplements can be quite useful.

    • j.b.
      Reply

      Magnesium has helped me. Just supplementing a couple times a week has cured my mild case. Good luck.

  10. cpmt
    Reply

    to CTS – may be you can try this: 1 CUP FLAXSEED IN A JAR WITH ‘good -bottle or distilled – water’ (preferable not from the sink ) and let it stand for 4 or 5 hrs. in the refrigerator, drink 1 cup of the water just before using the ginger, raw garlic, or boswellia. Turmeric & raw garlic should always be taken with food.

  11. JN
    Reply

    Sounds like wear-and-tear arthritis. I’ve taken glucosamine with MSM for years and it’s eliminated the pain in my feet, hands and joints. Even my knee that would occasionally slip slightly out of its socket is now healed.
    I haven’t had any problems with side effects, but every year or so I stop taking it for a couple of weeks to see what happens. When the pains come back, I start taking it again and they go away.

    • Renee
      Florida
      Reply

      To JN: How much glucosamine with MSM do you take? Do you also take it with chondroitin?

  12. jq
    Reply

    Boswellia also worked for me with wonderful results for joint pain. I researched and found data from many studies including Mayo, etc and found it had rare if any side effects. Wonder why it is not recommended above by Deborah for long term use.

    • Renee
      Florida
      Reply

      What dosage of Boswellia did you find most effective?

    • dg
      Reply

      Maybe I haven’t bought the right one. But, what you suggest has helped you has not helped me. You are blessed.

  13. Sarah
    Reply

    A lot of joint problems and auto-immune problems are caused by gluten or grains. I would try eliminating all grains for a week or so and see what happens. I have also found that acidic drinks like coffee give me all kinds of weird aches and pains.
    You have to get down to the root cause of the problem. Food allergies, overall weak energy and immune system, toxicity and many other things can affect pain.

  14. CTS
    Reply

    I began taking turmeric & ginger because of arthritic fingers. It caused horrible gastritis that cannot be controlled with rinitidine, carafate or aloe + L-glutamine, my reliable back-up medicine.
    I don’t know what to do because it seems like taking bowellia would be quite risky for me. And down the road what are my options for worsening arthritis?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: IT MIGHT BE WORTH TRYING SOME OF THE HOME REMEDIES PEOPLE HAVE FOUND HELPFUL FOR JOINT PAIN. NO DOUBT SOME WON’T WORK, BUT PERHAPS YOU WILL FIND ONE THAT DOES. OTHERWISE, YOU CAN ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT A TOPICAL NSAID. BECAUSE YOU WOULD USE IT ONLY ON YOUR FINGERS, THE TOTAL DOSE WOULD BE LOWER THAN IF YOU WERE TAKING A PILL.

  15. Deborah
    Reply

    I am an acupuncturist. Boswellin is an herb used in Chinese Medicine to move blood stasis. Blood stasis is blood that is static, or stuck in one area. It is used in herbal formulas to relieve pain and inflammation.
    It is called “Ru xiang” in Pin Yin and Frankincense is the common name. It is contraindicated for pregnant women and is cautioned for patients with digestive weakness.
    I would not recommend taking this long term. For long term use, I recommend Bromelain or other anti-inflammatory enzymes. Ginger root or turmeric are also effective anti-inflammatories.

  16. cpmt
    Reply

    ACCORDING TO VITAMIN BIBLE BOOK -Boswellia has anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic properties. its a resin from frankincese from India acts much like NSAIDs without causing stomach upset.. it doesn’t give any other ‘cautions’ but it doesn’t means that there is none… maybe they still don’t know yet?

    • dg
      Reply

      What is “digestive weakness” ????????????????????????

  17. Jenny
    Reply

    Having an allergic reaction to Remicade, my R.A. doctor has me currently on Orencia. I am now on my second dose or loading dose. My pain has not eased much and I am contemplating taking something that is over the counter with the ingredient boswelia or some other joint OTC product with this particular herb in the formula. Is there any known interaction between the drug Orencia and Boswelia?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: NONE HAVE BEEN REPORTED.

  18. ebm
    Reply

    Any good health store or online at Swanson Vitamins.com. Swansons carries most Brand name vitamins and even some toothpastes at 40-50% off. Boswellia often comes in combination formulas with glucosamine etc. and makes those formulas work better.

  19. MCM
    Reply

    Does it help a pinched sciatic nerve?….not sciatica, but just the pinched nerve?
    Myra M.

  20. cpmt
    Reply

    Can I get this herb in a natural-herbs store or..????

  21. Bill B.
    Reply

    Is it possible that bosweillia itself is an NSAID?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: BOSWELLIA DOES HAVE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES, BUT DOES NOT SEEM TO WORK JUST LIKE AN NSAID.

  22. D. Oswalt
    Reply

    I read your article about Boswellia today and, having used it once before, I was reminded of this herb. I know someone who has Hep C and, with that, has difficulty taking certain medications. Do you feel there is any danger in an individual with Hep C taking Boswellia? the friend has swelling in feet, ankles & legs and is on a diuretic but does little to address the swelling.
    Any information will be greatly appreciated.

  23. ALV
    Reply

    Where can you buy boswellia? Is there any place in N.Y.?

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