A gift for ovaries

Frankincense is the resin derived from various species of the Boswellia tree, a small deciduous tree that is native to large portions of Africa. Cutting the Boswellia’s bark produces the frankincense resin which has a strong and sweet smell. Due to its scent, frankincense is burnt as incense in churches and mosques as well as used by the perfume industry. In herbal medicine the sap of Boswellia serrata is used as an anti-inflammatory to treat conditions like arthritis. Now research is discovering that this herb may also have uses in cancer.

In recent years research on Boswellia (frankincense) has centred around a chemical called acetyl-11-keto-boswellic acid (AKBA). Research on AKBA has centred previously on breast, colon, and prostate cancer but this latest study has focussed on ovarian cancer.

In the experiments researchers used AKBA on late stage ovarian cancer cells some of which were resistant to chemotherapy. Not only did AKBA kill ovarian cancer cells it also made previously resistant cells more sensitive to chemotherapy. This is promising news but it does need to be taken with a note of caution.

While Boswellia is a very safe herb, unfortunately, its popularity could be spelling its end.
In a paper in the journal Applied Ecology Dutch researchers have reported monitoring two thirteen hectare plots of Boswellia, some of which were tapped for resin and others which were not. Over two years they monitored survival, growth, and seed production of more than 6000 trees. As a result they collected data allowing them to build statistical models predicting what could happen to the world’s Boswellia trees.

Their findings suggest that Boswellia populations are declining so dramatically that within 50 years there will only be one tenth of the current number of Boswellia trees still surviving. The research also suggests that it is not just tapping for resin that is the problem but that burning, grazing, and attack by the long-horn beetle are causing problems as well.

If we wish to continue to harvest the healing benefits of Boswellia we need to employ a little sensible ecological management as well.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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