Boswellic Acid

Boswellic acid (BA) is an herbal medication traditionally used in the ancient Indian medicine system known as Ayurveda for treating an assortment of conditions such as asthma, colds, coughs, bronchitis, hoarseness, dyspnea and diarrhea.

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Contemporary scientific studies hint that boswellic acid possesses therapeutic potential even in modern day medical practice. Hence, boswellic acid is of great interest to the scientific community and they are working to consolidate the preclinical and clinical findings on boswellic acid.

Precisely speaking, boswellic acids are a chain of pentacyclic terpenoid molecules that are produced by plants belonging to the genus Boswellia. Similar to several other terpenes, boswellic acids are found in the plants' resin and according to an estimate, they comprise 30 percent of the resin in the plant species Boswellia serrata.

Although boswellic acids are the most important constituents of the resin emitted by plants in the genus Boswellia, the hydro or steam distillated frankincense essential oil does not enclose any boswellic acid since these constituents are not only non-volatile, but they are also very big to come over in the process involved in steam distillation. In fact, the frankincense essential oil mainly comprises monoterpene as well as sesquiterpene molecules that are comparatively much lighter and have little amounts of diterpenoid constituents which are the upper limit vis-à-vis the molecular weight.

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For several centuries, people have recognized boswellia as a promising herbal source that can be effectively used to treat inflammatory health conditions. In the ancient times, it was observed by alternative medicine practitioners that elephants that ate Boswellia trees had a long-drawn-out life span in comparison to the elephants that did not consume this tree. Having conceived this observation of the alternative medicine practitioners, medical practitioners produced medicines from Boswellia. In present times, these medicines led to isolating boswellic acid from the resins of Boswellia trees. It is believed that boswellic acid is actually a group of compounds that possess several therapeutic properties that are associated with Boswellia. Boswellic acid is considered to be safe for all provided they do not use it inappropriately or in overdose.

Findings of several studies have suggested that the therapeutic properties possessed by boswellic acid (BA) may be helpful in treating an assortment of chronic ailments, which includes asthma, arthritis, diabetes and cancer.

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Health benefits and uses

Boswellic acid (BA) possesses several therapeutic properties and has a number of uses in modern day medicine. For instance, it has been suggested that use of beta-boswellic acid, acetyl-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) and keto-beta-boswellic acid causes apoptosis of cancer cells, especially in brain tumours and also in cells that have been affected by colon cancer or leukemia.

In addition, acetyl-boswellic acids also demonstrate anti-inflammatory actions as they slow down leukotriene synthesis. This form of boswellic acid slows down the action of enzyme 5-lopoxygenase by means of a non-redox action. In particular, the 3-cetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid attaches in the form of an allosteric partial inhibitor, thereby commencing a change in regioselectiviety of the catalyzed reaction. During clinical trials, scientists have examined the efficiency of boswellic acids in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. However, a study undertaken on mouse models that were clinically induced with colitis revealed that the acid was not as effective. Another study undertaken later revealed that administering low doses of the resin extract from Boswellia serrata tree may possibly have some hepatoprotective effects. Interestingly, a milder dose of the extract showed milder hepatoprotective activity compared to the lower dose of the extract.

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It is also believed that boswellic acids (BA) helps to reduce the symptoms associated with asthma. A small placebo-controlled trial undertaken with Boswellia serrata extract in 1998 for treating asthma, however, showed positive results. Boswellia extracts are available commercially in the form of tablets, capsules and also tincture. However, so far scientists have not been able to develop any dosage guidelines for taking the extract in any form.

Boswellic acid (BA) has been found to endorse the health and wellness of adults who use them. There are numerous health benefits of boswellic acid extracts and some of the recognized health benefits of boswellic acid supplements are described in brief below.

Boswellic acid (BA) may treat joint inflammation

The joints in our body are generally very vulnerable for developing inflammatory conditions. This is mainly owing to their primary functions and structural appearance. In a number of inflammatory conditions that generally occur with age, such as arthritis. According to experts, boswellic acid may be effective for preventing as well as treating arthritis.

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Boswellic acid (BA) may improve structure and functioning

Usually when blood vessels become weak owing to age or other health issues and they tend to lose their elasticity and structure. In such conditions, using boswellic acid supplementation helps to improve the structure as well as the elasticity of the blood vessels. As a result, it is believed that using boswellic acid supplements helps to enhance blood circulation.

Boswellic acid (BA) may help in treating autoimmune disease

As of date there is no specific treatment for autoimmune disease. But findings of some studies suggest that using boswellic acid (BA) supplements may be helpful in treating such conditions. However, this claim is yet to be verified and more detailed researches are needed to ascertain this claim.

As discussed in the beginning of this article, boswellic acid (BA) is a cluster of pentacyclic compounds, which are believed to possess natural anti-carcinogenic properties. Keeping this in perspective, this review emphasizes on the recognized studies having a relation with the anti-carcinogenic potential of boswellic acid that neutralize various forms of cancer. The molecular structure of the principal targets of boswellic acid that is responsible for this compound's strong anti-carcinogenic consequences are also discussed in this review. In general, this review project deals with the bits of evidence that show the possibility of boswellic acid emerging as the right candidate that can be developed properly and considered to be a medicine that will help to cure various types of cancer.

It is known that boswellic acids have the ability to inhibit many vital cytochrome P450 metabolizing enzymes, which includes CYP3A4 and CYP2D6. However, it is still not known to what extent the inhibition effect of P450 may affect the metabolizing of other drugs and substances. This kind of inhibition can be positive or harmful for other therapies. In one particular study, it was found that inhibiting effect of boswellic acids was "moderate to potent" vis-à-vis many P450 enzymes. Nevertheless, it was found that boswellic acids were not the main inhibitory component of the whole extract from the resins of Boswellia serrata tree. In the past, it was known that boswellia lacked contraindications (a condition or factor that is a reason to hold back a certain medical treatment owing to the harm that it may cause the patient) with other substances. In fact, it seems to be a harmless adjuvant substance (pharmacological agent that enhances the immune response). Nevertheless, more in-depth studies are necessary in this area.

In vitro, it has been seen that boswellic acids along with a keto group inhibit P-glycoprotein or Pgp. Nonetheless, probably such inhibition does not slow down through the blood-brain barrier of various other Pgp substrates. Now, it needs to be examined whether boswellic acids have any drug interaction in the stomach (at the gastrointestinal (GI) level).

Cancer patients may derive another benefit by taking boswellic acid supplements. It may help to keep diarrhea under control. In vivo in rats, it has been seen that extracts of resins from Boswellia serrata tree have inhibited intestinal motility in health animals - in the small as well as the large intestines. The mechanism responsible for this effect may primarily be due to 3-acetyl-11-beta-boswellic acid, which is also known as AKBA. It is interesting to note that two particular calcium-channel blockers - nifedipine and verapamil - may slow down this outcome.

Since long it has been believed that boswellic acids are the primary bioactive constituent of frankincense essential oil. Several studies undertaken in vitro as well as in animals, in addition to many clinical studies have corroborated the various bioactive activities of boswellic acids. Specially, several mechanistic studies with boswellic acids have also corroborated their anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory activities. Nevertheless, boswellic acids do not show acceptable pharmacological activities. The pharmacological performance of boswellic acids is subject to the chemical structure as well as the functional groups of these pentacyclic compounds. The pharmacological values of boswellic acids (BAs) can be improved by specifically applying derivatization with the aim to find out the more active derivatives of boswellic acids.

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