Frankincense is not approved as a drug in Europe. It may therefore only be advertised and used as a dietary supplement. The effect of incense is based on boswellic acids, and these are not found in all dietary supplements. Interactions and side effects are possible, so people with pre-existing conditions should use incense capsules only after consultation with their attending physician. However, preparations with Boswellia Serrata are advertised – they are said to be effective against cancer, gout, osteoarthritis and rheumatism as well as in autoimmune diseases. Are there any scientific studies? Has the incense effect been proven in these diseases? You will learn exactly what incense is, in which forms the active substance Boswelia (correctly Boswellia) is available, against which diseases incense ointment and similar products are recommended and how the preparations can be used.

Was ist Weihrauch

1. What is incense?

Incense extract is extracted from the resin of the incense plant, a tree. The incense tree is native to the north of Africa, also grows in the Middle East and is also cultivated there. This is because incense extract has been used for many centuries to treat inflammatory diseases. Traditionally, the preparations should be

  • Arthritis
  • Intestinal diseases
  • Heart disease

provide relief.

Of course, the forms in which incense extract is traditionally used are very different from the preparations available today. As a dietary supplement, incense extract is available in the form of tablets, capsules, oil and ointment. And of course it is occasionally used in natural medicine as a smoked resin – the resulting fragrant smoke is said to have a cleansing effect, incense mixtures are said to have an anti-inflammatory and healing effect. However, this goes beyond the use as a dietary supplement and should therefore not be taken into account here. For you is interesting how tablets, capsules, ointments and oils work with the active ingredient Boswellia Serrata and how they are taken.

As with many herbal remedies known from traditional medicine, the effect of incense resin has been scientifically studied. Numerous studies deal with this. Does that mean buying incense? Yes and no. Because the situation is not entirely clear – as with all pharmaceuticals (plant drugs) there are side effects, and the treatment is not equally suitable for everyone. But what exactly does it work for?

Incense nfi Guide
Wie wirkt Weihrauch

2. How does incense work?

The active substance contained in incense oil, capsules, tablets and ointments is boswellic acid. This acid lowers the inflammatory markers in the human body and supports immune function. This means in concrete terms: the preparations inhibit inflammatory cytokines and the mediators. If the inflammatory cytokines and mediators can move freely in the body, they damage the DNA. This promotes tumor growth, for example, and destroys healthy cells. These processes interrupt the incense extract:

  • Cytokine production is disrupted.
  • As a result, less inflammation is caused.
  • Sensitivities are reduced.
  • The lymphocytes (white blood cells) are regulated.
  • The production of immunoglobulin G or IgG (antibody) is regulated.
  • This makes the body better protected from bacterial and viral infections.


Now you know how exactly incense preparations work. But how can this be used, for what can the positive effects of incense extract be used? In short, preparations containing boslotic acid eliminate the reactions of the immune system, which cause inflammation. Pain and inflammation are thus reduced. This can be used, for example, in cancer therapy. As a substitute for conventional painkillers, incense should show fewer side ways in this application or can even be used by many people without side effects.

So the positive effect of Boswellia-containing preparations is about the resin of the incense plant. What exactly is contained in this resin, what makes it so interesting in medicine? The resin consists of about 5 to 10 percent essential oils. These oils, in turn, contain

  • Monoterpenes
  • Diterpene
  • Triterpenes
  • Tetracyclic triterpenic acids
  • Boswelletripe acids


Exactly these boswelletic triterpenic acids are so interesting for the incense effect against inflammatory processes in the body. This is because they inhibit the enzymes responsible for the inflammation.

The AKBA contained in the incense resin is also interesting. The abbreviation stands for 3-0-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid. The chemical works similarly to a painkiller, but the exact effect is different. Instead of attaching to pain receptors, the chemical compound activates various enzymes. The compound can pass through the stomach and intestines without being decomposed, thus having fewer side effects than conventional painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. AKBA is seen primarily in the treatment of arthritis and bronchial asthma as well as in chronic colitis and ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease and cancer as a promising alternative to conventional active ingredients.

Incensolacetate can also effectively reduce inflammation in the body. This is especially the case with inflammation in the brain: the active ingredient contained in the incense extract protects the neurons, inhibits the formation of tumors and has a mood-enhancing effect. Thus, the various incense-containing preparations also develop a natural antidepressant effect.

Beste Weihrauch

3. Which incense is best?

Different active ingredient content, different dosage forms as ointments, tablets or capsules, oil or resin, and also quite different recommendations regarding the respective daily dose: Which preparation with Boswellia Serrata is recommended at all? Since the preparations containing incense extract may not be sold as medicinal products, they are also not subject to the appropriate controls. They are freely available on the market, and of course each manufacturer praises their own preparation as the best.

