incense and inflammation

Incense – a natural anti-inflammatory agent

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Incense has a strong anti-inflammatory effect and therefore could help with many chronic inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis and psoriasis. in the text we will explain how incense is used and what should be taken into account when choosing incense preparations.

Incense is a traditional medicine

Incense is used in religious rites because it is a symbol of purification, worship, prayer and a sign of God’s presence. Incense is also used outside the church. Refreshes and improves the ability to concentrate. Once upon a time, incense was also used to clean the living space – not only in terms of energy, but also against bacteria.

What is less known is that incense has been used in traditional medicine for centuries in many countries. The ancient Romans and Greeks used incense e.g. for wound healing. And in Indian Ayurveda, incense has long been considered a remedy for joint problems.

In 19. century incense was known in Europe for its effect pain relief at the joints, but went into oblivion again. Only in the 80’s did it arouse the interest of modern medicine.

Incense wood resin

Incense is a resin from trees of the genus Bosvellia, of which there are about 20 to 30 species. The incense tree is affected like a dry climate – it grows in the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, India and Pakistan. The following types of incense are the most famous

  • Bosvellia serrata : India and Pakistan
  • Bosvellia sacra: Yemen and Oman
  • Bosvellia carterii: Somalia (sometimes listed as a special species, but sometimes as a synonym for Bosvellia sacra)
  • Bosvellia papirifera: Ethiopia and Eritrea

To obtain incense, the bark of the trees is scratched so that the resin begins to leak. As soon as it comes in contact with oxygen, it begins to dry and drops of resin are formed. They can then be collected. When incense resin is harvested for the first time, it is brown to black in color and consists of small lumps. Further harvesting results in a cleaner and brighter incense resin. The lumps, which are a bit like stone candies, can be up to a few centimeters in size.

incense is used to extract boswellia tree resin, which is available in the form of capsules and tablets as a dietary supplement or medicine.

Health effects of incense

Scientific interest in incense has increased tremendously since the 1980s, so that numerous studies on it have now emerged. Incense resin contains anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antidepressant and analgesic ingredients.

In particular, Indian incense from the Boswellia serrata tree is known for its health effects, so it is already listed as such in the European Pharmacopoeia. But other types of incense also have health effects.

Possible areas of application of incense are, according to the properties of its active ingredients, the following:

  • Chronic inflammatory bowel disease, e.g. ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Joint diseases, e.g. rheumatism, arthritis, osteoarthritis
  • Psoriasis and eczema
  • Asthma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Brain tumors

Active ingredients of incense resin

Various boswellic acids in incense resin are responsible for the positive health effects. AKBA acid (3-O-acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid) is considered to be particularly effective, which is why it is considered the most important ingredient. But KBA acid (11-keto-β-boswellic acid) is also considered effective.

Boswellic acids AKBA and KBA are able to reprogram the inflammatory enzyme (5-lipoxygenase) in the body so that this enzyme then has an anti-inflammatory effect. This makes incense a promising remedy for all kinds of diseases that lead to inflammatory processes in the body.

It has long been assumed that only boswellic acids are responsible for the health properties of incense. However, this is not the case: the substances incensol and incensol acetate have also shown isolated anti-inflammatory effects. Probably the interaction of many other ingredients of incense is what makes it so useful.

In order to make the most of the pharmacological effects of incense resin, an extract was obtained from it, which has already been used in numerous studies.

Incense for joint diseases

The results of incense extract research for osteoarthritis are promising: In several studies, the intake of incense extract from Boswellia serrata has led to reduced joint pain and better joint function in patients with osteoarthritis. Doses of 100 to 400 mg of boswellic acid per day were used for at least four weeks.

According to others. med. Gerhardt, an internal medicine doctor at the University Clinic in Mannheim, should use higher doses for osteoarthritis.

Gerhardt is a gastroenterologist and treats patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Since these diseases were often accompanied by common symptoms, he was able to examine very well the effect of incense in this area.

In the case of joint disease, studies on osteoarthritis have shown the best results. In traditional medicine and empirical medicine, incense is also used for joint pain caused by arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, because it is said to provide relief.

What is less known is that incense has been used in traditional medicine for centuries in many countries. The ancient Romans and Greeks used incense e.g. for wound healing. And in Indian Ayurveda, incense has long been considered a remedy for joint problems.

In 19. For centuries, incense was also known in Europe for its relief of joint pain, but it has been forgotten again. It was not until the 1980s that it aroused the interest of modern medicine.

Incense for inflammatory bowel disease


Chronic inflammatory bowel disease is very common in modern society. Parts of the intestine become inflamed at intervals or continuously. The two most common inflammatory bowel diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Those who become ill often depend on medication for the rest of their lives.

Due to its anti-inflammatory effect, incense extract can also help with intestinal inflammation: In a clinical study, standard drugs with many side effects were supplemented with incense extract and then slowly eliminated within four to six weeks – most subjects then noticed an improvement in their health. conditions.

