Is Boswellia the new Butterbur for Migraine and Cluster?

Butterbur rose quickly to be one of the most recommended herbal treatments for migraine, though recent concerns have lowered it on some people’s lists.  However, a new herb may be edging its way into the conversation – something called Boswellia (bosellia serrata).


Boswellia, also known as Indian Frankincense, has actually been around for a long time.  It’s actually a tree – but it’s the resin of the tree that we’re interested in for our purposes.

The resin’s anti-inflammatory benefits have been helpful to those with pain conditions such as headache, asthma, menstrual cramps, and arthritis.

At his blog at the New York Headache Center, Dr. Alexander Mauskop recently wrote about evidence in favour of the herbal treatment.

Actually, there are not a lot of studies related to headache conditions, but there have been some interesting reports, that Boswellia may relieve not only migraine but also cluster and indomethacin-responsive headache.

One recent study reported improvements in cluster patients who took 350 to 700 mg three times a day.  Another doctor tried 250 mg three times a day and up for patients with indomethacin-responsive headache syndrome.

The advantage over indomethacin and many other anti-inflammatory drugs is that boswellia doesn’t have the strong gastro-intestinal side effects.  Regarding the mechanism of boswellia, Dr. Mauskop writes:

Unlike butterbur, Boswellia has no toxic ingredients and is safe to consume in any form.  The mechanism of action of Boswellia is not entirely clear, but it seems to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to aspirin.  Obviously, it does more than that since aspirin is usually ineffective for cluster or indomethacin-responsive headaches.

Reading about those who have tried boswellia, it does seem that there is a wide difference in the quality of supplements available.  Be sure to find a brand name you trust and check for detailed information on the label.

One of the studies mentioned used Gliacin.  Vitacost also has some good standardized brands of boswellia.

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4 comments… add one
  • Cary Woodruff Aug 21, 2012

    I’m sure I’m allergic to this just as I’m allergic to feverfew.

  • Lena Welch Aug 21, 2012

    Okay, this is only vaguely related but the article got me thinking about it. With quality of supplements. I was taking coQ10 with no problems, got a new brand, and I am now wondering if the new one if making my gut ouchy. Has anyone had similar issues with differing brands of coQ10? Any tips for avoiding it? It was working miracles and now…. ugh.

  • Julie Maggs Aug 22, 2012

    didn’t work on mine. I tried it for 4 months.

  • Tara Enever Aug 22, 2012

    like Cary, I am also allergic to both Feverfew and Butterbur, as they are both in the same family as is Ragweed. I see that Boswellia is in a different plant family, so may be worth looking into.

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