The resin from the trunk of Boswellia
trees contains anti-inflammatory substances, say scientists. The chair
Pharmaceutical and Medical Chemistry is convinced that these substances
can be very beneficial in therapies against diseases like asthma,
rheumatoid arthritis or atopic dermatitis.
However, so far the active substances in frankincense cannot at
present be found in drugs in German pharmacies, as the pharmacological
impact of frankincense hasn't been thoroughly investigated. "Although
Boswellia resin has been used for thousands of years in the Ayurvedic
medicine for instance, the clinical studies we have so far are not
suffice for a license in Germany and Europe," Professor Werz explains.
But that could change. As part of a mutual project with partners of
the University Saarbrücken and a start-up company, Professor Werz and
his team examined the curative effect of frankincense. In this project
the researchers were able to show where exactly the boswellic acids -
which are responsible for the impact of the ingredients of the Boswellia
resin - actually interfere in the process of inflammation. "Boswellic
acids interact with several different proteins that are part of
inflammatory reactions, but most of all with an enzyme which is
responsible for the synthesis of prostaglandin E2," Oliver Werz points
out. Prostaglandin E2 is one of the mediators of the immune response and
plays a decisive role in the process of inflammation, in the
development of fever and of pain. "Boswellic acids block this enzyme
efficiently and thereby reduce the inflammatory reaction," the Jena
pharmacist explains. With this, not only a targeted use in the therapy
of inflammatory diseases is conceivable. It can also be expected that
boswellic acids have less side effects than today's prevalent
anti-inflammatory treatments like diclofenac or indometacin. Their
impact is less specific, they can increase the risk of stomach ulcers
and can negatively affect renal function.
In their latest study the researchers around Professor Werz
additionally compared the resin of different kinds of frankincense in
its anti-inflammatory impact. There are more than ten Boswellia species
in the world. The most well-known and widely-used one is the Boswellia
serrata from Northern and central India. "We were able to show that the
resin of the Boswellia papyrifera is ten times more potent," Professor
Werz explains a further result of his research. This species mostly
occurs in the Northeast of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia) and on the Arabian
Peninsula (Yemen, Oman).
Whether frankincense will become accepted, is indeed not only due to
the outcome of the clinical examination which is yet to come.
"Boswellic acids exclusively occur in the resin of Boswellia trees and
are very difficult to produce synthetically," Werz points out. Therefore
these trees are the only source of these promising active ingredients.
However Boswellia trees are already an endangered tree species. In many
places they are just being used as heating fuel. "Thereby without
sustained protection not only plant species are endangered but at the
same time medicine loses promising active ingredients," Professor Werz