Updated: Feb 12, 2020
Some traditions believe the stronger the aroma, the more potent the herb. This might explain the power of Boswellia serrata - better known as Frankincense. As soon you smudge the resin of this tree, an energetic clarity arises. In many religious practices, Frankincense has been used for this specific clearing quality. On a more material level, the resin is known for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic actions. It is popularly used and endorsed by both western and eastern medicine.
Dispeller of heat
According to my own experience, Frankincense’s foremost quality is to elevate heating conditions of the body. In Ayurveda, it is considered a pacifying herb for Pitta - a so called cooling plant. In biochemical terms, its boswellic acids prevent the merging of several enzymes, among which is included the enzyme 5-lipoxygenase. Which is one of the enzymes that facilitate the formation of leukotrienes: inflammatory cells. And, yes, Pitta is in charge of this cellular metabolism in our bodies. When our bodily fire increases, our metabolism speeds up, and inflammations can be the result. More heating reducing qualities are in both sciences acknowledged: its antipyretic which means that it reduces fever.
To be more specific about its anti-inflammatory properties, several studies show its specific effect on the large intestine and how it cures inflammation. Although science is insightful, personal experience is even more valuable. In the past, I have used it to overcome Ulcerative Colitis myself, and in the years after, I have successfully treated many clients with it.
Boswellia serrata is recognised as an analgesic in modern medicine. It inhibits certain enzymes responsible for the sensation of pain. Its pain relieving effect can be understood from an ancient perspective, too. According to the ancient Ayurvedic text, ‘Bhavaprakasha’ the herb balances diseases caused by Vata and Kapha. One of Vataja’s side effects is pain. This is because one of the subdosha’s of Vata, Vyana Vayu, controls the nervous system. So any imbalance in Vata changes the nature of the outward spiralling energy of Vyana Vayu. And what happens when a natural energy is blocked? Friction happens and pain is the result. More support for Frankincense’ affinity with the nervous system can be found in a Chinese study. The gum resin regenerated sciatic nerve damage in rats (animal testing is not great but the study is a great evidence of Frankincense’s potential).
In Dravyaguna, we can distinguish several energetic qualities or guna’s of Frankincense. The rasa (taste) of it is characterised by tikta (bitter) and madhura (sweet). These emanate cooling properties to the body. Its Virya is heating and its post digestive effect (after the liver has digested it) is bitter. This results in an interesting mix between cooling and heating properties. In such a way, Boswellia Serrata seems to have an almost tridoshic effect. Only in excess, it can be aggravating for Pitta.
This plant is celebrated worldwide for its energetic, physical and sensorial qualities and one of my favorites. Many scientific studies prove its healing aspect, ancient writings tell of its curative actions, and finally my own personal experiences confirm it as a strong anti-inflammatory. And let us not forget: its magical aroma which is now filling up my room as I write this blog post is why its frequently used in perfumes and to purify spaces.
Article: The Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia of Indian herbs
Article: Monograph Boswellia Serrata
Article: Boswellia Serrata, A Potential Antiinflammatory Agent: An Overview
Article: A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, cross over study to evaluate the analgesic activity of Boswellia serrata in healthy volunteers using mechanical pain model
Book: Bhavaprakasa, by Bhavmisra translated by Prof. K.R. Srikantha Murthy