Two tablets of incense extract of 400 mg were used three times a day in addition to existing drugs (corticoids, mesalazine, azathioprine). As soon as symptoms, such as abdominal pain and cramps, subsided, the pre-medication was reduced by one tablet per week until only incense extract was consumed. This was finally reduced to a single dose, depending on how long the subjects needed to maintain the effect.

In acute attacks, the dose is increased to three tablets of incense extract three times a day. The incense extract was a finished medicinal product.

Incense for psoriasis

Good experiences have also been gained with the treatment of psoriasis. Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease that – just like the above mentioned intestinal diseases – is one of the autoimmune diseases and therefore is not curable from the perspective of conventional medicine.

In a clinical study, a cream with incense extract with 95% AKBA boswellic acid from Bosvellia serrata was tested on patients with psoriasis: 200 subjects applied the cream to the affected areas of the skin three times a day for three months.

A marked reduction in psoriasis can be seen in the pictures before and after. In addition, markers of inflammation in subjects dropped sharply: Tumor necrosis factor (TNF alpha), for example, fell by a full 58 percent and returned to normal after 3 months.

Incense for asthma

Inflammation also plays a role in asthma: the airways of patients are chronically inflamed, so incense extract could be used here.

A small study with 40 tested people was already in 1998. showed that incense extract from Bosvellia serrata can help with asthma. Subjects received 300 mg of the extract three times daily for six weeks. As a result, symptoms improved in 70 percent of respondents.

In a recent study from 2017. years, researchers combined incense extract with bengal quince extract. Bengal quince is also used in Ayurveda, and it is also said to have an anti-inflammatory effect.

18 subjects took 200 mg of the mixture daily for 56 days. Lung function and inflammation values in the subjects improved after only 14 days compared with the control group. The researchers also found that incense and Bengal quince had stronger anti-inflammatory effects than any single agent.

Incense for multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is also an inflammatory, relapsing autoimmune disease in which incense can be used

The SABA study of researchers at the University Hospitals Hamburg-Eppendorf and Charite Berlin showed the following:

28 subjects took incense extract in capsule form (400 mg) several times a day for eight months. At the beginning of the study, the maximum single dose that each individual tolerated was determined. This maximum dose was then taken until the end of eight months (between 2400 and 4800 mg daily in three divided doses).

From the fifth month onwards, magnetic resonance imaging showed, among other things, that incense extract can reduce the activity of inflammatory diseases and the recurrence rate and, accordingly, increase the quality of life of those affected. At that time, 18 subjects voluntarily continued to take the extract for up to 3 years. The effect lasted even then.

Incense for brain tumors

Incense has also shown a beneficial effect on brain tumors. Although it had no effect on the tumor itself, it managed to reduce the swelling of the tissue around the tumor (edema).

This is the result of a study in which 29 patients with a brain tumor took 400 to 1200 mg of incense extract daily. In another study with 44 volunteers, 4,200 mg of incense extract also reduced swelling. Both incense extracts were from Bosvellia serrata.

Tissue swelling creates pressure in the brain, which can often lead to headaches in patients, but also to failure of brain functions. Incense extract could therefore help at least in part in the treatment of brain tumors – in combination with other therapeutic approaches.

There is also evidence that incense extract inhibits the growth of cancer cells – but so far there have been studies only on cells and animals.

Incense as a substitute for cortisone

Since incense has an anti-inflammatory, decongestant effect and relieves pain, similar to cortisone, it is sometimes called natural cortisone. Indeed, there is some evidence that incense could replace cortisone.

Cortisone belongs to a group of active substances called corticoids. In the section on inflammatory bowel disease, we presented a study in which previous medications (including corticoids) were slowly reduced by taking incense. As a result, the condition of the body of most respondents improves. Further studies confirm that the effects of incense are comparable to the effects of cortisone.

Cortisone is usually used in one form or another for all of the above diseases: for asthma in the form of tablets or sprays, for psoriasis as an ointment or cream, for joint diseases as an injection and for multiple sclerosis as an infusion. In brain tumors, cortisone is used to treat edema.

Possible side effects of cortisone have long been known: high blood pressure, osteoporosis, weight gain, symptoms of diabetes, thin skin, etc. Cortisone should therefore be used sparingly and not for too long. Incense, on the other hand, showed almost no side effects.

Incense extract from Bosvellia carterii

Incense extract from Indian incense (Bosvellia serrata) was used in each of the above studies. Studies of incense researchers dr. Charles Fernando, however, managed to show that the concentration of boswellic acids in incense resin from Bosvellia carterii is even higher than in Indian incense, which is known for its health effects. It is possible that the incense extract from Bosvellia carterii is even more effective than the incense extract from Bosvellia serrata.

Buy incense extract

Incense extract is available in the form of dietary supplements and medicines – although in Europe you can only get medicines with incense by detours.

Medicinal products with incense extract

In Europe – with the exception of Switzerland – there are currently no over-the-counter medicines containing incense. Only in Switzerland, incense medicines can be bought without a prescription, because they are approved there as phytopharmaceuticals.

