We’re staying with a Christmas theme this week; Boswellia is also called frankincense. A plethora of joint supplement ingredients are available for horses, from herbs to nutraceuticals to fish oils. Boswellia is a remedy that was commonly used in ancient times for its anti-arthritic properties and anti-inflammatory activity, and has come into use again recently.

Boswellia is the name of the gum that is extracted from the Boswellia serrata tree, and it’s this part that has therapeutic qualities. It was traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine. In the last 20 years, Boswellia has been the subject of research into its use for various conditions including colitis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, and osteoarthritis. The author of a systematic review of research to 2008, published in the British Medical Journal, concluded that the ‘evidence for effectiveness of Boswellia is encouraging’. More research is necessary to confirm its therapeutic qualities, as is the case for most herbs and traditional remedies.

Boswellia is believed to be effective due to its content of boswellic acids, which inhibit inflammatory mediators, thus interrupting the cascade of inflammation that is involved in many diseases. The biochemistry of these boswellic acids and how they affect the inflammatory process has been studied and described in detail. A benefit of Boswellia for joint disease is that, unlike some therapeutic drugs when used long-term, it does not have a destructive effect on the joint cartilage. Its action makes Boswellia a useful choice for all chronic inflammatory conditions, including of the gut and the skin. Toxicity studies have shown that Boswellia is safe at much higher doses than used therapeutically.

Boswellia is a useful remedy for horses with any chronic inflammatory condition, including in the joints, the gut, the skin, or the respiratory system. It has great potential as a joint supplement ingredient because it has anti-inflammatory properties without the cartilage-damaging side effects that occur with many anti-inflammatory drugs. Researchers investigating the effects of oral Boswellia extract on people with osteoarthritis of the knee found that the synovial fluid from the knee joints of those who had taken Boswellia had much lower levels of a cartilage degrading enzyme than those who had not taken Boswellia (the control group). Another benefit is its gentle effect on the gut, unlike nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the herb devil’s claw. Boswellia could either be fed on its own for joint support, or along with other joint remedies such as glucosamine.

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About Clare MacLeod

Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr is one of the UK’s few registered independent equine nutritionists who also has expertise in health and fitness. She advises private and commercial clients in all sectors of the horse world and is a hands-on horse owner herself. Clare is passionate about correct nutrition as a foundation for good health, without which peak fitness is not possible. She states “Good nutrition isn’t everything, but there’s nothing without it”.