Inflammation is a natural process the body uses to fight off foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. However, it also accompanies some diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and other joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis and gout. Injuries such as sprains or ligament tears may also trigger inflammation in the vicinity of the injury. Boswellia and curcumin are two natural plant products that may help relieve pain caused by inflammation. Consult your doctor to determine if adding these herbs to your regimen is appropriate for you.
When a joint or other body part becomes inflamed, immune cells release natural chemicals that cause increased blood flow, producing redness and heat in the skin. Swelling also develops and nerves may become irritated, causing localized pain. Joints sometimes become stiff and you may experience difficulty moving that part of your body. Muscles associated with the joint may also be affected, resulting in discomfort over a larger area.
Boswellia, also called Indian frankincense, is used in traditional Indian medicine, or Ayurveda, to treat arthritis and other disorders. Its active ingredient, boswellic acid, inhibits an enzyme involved in inflammation. It may also suppress production by immune cells of natural chemicals that cause inflammatory changes. In a paper published in 2006 in "The Indian Journal of Pharmacology," Dr. S. Sontakke and colleagues reported on a controlled trial of 66 patients in which boswellia extract relieved pain of inflammatory osteoarthritis.
Curcumin is the biologically active ingredient in turmeric, a spice used in Chinese and Indian traditional medicine to combat arthritis. Like boswellia, curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties, acting to inhibit inflammatory chemicals produced by immune cells. Curcumin is also an antioxidant, removing free radicals from the body. These chemicals are natural by-products of metabolism that may damage DNA and harm cell membranes. A study published in 2006 by Dr. S. Lev-Ari and colleagues in "Rheumatology" described curcumin as beneficial for patients with osteoarthritis. It enhanced the positive effect of prescription drugs.
Both boswellia and curcumin extract are considered safe herbal remedies and both are available in capsule form from health food stores. The usual dosage of either curcumin or boswellia is 400 to 600mg, three times daily. Boswellia has no known side effects, but turmeric or curcumin extract may have blood-thinning activity. In addition, some people might develop an allergy to either herb. Consult your doctor to determine if these herbal preparations are appropriate for you.
Is This an Emergency?
- Cleveland Clinic: Inflammation: What You Need to Know
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Boswellia
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Turmeric
- PubMed.gov: "Curcumin synergistically potentiates the growth-inhibitory and pro-apoptotic effects of celecoxib in osteoarthritis synovial adherent cells," Lev-Ari, S. et al. "Rheumatology," February, 2006.
- Arthritis Today: Supplement Guide: Boswellia
- "Open, Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial of Boswellia Serrata Extract as Compared to Valdecoxib in Osteoarthritis of Knee," Sontakke, S. et al., "Indian Journal of Phamacology," 2006.
- Arthritis Today: Supplement Guide: Indian Frankincense