Boswellia Partners Well with Conventional Cancer Treatment

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) has been shown to be effective for a number of health conditions, including tumor reduction in scientific studies. One of the ways boswellia stops cancer is by denying cancer cells the ability to feed themselves. Like any tissues in the body, cancer cells rely on blood vessels in order to get the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

But boswellia has been shown to stop the process of angiogenesis—the formation of blood vessels—to tumor cells. This makes the botanical especially appealing for its potential to stop cancers from developing, or at least from spreading if they do spring up.

Additionally, boswellia may be an effective adjunct therapy for conventional practice. A randomized, placebo controlled pilot trial in Germany found that boswellia serrata extract reduced cerebral edema—swelling around the brain—brought on by radiation treatment for brain tumors. Those in the boswellia group saw edema reduction by 60 percent.

This is incredibly important, because the inflammation and potential damage of edema is a major risk for patients undergoing radiation treatment. The standard practice is to recommend steroid anti-inflammatories, which can cause their own set of complications, including a suppressed immune system and cognitive changes.

While the authors report success according to MRI screenings, they also would like to see further studies done in the future. Nonetheless, this clinical work shows just some of the wide potential for boswellia in cancer treatment.


Kirste S, Treier M, Wehrle SJ, et al. Boswellia serrata acts on cerebral edema in patients irradiated for brain tumors: a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind pilot trial. Cancer. 2011 Aug 15;117(16):3788-95.

BACKGROUND: Patients irradiated for brain tumors often suffer from cerebral edema and are usually treated with dexamethasone, which has various side effects. To investigate the activity of Boswellia serrata (BS) in radiotherapy-related edema, we conducted a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, pilot trial.

METHODS: Forty-four patients with primary or secondary malignant cerebral tumors were randomly assigned to radiotherapy plus either BS 4200 mg/day or placebo. The volume of cerebral edema in the T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequence was analyzed as a primary endpoint. Secondary endpoints were toxicity, cognitive function, quality of life, and the need for antiedematous (dexamethasone) medication. Blood samples were taken to analyze the serum concentration of boswellic acids (AKBA and KBA).

RESULTS: Compared with baseline and if measured immediately after the end of radiotherapy and BS/placebo treatment, a reduction of cerebral edema of >75% was found in 60% of patients receiving BS and in 26% of patients receiving placebo (P = .023). These findings may be based on an additional antitumor effect. There were no severe adverse events in either group. In the BS group, 6 patients reported minor gastrointestinal discomfort. BS did not have a significant impact on quality of life or cognitive function. The dexamethasone dose during radiotherapy in both groups was not statistically different. Boswellic acids could be detected in patients’ serum.

CONCLUSIONS: BS significantly reduced cerebral edema measured by MRI in the study population. BS could potentially be steroid-sparing for patients receiving brain irradiation. Our findings will need to be further validated in larger studies.

To read the full article, click here: Boswellia serrata acts on cerebral edema in patients irradiated for brain tumors