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Can Frankincense Help Defeat Hepatitis C?

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The compelling rationale behind using frankincense to fight Hepatitis C has yet to be verified.

One of the oldest known aromatics, frankincense has a long history of spiritual and medicinal use. Besides appearing in religious ceremonies dating back to the 5th century, several traditional herbal practices highly regard frankincense for its potent medicinal characteristics. Frankincense resin may be prescribed by a knowledgeable herbalist to help several different types of health conditions. However, there is not yet enough evidence to advise using this ancient aromatic to fight the Hepatitis C virus.

About Frankincense

Obtained from the resin of Boswellia trees, there are four main species of frankincense; Boswellia serrata (in India), Boswellia carterii (in East Africa and China), Boswellia frereana (in Somalia) and Boswellia sacra in (Northern Africa and Arabia). Along with myrrh and gold, frankincense was one of the gifts of the Magi to the newly born baby Jesus. Burning Boswellia resin to produce incense has been part of several types of religious ceremonies for centuries, and is still used to create a festive atmosphere in the Catholic Church today.

Representing two of the largest collective approaches to medicinal herbalism, Ayuverdic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine both include Boswellia resin in its arsenal. Boswellia serrata is used in Ayurvedic medicine as:

  • an anti-arthritic
  • an astringent
  • a stimulant
  • an expectorant
  • an antiseptic

Boswellia carterii (Ru Xiang) is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to:

  • alleviate pain
  • reduce inflammation
  • inhibit the growth of cancerous cells

Boswellia Research and Prostaglandin E2

According to Professor Dr. Oliver Werz of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany and other herbal medicine authorities, the resin from the trunk of Boswellia trees contains anti-inflammatory substances. This understanding has sparked interest in the therapeutic use of frankincense for a range of inflammatory diseases, including Hepatitis C.

As part of a mutual project with partners of the University Saarbrücken and a startup company, Professor Werz and his team have been examining the anti-inflammatory effect of frankincense. They identified where boswellic acids interfere with the inflammation process. According to Werz, “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.” Prostaglandin E2 is one of the cellular mediators of inflammation. Werz indicates that boswellic acid blocks prostaglandin E2, effectively reducing inflammation.

A National Institute of Health funded study published in the August 2005 edition of the Journal of Virology examined the cellular pathways involved in Hepatitis C gene expression. They found that levels of prostaglandin E2 were elevated in cells infected with Hepatitis C. Furthermore, their results suggested a potential role of prostaglandin E2 in Hepatitis C viral replication. As such, a natural substance capable of blocking prostaglandin E2 would be a logical candidate to study for future Hepatitis C therapeutics.

There is little doubt that frankincense is a powerful substance, possessing several healthful characteristics. Thanks in part to Werz’s project, interest is growing in Boswellia resin as a supportive compound for battling Hepatitis C. However, the association between frankincense and Hepatitis C suppression has not yet been proven. Therefore, individuals looking to conquer this virus are better served by substances with more substantial evidence documenting their effectiveness – and leave Frankincense to its more historical roles.

References:, Boswellia carterii/Boswellia serrata, Retrieved October 13, 2012,, 2012., Pharmacists Clarify The Anti-Inflammatory Impact Of Frankincense, Retrieved October 13, 2012, MediLexicon International, Ltd, 2012., Hepatitis C Virus Stimulates the Expression of Cyclooxygenase-2 via Oxidative Stress: Role of Prostaglandin E2 in RNA Replication, Gulam Waris, et al, Retrieved October 13, 2012, Journal of Virology, August 2005.

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