Can Turmeric and Indian Frankincense Relieve Acute Musculoskeletal Pain? (2024)

Long known for alleviating chronic pain, these anti-inflammatory agents may also relieve pain from a variety of acute musculoskeletal injuries.


Rudrappa GH, Murthy M, Saklecha S, Kumar Kare S, Gupta A, Basu I. Fast pain relief in exercise-induced acute musculoskeletal pain by turmeric-boswellia formulation: a randomized placebo-controlled double-blinded multicentre study. Medicine. 2022;101(35):e30144.

Study Objective

To determine if the dietary supplementation of the plant extracts of curcumin and Boswellia can be used for acute pain relief from musculoskeletal conditions

Key Takeaway

A turmeric and Boswellia dietary supplement effectively reduced pain intensity and relieved acute musculoskeletal pain.


Double-blinded, randomized, and placebo-controlled model conducted in multiple centers.


The study involved 232 healthy participants (aged 18 to 65 years) presenting with an acute musculoskeletal injury. Randomization was 1:1 male to female ratio.

Inclusion criteria consisted of the following injuries diagnosed within 24 hours of baseline (all not requiring hospitalization): “Exercise-induced musculoskeletal injuries, myalgia, neck pain, limb pain, low back pain, joint pain, widespread musculoskeletal pain, painful uncomplicated acute soft tissue injury of the upper or lower extremity, including acute injuries of ligaments, tendons, or muscles (including Grade 1 sprain or strain).”


Researchers assessed pain intensity every 30 minutes over 6 hours following oral administration of a single dose of either intervention or placebo. The 3 conditions during the 6 hours were: at rest, with movement, or with pressure.

The intervention group received two 500-mg soft gels, each containing curcuminoids (266 mg) and acetyl keto-boswellic acid (10 mg) in a sesame-oil base (Rhuleave-K™). The placebo capsules consisted of maltodextrin in a base of polysorbate-80, propylene glycol, and polyethylene glycol-400.

Study Parameters Assessed

Investigators used several pain scales for assessment. They obtained data using the NRS (numerical pain rating scale), PRS (pain relief scale), and MPQ (short form of the McGill Pain Questionnaire). They measured the onset of analgesia via stopwatches.

Primary Outcome

Changes in the “pain intensity difference” at 6 hours after intervention/placebo at rest

Key Findings

NRS in the turmeric-Boswellia (TBF) group at the end of 6 hours was significantly improved vs placebo. The area under the curve (AUC) differed by:

  • 95.39% at rest (P≤0.0001)
  • 93.52% with movement (P≤0.0001)
  • 93.28% with pressure (P≤0.0001)

Onset of analgesia

  • Perceptible pain relief (PPR): 99.1% had relief in the TBF group vs 10.4% in the placebo group (P=0.0001).
  • Meaningful pain relief (MPR): 95.7% had relief in the TBF group vs 1.7% in the placebo group (P=0.0001).

PRS Scale

  • Total pain relief at 6 hours (TOTPAR6) at rest, with movement, and with pressure all showed significant improvement with TBF (P=0.0001).
  • Restricted mean time to reach maximum pain relief: 194 minutes at rest, 197.7 minutes with movement, 194.2 minutes with pressure (P=0.0001 for each)

McGill Pain Questionnaire

  • Significant reduction in affective, sensory, and total domains comparing pretreatment and posttreatment values (P=0.0001)


Arjuna Natural Private Ltd of India provided the Rhuleave-K™ capsules as well as placebo.

Practice Implications & Limitations

Boswellia tree resin extract, also known as Indian frankincense, and turmeric have been used in traditional ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Both botanical medicines are touted for rejuvenating joints and for their many other anti-inflammatory-based health benefits. They can each be taken orally or applied topically. Curcumin, one of the active compounds in turmeric, has been shown to ameliorate obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, depression, and fatty liver disease.1

In recent years, turmeric and Boswellia supplements have become popular for the relief of chronic pain and discomfort, largely owing to their reliable anti-inflammatory effects. Theimplications for acute applications, however, are less well studied,1 and this clinical trial aimed to shed light on their use for acute situations, namely injury-induced musculoskeletal pain.

Recent research shows a potential synergistic effect between turmeric and Boswellia for treating the inflammation and pain of osteoarthritis.

