As with the study of bladder cancer cells,3 a similar study using cultured human breast cancer cells was conducted to evaluate cell death and cell cycle progression in cells treated with frankincense oil.5 Outcomes achieved were nearly identical to the bladder cancer study, giving further evidence of frankincense oil’s ability to selectively target cancer cells and both destroy current cells and inhibit new cell formation.

These actions closely interact with the immunomodulatory and inflammatory activities of the body. In a study of 75 patients with diagnosed osteoarthritis, participants were randomly assigned to receive daily doses of 100 mg or 250 mg of a standardized Boswellia serrata extract or placebo.6,7 Patients were assessed at baseline and 90 days using validated scales for pain and physical function. Both active treatment groups showed significant improvement in these outcomes.

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Safety, interactions, side effects

Any initial use of a frankincense product should be approached with caution until individual tolerance is determined. For oils, a simple small ‘patch’ test on the inner arm is a good test for allergic response.8 The use of any frankincense product is not recommended for children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.

Potential drug interactions have been reported when using frankincense in conjunction with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. People interested in daily frankincense use should consult with their healthcare provider.

How supplied, dose, cost 

Frankincense may be purchased in a variety of forms. Most products are either oral or topical. Essential oil of frankincense can be costly, as much as $50 or more per 0.5 ounces. Oral capsules of the resin are less expensive due to the lower concentration of the essential oil.

Frankincense essential oil is typically applied directly to the skin up to 4 times daily. Oral frankincense capsule doses can range from 900 mg to as high as 3 gm daily.


Frankincense is one of a multitude of rediscovered botanical products that is now being studied for its potential use in treating a variety of diseases and conditions. Since there is not yet a large body of evidence-based literature for this product, recommendation for use should be carefully evaluated for both safety and efficacy.


  1. Dharmananda S. Myrrh and frankincense. Institute for Traditional Medicine website. Published May 2003. Accessed February 15, 2017.
  2. Ammon HP. Bowellic acids in chronic inflammatory diseases. Planta Med. 2006;72:1100-1116.
  3. Frank MB, Yang Q, Osban J, et al. Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell-specific cytotoxicity. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009; 9:6.
  4. Kirste S, Treier M, Wehrle SJ, et al. Boswellia serrata acts on cerebral edema in patients irradiated for brain tumors. Cancer. 2011;117:3788-3795.
  5. Suhail MM, Wu W, Cao A, et al. Boswellia sacra essential oil induces tumor-cell-specific apoptosis and suppresses tumor aggressiveness in cultured human breast cancer cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011;11:129.
  6. Sengupta K, Alluri KV, Satish AR, et al. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of the efficacy and safety of 5-Loxin for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis Res Ther. 2008;10:R85.
  7. Khajuria A, Gupta A, Suden P, et al. Immunomodulatory activity of biopolymeric fraction BOS 2000 from Boswellia serrata. Phytother Res. 2008;22:340-348.
  8. Burfield T. Safety of essential oils. International Journal of Aromatherapy. 2000;10:16-29.