Make sure that your dietary supplement is made in Germany. The preparation should contain only incense extract as an active ingredient and should not be mixed with other substances. We have noticed the incense capsules from the manufacturer dreikraut positively. The capsules each contain 400 mg Boswellia Serrata, the manufacturer has them produced in Germany and guarantees that only 100% Indian incense extract is contained. 65% boswellia acid contains this incense extract, so you can take 1040 mg of Boswelia with each daily dose. The capsules are vegan and free of additives and are tested for purity in a German laboratory. The dosage recommendations are adapted to the concentration of the active substance in the capsules and are based on the results of the studies on incense effects available to date.

What makes the incense capsules of three herb really interesting is the Indian incense extract. The manufacturer sends experts to India to select the producers. The incense resin used comes from sustainable game collections, which are oriented towards the preservation of the trees. The resin used is purchased directly from the producers, without intermediaries and wholesalers. This will enable producers to be paid fairly and, of course, local working conditions are also regularly monitored. The ratio of price and performance is right for three weeds, the pack contains 140 capsules and costs less than 20 euros.

Hilft Weihrauch

4. What complaints does incense help against?

Incense ointment and tablets, incense capsules and oil are recommended for very different diseases and symptoms. However, not all dosage forms are always equally suitable, and the preparations may not be used as medications at all. They can only be used as dietary supplements. Nevertheless, for all more serious illnesses, consultation should always be made with the attending physician. Like other phytopharmaceuticals, incense extracts can lead to interactions with other drugs. Some people suffer from intolerances or allergies, sometimes the preparations develop serious side effects.

4.1 in case of inflammation

Terpenes and especially Boswellia acid (sometimes referred to as Boswellia) develop their anti-inflammatory effect in products with incense extract. [1] These ingredients protect healthy cells from attack. What exactly are terpenes? Terpenes are the chemicals that smell so intense in eucalyptus, basil, citrus, peppermint and incense resin. The plants contain terpenes because they protect themselves from pests and environmental influences. Terpenes have the same effect in the human body, they ward off free radicals and protect the cells – inflammation does not form in the first place.

4.2 against arthritis

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database has published a study that found that boswellia extract-containing preparations can relieve pain and swelling in arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as other inflammatory joint diseases. [2] The pain was reduced by up to 45 percent, according to the study participants. These are values that also reach prescription drugs. Frankincense tablets and other incense-containing preparations are therefore quite suitable as painkillers and for healing swelling in case of joint problems. One such study was also published in the Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology, this time comparing the analgesic effects of incense-containing products with placebos. And here, too, a clear analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effect was shown. However, it is not clear whether this effect can only be achieved with tablets and capsules with incense extract, i.e. oral use, or perhaps also with external treatments with incense oil and / or incense ointment. It is interesting that in both studies no side effects of the incense-containing preparations were found, but the conventional drugs showed side effects after prolonged intake.

4.3 in cancer

When it comes to cures for cancer, there is always a need for caution: many medicines used in cancer therapy are not intended to cure the cancer itself. Instead, they serve to make the symptoms of tumor diseases more bearable for patients and to suppress or at least mitigate the extreme side effects of cancer therapies. And it is precisely in this context that incense oil must be seen in cancer therapy. Taking incense capsules or incense tablets can only relieve pain and reduce inflammation more quickly. However, incense oil seems to be far more interesting in prevention. Individual ingredients of incense can prevent the formation of tumor cells by protecting the body cells from free radicals and thus keeping the DNA intact. [3] A preventive effect may be present in boswellia-containing preparations in the following cancers:

  • Brain cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Stomach cancer


Studies clearly show that products containing incense can also be used in cancer treatment. Because the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation are linked to extreme pain, which can deprive the person concerned of all the courage to live. Boswelia alleviates these side effects. Inflammation subsides faster, joint pain is alleviated, swelling decreases and even digestion is stimulated. Even the headaches sometimes described as unbearable during therapy can alleviate products containing incense. Nevertheless, incense capsules are not a cure for cancer!

4.4 against autoimmune diseases

Incense resin has been used therapeutically in North Africa and the Middle East for many centuries. Boswellia is considered a cure for diseases of the autoimmune system. [4] The resin of the incense tree works very well against asthma, arthritis and chronic intestinal diseases. This is because it affects the development of autoimmune diseases. Incense-containing preparations control the immunoglobulins that the immune system produces in the fight against assumed threats. Under the influence of incense resin, the production of leukotrinen is inhibited. Leukotrins occur in the body when chronic inflammation is present.

When is it called an autoimmune disease? Whenever pathogens or undesirable substances are detected in the body, the immune system produces different types of antibodies. But these antibodies sometimes attack cells of your own body – why this happens is not always clear. When antibodies attack one’s own healthy tissue and organs, they are called an autoimmune disease. In these cases, the leukotrin inhibitory effect of incense preparations can actually be helpful.

