Ask the Pharmacist: Breathe easier and control pain with frankincense

Suzy Cohen
Piles of frankincense and myrrh with gold jewelry.

Frankincense is popular around Christmastime and the resin and oil have been used for ages.

Frankincense resin is extracted out of trees that belong to the genus Boswellia, and that is why you see “Boswellia” on the ingredient list of dietary supplements, essential oils and other commercial products. Like curcumin, the boswellia-derived formulas are extraordinarily popular today, especially to treat joint pain, cancer, asthma and infections. 

This sticky sap that’s extracted from the tree dries out and is found in supplements galore. It offers more benefits than first meets the eye. There are many species of boswellia by the way, the most common one in the states is Boswellia serrata.

Clinical trials show that “boswellic acids” from boswellia have anti-inflammatory properties so powerful that they rival non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). A crucial difference is that the medications have the ability to produce uncomfortable side effects like gastric ulceration and heartburn, but boswellia does not.

Here are 4 compelling reasons to consider adding  frankincense to your health regimen in some way, shape or form. It’s kind of amazing:

1. It reduces pain

Because it acts as a potent anti-inflammatory agent, it is a powerful painkiller for many physical conditions. There are many scientific papers supporting the use of boswellia for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as knee pain, back pain and more.

2. It eases asthma symptoms

Boswellia extract is excellent at reducing leukotrienes, a class of compounds in your body that trigger annoying allergies and terrifying bronchospasm. It mitigates asthma symptoms by keeping your airways open and reducing your immune reaction to environmental allergens.

3. It relieves gastrointestinal discomfort

For those with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, numerous studies are clear and profound! Boswellia absolutely provides soothing relief and reduces flare-ups, pain and possibly even progression of GI conditions. Remember, it’s a very strong natural anti-inflammatory and it pacifies your immune system. 

4. Restricts the growth of cancer cells

The natural boswellic acids from frankincense make it practical for slowing down the growth of cancer cells that invade the brain, breast, pancreas and blood (as in leukemia). Furthermore, acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) found in boswellia, has been shown to slow down the progression of multiple myeloma. 

Now that you understand the health benefits of this versatile plant, how can you integrate it into your life? It’s pretty easy, you can do what I do. I have the essential oil (Boswellia frereana) and I just put it into my diffuser during the day or sometimes just inhale it from my hands. You can put it in your bath, and some high-quality essential oils can be taken internally (depending on the brand). 

You can also take boswellia as a dietary supplement at any health food stores. It’s found  all by itself in stand-alone products, as well as in multi-tasking formulas that relieve joint pain. And finally, you can burn frankincense resin as incense, like wise men and women have done for ages during important ceremonies and celebrations. 

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat,cure or diagnose any condition. visit