Paradoxically, pharmacies (at least in Germany) are allowed to order incense medicines from abroad on a doctor’s prescription. They often come from India, because there are several ready-made medicines with incense on the market, the effectiveness of which has been tested in studies. Pharmacies are not allowed to have these preparations in stock.

Unfortunately, there are many suppliers on the Internet who sell their dietary supplements under similar names, so it is easy to confuse them with the right drugs. If you want to be treated with incense, you need to get a prescription to get medicine.

Incense extract from the pharmacy

Incense extracts, on the other hand, are available without a prescription. It should be a standardized incense extract in accordance with the requirements of the European Pharmacopoeia.

Standardized means that these extracts contain a certain content of incense. This distinguishes them from dietary supplements with incense extract, because they do not have to be standardized.

Creams with incense extract

Creams and gels with incense extract can help with joint problems. There are also creams that are also suitable for use with skin problems such as psoriasis or neurodermatitis. Most manufacturers recommend applying the product to the affected areas of the body one to three times a day and gently massaging them.

When buying, pay attention to what the cream can be used for. If no area of application is specified, it can be a purely cosmetic product that contains, for example, incense only for odors or for marketing purposes.

Food supplement with incense

Dietary supplements with incense extract can be purchased without a prescription. They are mostly offered in the form of capsules and, unlike incense extracts from pharmacies, they are not standardized. This means that it is not regulated how extracts are produced.

Incense extract is considered safe, and the side effects are much smaller than the side effects of some approved drugs. Whether dietary supplements with incense extract help in individual complaints varies.

What to look for when buying dietary supplements

When buying dietary supplements with incense extract, the following factors can give you an idea of choosing incense preparations.

What kind of incense is the extract made from? Most of the extracts come from Bosvellia serrata – that’s what most studies have done. However, there are also extracts from Bosvellia carterii. This species may also contain higher concentrations of boswellic acids.

How much incense extract does the preparation contain? Most preparations contain between 300 and 500 mg of incense extract per capsule. These amounts are comparable to the doses tested in the studies. (However, the studies mainly examined standardized incense preparations – food supplements, on the other hand, were not standardized. This means that the boswellic acid content may vary from preparation to preparation.

How much boswellic acid does incense extract contain? Most of the time these data are given in percentages, e.g. B. “with 80% boswellic acids”. The more boswellic acid there is in the extract, the better. However, these data should be carefully checked, because they are not always given in relation to the total amount of extract. the preparation should also state which boswellic acid it contains and, ideally, how much acid it contains.

With or without micellar technology? Because incense has low bioavailability, capsules with so-called micellar incense can be purchased. Boswellic acids are surrounded by fat- and water-soluble particles, so that the active ingredients enter the blood better. A study in rats showed that the bioavailability of these capsules is over 50 times higher than that in capsules without micellar technology. However, micelle preparations often contain additives such as polysorbate 20. It is also said that this emulsifier increases the absorption of fat-soluble pollutants, which is why long-term use is not recommended. Mycelium-free preparations usually do not work until after about four weeks. As far as we know, it has not yet been investigated whether preparations with micelles act faster due to their higher bioavailability. So, at the moment, that cannot be determined

Incense-containing dietary supplements usually do not contain dyes or sweeteners, but sometimes release agents or fillers. Therefore, pay attention to the ingredients on the label.

Proper consumption of incense

Depending on the manufacturer, depending on the proportion of the extract and the amount of boswellic acid contained, the amount of consumption is determined. In the vast majority of cases, the recommendation for consumption is on the preparation.

Boswellic acids are fat-soluble – incense capsules should be taken with or shortly after a meal, as this enormously increases bioavailability. Side effects, such as stomach upsets, can also be alleviated by taking it with food.

If you suffer from chronic diseases, it would be ideal to tell your doctor to take incense extract. In this way, incense can be optimally integrated into the treatment, and the dosage can be adjusted to your needs.

When does incense take effect?

Studies have shown that the extract takes effect only after approximately four weeks of regular use.

Side effects and interactions of incense extract

When incense extract is taken – either as a finished medicine or as a dietary supplement – it can rarely lead to skin redness and stomach intolerance. Incense extract has no toxic effects up to the tested doses of 1000 mg per kilogram of body weight. No damage reported after prolonged use.

However, drug interactions cannot be ruled out. In particular, if you are taking blood thinners, avoid using incense extract as this could reduce the effectiveness of the blood thinner.

Incense extract as a natural anti-inflammatory agent

Incense extract can be used as a natural anti-inflammatory for many diseases. It rarely leads to side effects and has already helped many people who would otherwise have to rely on drugs with many side effects for the rest of their lives.

We hope that the scientific interest in incense will continue, so that the natural anti-inflammatory agent will be increasingly included in the treatment of the disease in the future.



Jovan Subotin

Nutricionista sa 8 godina iskustva u pravljenju programa dijetetski suplemenata. dijeta i nutrcionističkih programa za čišćenje organizma, programa ishrane.

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