4.5 in irritable bowel syndrome

Leukotrins, however, also play an important role in irritable bowel syndrome, even in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The diseases are manifested by inflammation of the digestive tract and especially the intestinal mucosa. If it is inflamed, nutrient absorption no longer works as it should. Excretion is also not what you would expect in a healthy person. Since irritable bowel syndrome has serious consequences for the whole organism, it must be treated. The various diseases behind the syndrome also affect other parts of the digestive system. Mouth and esophagus as well as the stomach may be affected. Preparations with Boswellia Serrata can reduce or subside the inflammation, allowing nutrient absorption and digestion to return to normal. [5]

4.6 Against Infections

Respiratory infections are often treated with inhalation. Essential oils, which flow through the airways together with the hot water vapor, provide relief. Incense-containing preparations also provide relief for coughs and other cold symptoms, for flu-like infections and sore throats. [6] Because the active ingredients of incense prevent allergic reactions. Asthma is alleviated, the mucus can be coughed off the lungs more easily. And the anti-inflammatory effect of incense preparations also contribute to a reduction of symptoms. Incense preparations are also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for better blood circulation and an acceleration of healing time. Both benefit the immune system. Bacterial and viral infections that manifest themselves in colds, a flu-like infection or (virus) flu can also be treated with incense extract, according to TCM. Meanwhile, even medical studies deal with the antivital effect of incense resin.

Dosierung und Einnahme Weihrauch

5. How is incense taken or how to dose it?

There is no uniform recommendation for dosage, because the different preparations contain different levels of active ingredient. In addition, incense resin is a natural product. The active substance content in the resin used therefore varies depending on the conditions under which the incense plant grows.

So what does this mean for the incense application? Incense oil is always used when it comes to the skin. As an essential oil, it can be applied to itchy, inflamed and irritated skin areas and provides immediate relief there. If you prefer incense ointment, please pay attention to what kind of product exactly you buy with incense. Are there other active ingredients? If so, which ones? And can there possibly be interactions? It is better to buy a pure product without combinations of active ingredients.

Incense oil can also be filled into an atomizer. A few drops in the tea or on the tongue are suitable to dissolve mucus in the bronchi, so that it can be coughed off more easily. In case of asthma, it is recommended to apply a few drops of the oil to a cloth and inhale several times a day. Incense ointment is simply applied to the skin.

However, you should never simply apply pure essential oil to the skin. The oil should be mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut oil. This is important, because the strong, highly effective essential oil causes violent reactions up to severe allergies in pure form!

With incense capsules and tablets, care should be taken to ensure that the preparations are actually made from Boswellia Serrata and not from another form of Boswelia. The content of boswellic acids should be 37 percent or higher. The more active ingredient it contains, i.e. the purer the incense tablets are, the more effective the preparations are. If it is only a matter of alleviating inflammation, daily maximum doses of 600 mg to 900 mg incense extract are just right. In the case of inflammatory diseases such as

  • Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Asthma
  • chronic pain
  • inflammatory bowel disease


as well as for injuries, a higher daily dose is necessary, here one usually assumes from 900 mg to 1,200 mg boswellic acid daily.

Pregnant women, nursing children and adolescents should not take preparations with incense extract! Most preparations are overdosed, and severe side effects can occur, especially in young and very young people.

Fazit Weihrauch

6. Conclusion: Why is incense so healthy?

Preparations with incense extract can have a positive effect on the cranium, as they lower the inflammatory levels in the blood. The bosolic acid contained reduces the reactions of the immune system and stimulates the body’s defences. In the case of autoimmune diseases, but also in painful and inflammatory joint diseases, relief is provided to patients quickly and easily. Whether an incense application makes sense, however, should always be coordinated with the treating doctor. Frankincense tablets and capsules, incense ointment and oil are generally considered gentle and free of side effects compared to conventional anti-inflammatory drugs. But, as with all herbal medicines, there may be interactions with other medicines as well as allergic reactions. Capsules containing incense extracts, ointments and other preparations may not be sold as medicines or medicines in the EU. Although they have medicinal effects, they are only approved as dietary supplements. This is important: make sure you buy incense that contains no additives and is not mixed with other active ingredients! The resin of the incense tree is traditionally applied to various ailments, the effectiveness has also aroused interest in research. Studies on effects, application and possible accompanying effects already exist.

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Autor: Giacomo Hermosa

Giacomo Hermosa ist 37 Jahre alt, Vater von zwei Kindern und verheiratet. Vor elf Jahren hat er die Magister der Biologie und Anglistik erfolgreich absolviert. Hier hat er sich interdisziplinär mit den Themen Bioverfügbarkeit und Medizinalhanf beschäftigt. In seiner Freizeit schreibt er v.a. in den Bereichen Fitness, Ernährung und – familiär bedingt – über einige besondere Autoimmunerkrankungen. Seine Veröffentlichungen findet man u.a. auf seiner Website und bei der taz.