Could an ancient aromatic resin really hold the key to stopping the spread of ovarian and other cancers? Scientific research suggests that very well may be the case for frankincense, a plant resin derived from a tree called Boswellia, grown in parts of Arabia and Africa.
Frankincense has been prized for centuries as an anti-inflammatory treatment, used for alleviating symptoms of such varied conditions as asthma, gastroenteritis and a variety of skin disorders. Scientific research reveals there is some component within frankincense that has the ability to stop ovarian cancer from spreading, and even induce cancer cells to close down.
From a biblical story to laboratory success
Frankincense is probably best known as one of the three gifts, along with gold and myrrh, brought by the wise men at the birth of Christ. Historical records show that frankincense was produced in the Dhofar region as far back as 7,000 BC in Wadi Dawkah, a valley set inland from the major city of Salalah and the most likely area of origin for frankincense during Biblical times.
Frankincense is an aromatic resin hardened from the exuded tree gums of the genus Boswellia. The trees are most commonly found in Oman, Yemen, Somalia, India and China. Frankincense has been used in incense and perfumes, as well as religious rituals, since the time of ancient Egyptians.
But frankincense has also long been considered to have a variety of healing properties, relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, including Crohn’s disease. Its anti-inflammatory properties are believed to come about due to the resin’s ability to regulate immune cytokine production as well as leukocyte infiltration.
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Extracts from the Boswellia tree species have been shown to possess anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-neoplastic and anti-carcinogenic properties. Clinical investigations have shown the extracts are effective in reducing peritumoral edema in gliobastoma patients and reversing multiple brain metastasies in a breast cancer patient. This evidence suggests resins from Boswellia trees can influence critical biological functions.
Researchers like immunologist Mahmoud Suhail want to explore the cancer-stopping properties of frankincense further. It is known that cancer starts at the cellular level, when the DNA code within a cell’s nucleus becomes corrupt. But scientists have observed frankincense providing a type of reset function, communicating the correct DNA codes to the cell to allow for a type of “do over.”
Suhail characterizes the frankincense action as separating the nucleus from the cytoplasm components of the cell. In doing so, it likely closes down the nucleus to prevent it from replicating cancerous DNA codes.
A better way to care of cancer patients
Scientists hope that frankincense could some day revolutionize cancer treatments, offering a kinder, gentler approach to cancer care – one that did not leave behind a weakened patient with vulnerable immunity. Unlike conventional chemotherapy treatments where healthy cells are destroyed along with cancerous ones, it is hoped frankincense will destroy cancerous cells while letting healthy cells live.
The task before researchers now is to pinpoint the specific agent within frankincense that can accomplish this feat. This research is necessary since patients cannot be administered whole frankincense since some of its ingredients are allergenic. Some ingredients of frankincense are allergenic, so you cannot give a patient the entire resin.
Promising scientific research for patients with ovarian cancer
Leicester University researchers believe they already have some answers. Scientists there identified the chemical compound in resin, acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid or AKBA, that seems to offer hope of a cure for ovarian cancer.
While previous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of AKBA as a potential treatment of other cancers, such as those effecting colon, breast and prostate, the Leicester University study is the first to show its ability to fight ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is a particularly dangerous cancer because it is very difficult to diagnose in early stages. Each year, over 20,000 new cases are reported and nearly 15,000 patients die of the disease. But now researchers say there is evidence that AKBA, isolated from frankincense, can fight ovarian cancer cells, even in the final stages.