In a recent study, researchers have demonstrated the therapeutic potential of the aromatic resin - and one of the three most famous Christmas gifts of all time, frankincense - in treating late stage ovarian cancer.
The origins of frankincense can be traced to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It’s obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia and is typically used in making incense and perfumes. There are four main species of Boswellia that produce true frankincense.
Frankincense resin is edible and has been used in traditional medicines in Africa and Asia for centuries to aid digestion and healthy skin. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, frankincense is typically used for treating arthritis, healing wounds, strengthening the female hormone system and purifying the air. In East African, Arabian and East Indian cultures it is a common belief that burning frankincense daily in the house brings good health.
In the present study, researchers successfully showed the potential effectiveness of the compound AKBA (acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid) - derived from frankincense resin - in targeting and destroying late-stage ovarian cancer cells in laboratory experiments.
According to the study authors, this finding has enough potential to be taken to a clinical trial and developed into an additional or complementary treatment for ovarian cancer.
Frankincense has been used as a folk medicine for centuries due to its anti-inflammatory properties; making it a viable treatment for asthma, skin conditions and gastroenteritis with no known side effects. Previous studies have also successfully linked AKBA as a potential treatment for colon, breast and prostate cancer.
However, this is the first study to demonstrate its potential in combating ovarian cancer. Not only that, AKBA has been shown to be effective at destroying ovarian cancer cells at realistic concentrations. What has been most surprising for the study authors is that cells resistant to chemotherapy have been shown to be more sensitive to this compound, suggesting that frankincense may be able to help overcome drug resistance, and lead to an improved survival rate for patients with late-stage ovarian cancer.