Cardiff scientists have been examining the potential benefits of frankincense(1) to help relieve and alleviate the symptoms of the condition.
"The search for new ways of relieving the symptoms of inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis is a long and difficult one," according to Dr Emma Blain, who leads the research with her co-investigators Professor Vic Duance from Cardiff University's School of Biosciences and Dr Ahmed Ali of the Compton Group.
"The South West of England and Wales has a long standing connection with the Somali community who have used extracts of frankincense as a traditional herbal remedy for arthritic conditions.
"What our research has focused on is whether and how these extracts can help relieve the inflammation that causes the pain," she added.
The Cardiff scientists believe they have been able to demonstrate that treatment with an extract of Boswellia frereana - a rare frankincense species - inhibits the production of key inflammatory molecules which helps prevent the breakdown of the cartilage tissue which causes the condition.
Dr Ali adds: "The search for new drugs to alleviate the symptoms of conditions like inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis is a priority area for scientists. What our research has managed to achieve is to use innovative chemical extraction techniques to determine the active ingredient in frankincense.
"Having done this we are now able to further characterize the chemical entity and compare its success against other anti-inflammatory drugs used for treating the condition."
The research comes as a result of a seedcorn project, funded by the Severnside Alliance for Translational Research (SARTRE), through the MRC Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme devolved portfolio.
SARTRE is a joint project between Cardiff University and the University of Bristol to combine and accelerate translational research.
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Editor's Note: (1) Frankincense, also called olibanum, is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia, particularly Boswellia sacra (syn. B. carteri, B. thurifera), B. frereana, and B. bhaw-dajiana (Burseraceae). It is used in incense and perfumes.
Standardized preparations of Indian frankincense from Boswellia serrata are being investigated in scientific studies as a treatment for chronic inflammatory diseases such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and osteoarthritis. For therapy trials in ulcerative colitis, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis there are only isolated reports and pilot studies from which there is not yet sufficient evidence of safety and efficacy. In a study published in March 2009 by the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center it was reported that Frankincense oil appears to distinguish cancerous from normal bladder cells and suppress cancer cell viability. Frankincense resin is often used in various traditional medicines in Asia for digestion and healthy skin. In Indian culture, it is suggested that burning frankincense everyday in house brings good health.