Many natural remedies and supplements have been proven to be useful for supporting the body in Lyme disease. One that I especially love and appreciate for its broad spectrum of medicinal benefits is the aromatic essential oil frankincense, which is produced from Boswellia trees in the Middle East. Highly prized in this part of the world, I think it’s no surprise that frankincense has long been revered by Eastern cultures for its medicinal benefits. It has anti-inflammatory, immune-stimulating, anti-microbial, anti-depressant, and anti-cancer properties, among others.
In addition, frankincense is considered the “holy anointing oil” in the Middle East and has been used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years. It was well known during the time of Jesus Christ for its anointing and healing properties and was one of the gifts given to Christ at His birth.
I’ve personally found frankincense to be useful in my own healing journey; for killing Lyme-related infections, especially mold; reducing inflammation in my brain, and for helping to put me in a better mood when I have battled depression due to inflammation.
According to the 2014 Essential Oils Desk Reference, the Weizmann Institute of Science, in its newsletter Interface, an Israeli researcher named Arieh Moussaieff said of frankincense, “…the (boswellia) resin (has) antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties and, investigating further, (researchers) found that they act on a previously unknown pathway in the brain that regulates emotion. These findings not only help explain the ubiquity of frankincense in religion, they also hint that the active compounds may be used in the future to treat any number of neurological diseases, from Parkinson’s to depression.” Advanced Lyme disease can resemble Parkinson’s and studies suggest that Parkinson's may be an advanced form of Lyme, so it stands to reason that frankincense may prove to be beneficial for supporting neurological function in Lyme.
In a study review entitled, "M. Frankincense: From the Selection of Traditional Applications to the Novel Phytotherapy for the Prevention and Treatment of Serious Diseases" which was published in the Journal of Traditional Complementary Medicine in 2013, the authors cited a number of studies that show that frankincense may improve memory. This is good news for people with Lyme, who often battle memory and cognitive issues.
The authors write, “The effect of frankincense is remarkable in increasing the number of dendritic segments and branching in the neuron cells of hippocampus, causing more synaptic connections in that area and, therefore, improvement of learning and memory. Extensive studies on frankincense and its effect on neurophysiology could be a right approach in finding a possible new complementary or alternative natural medicine to control, cure, or prevent some kinds of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.”
Further, according to Essential Oils Desk Reference, studies have shown that a compound of frankincense resin protects the nervous system and that many of the biochemicals in essential oils, particularly sesquiterpenes, can increase blood oxygen levels in the brain and release negative emotions that have been stored there. Many people with Lyme disease are hypoxic; that is, their body and brain don’t receive enough oxygen due to hypercoagulation and other factors. Frankincense may therefore help to increase oxygenation, while also facilitating the release of negative emotions, which are another common factor in Lyme.
Another way in which frankincense may assist with the emotions is by calming and sedating the nervous system through compounds called aldehydes and esters. It may therefore alleviate anxiety that results from inflammation, pathogens and other factors.
In addition, its anti-inflammatory effects may improve the body’s response to other antimicrobial treatments, support a healthy immune response, and help to quell symptoms of pain and fatigue, among other issues. One type of frankincense, called Frereana Frankincense (or Boswellia Frereana) has been shown in studies to reduce arthritis symptoms, which are also common in some people with Lyme.
Finally, a review published in 2013 in the Journal of Traditional Complementary Medicine describes the antimicrobial and other effects of the compounds found in frankincense. The review states, “The essential oil isolated from the oleogum resin of B. carterii (boswellia carterii) has been found to have antimicrobial activities against various microorganisms such as fungi, and gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial strains. In a study, the antibacterial activity of boswellic acids was tested in vitro on a group of clinically significant gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Among the boswellic acids, AKBA was the most active inhibitor of bacterial pathogens.”
While no studies have been specifically done to show its effects upon Lyme pathogens, anecdotal evidence suggests that it may be useful in the treatment of Lyme-related microbes, including mold and candida, and perhaps some bacteria. BioPure’s 10-in-1 rizol oil product developed by Dietrich Klinghardt, MD to treat Lyme pathogens, contains frankincense oil, suggesting that it plays a beneficial role in reducing Lyme-related microbes or regulating the immune system.
Further, evidence from the abovementioned review suggests that frankincense may be useful against some types of biofilm. Whether it can affect the type of biofilm that Lyme microbes create remains to be seen but this study suggests that it may be useful against some biofilms. According to the authors, “This report showed that AKBA (a type of Boswellic acid) can prevent as well as reduce the biofilm generation by Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis.AKBA was found to be the most active compound against the entire gram-positive bacterial pathogens tested.”
The review published in the Journal of Traditional Complementary Medicine also provides evidence that frankincense reduces symptoms of colitis and inflammatory bowel disease; cancer, diabetes, and other Lyme-related and inflammatory conditions. Some practitioners have also found it to balance the hormones and to have additional benefits, but more studies are needed to definitively determine its effects upon different disease processes.
The great news about frankincense is that it has been shown to be relatively safe and harmless to the body, unlike antibiotic drugs. However, if you decide to try frankincense, I suggest working with a Lyme-literate practitioner, as frankincense essential oil is incredibly powerful and I’ve personally experienced strong detox reactions from it. Boswellia, from which frankincense is made, may be gentler and provide similar benefits.
Banno, N. et al. Anti-inflammatory activites of the triterpene acids from the resin of Boswellia carteri. Biol Pharm Bull. 2006 Stp: 29(9) 1976-1979.
Blain, EJ et al. Boswellia frereana suppresses cytokine-induced matrix metalloproteinase expression and production of anti-inflammatory molecules in articular cartilage. Phytother Res. 2010 Jun: 24(6): 905-12.
Essential Oils Desk Reference. Life Science Publishing. April 2014. Pp. 101-103, 415-425.
Hamidpour, R., Hamidpour, S. Hamidpour, M. and Shahlari, M. Frankincense: From the Selection of Traditional Applications to the Novel Phytotherapy for the Prevention and Treatment of Serious Diseases J Tradit Complement Med. 2013 Oct-Dec; 3(4): 221–226. doi: 10.4103/2225-4110.119723 PMCID: PMC3924999
Moussaieff, et al. Incensole acetate: a novel neuroprotective agents isolated from Boswellia carteri. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2008 July: 28(7):1341-52.
Su S. et al. Evaluation of the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of individual and combined extracts from Commiphora myrrha and Boswellia carterii. J. Ethnopharmacology. 2012. Jan 31: 139(2):649-56.
Connie Strasheim is the author or co-author of 11 wellness books, including the recently released New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment: 10 Top Doctors Real Healing Strategies that Work. (October, 2016) and Beyond a Glass of Milk and a Hot Bath: Advanced Sleep Solutions for People with Chronic Insomnia. (March, 2017). She is also a medical copywriter and an editor at ProHealth.com, as well as Editor of the Alternative Cancer Research Institute (ACRI). Her passion is to help people with complex chronic illnesses find freedom from disease and soul-spirit sickness using whole body medicine, and she collaborates with some of the world's best integrative doctors to do this. In addition to Lyme disease and insomnia, Connie’s books focus on cancer, nutrition, detoxification and spiritual healing. To learn more about her work, see: www.ConnieStrasheim.org.