Turmeric (and its active compound, curcumin) is widely known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Fewer studies focus on Boswellia, as it is less available and less popular than turmeric. Research, however, has found that long-term use of Boswellia for patients with osteoarthritis is safe and effective.2 Recent research shows a potential synergistic effect between turmeric and Boswellia for treating the inflammation and pain of osteoarthritis.3

The study reviewed here was placebo-controlled, randomized, and double-blinded, and researchers conducted it at multiple centers in India. The design, intervention, and randomization used sound procedures. The study uses several pain scales to obtain a variety of data points, leading to a more rigorous conclusion. However, it must be noted that the data collected are subjective. Researchers did not collect any objective measures, such as functional changes (improved activity level or range of motion of the affected joint). There was no comparison to an over-the-counter analgesic, such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or to any prescription medications.

The study used a product called Rhuleave-K™, created by Arjuna Natural Private Ltd and manufactured in India. Extraction of the turmeric rhizomes and Boswellia serrata gum resin used a proprietary technology. It is unknown whether this technology is utilized by other companies.

Prior randomized control trials have shown the efficacy of other curcumin and Boswellia formulations for pain relief with fewer adverse gastrointestinal effects than NSAIDs.4 The dosage was chosen for this particular study’s healthy participants, but there was no mention of dosage adjustments for special populations such as the elderly or those with liver or renal impairment. Turmeric is generally considered safe at the dose of 500 mg, twice daily.5 However, mention of special populations may provide a better clinical application.

The study did not report any side effects that the participants may have suffered. A literature search finds that excessive intake of curcumin can have several adverse effects, including on the liver, kidney, cardiac system, and blood, and immune system.6 Although these adverse effects are rare and mostly seen in cases of excessive intake, they must be considered. Investigators also did not discuss the bioavailability and absorption, which could be considered outside the context of this study.

As an intervention for acute musculoskeletal pain in urgent settings, a turmeric and Boswellia supplement looks promising. The implications are great, with the possibility of avoiding opioids or NSAIDs, which have a more dangerous safety profile, in high-risk populations. More research is needed to determine the efficacy outside of healthy populations and examine adverse effects before making clinical conclusions.

Can Turmeric and Indian Frankincense Relieve Acute Musculoskeletal Pain? (2024)


Can Turmeric and Indian Frankincense Relieve Acute Musculoskeletal Pain? ›

Key Takeaway. A turmeric and Boswellia

Frankincense, also known as olibanum (/oʊˈlɪbənəm/), is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes, obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia in the family Burseraceae. The word is from Old French franc encens ('high-quality incense'). › wiki › Frankincense
dietary supplement effectively reduced pain intensity and relieved acute musculoskeletal pain.

Does frankincense really help with arthritis pain? ›

It can prevent the production of inflammatory substances in the joints. Current evidence, based on four RCTs, suggests that it might have some beneficial effects in treating participants with osteoarthritis of the knee which might last for a period of time after treatment is stopped.

What are the side effects of Indian frankincense? ›

Boswellia serrata extract has been used safely in doses up to 1000 mg daily for up to 6 months. It usually doesn't cause major side effects. But some people have reported stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, headache, heartburn, and itching.

Can you mix boswellia and turmeric together? ›

At the end of the three-month study, researchers found that turmeric was significantly helpful in reducing arthritis-related pain. Further, researchers also found that the combination of turmeric and boswellia was even more effective in reducing pain, providing a synergistic effect.

Is turmeric a natural painkiller? ›

Taking turmeric extracts, alone or together with other herbal ingredients, can reduce pain and improve function in people with knee osteoarthritis. Turmeric might work about as well as ibuprofen for reducing pain. But it doesn't seem to work as well as another drug, called diclofenac.

What is the strongest essential oil for arthritis? ›

Below are six of the best essential oils for RA symptoms, alongside scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness.
  1. Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus contains several compounds that may help to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain. ...
  2. Frankincense. ...
  3. Lavender. ...
  4. Ginger. ...
  5. Turmeric essential oil. ...
  6. Basil.
Jun 20, 2022

What is the strongest essential oil for pain? ›

Which Essential Oils Are Best For Pain? One of Mother nature's most powerful painkillers, peppermint oil is frequently used for alleviating pain [1]. Closely related to peppermint, wintergreen oil boasts similar properties due to its methyl salicylate component.

Who shouldn't use frankincense oil? ›

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if frankincense is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Does frankincense affect the kidneys? ›

It has antibacterial properties that can help reverse kidney damage. Frankincense- Frankincense is most commonly used to support the immune system and is known for its meditative properties. By boosting the immune system, it can improve kidney health and reduce inflammation.

What Cannot be mixed with turmeric? ›

Avoid using turmeric together with other herbal/health supplements that can also affect blood-clotting. This includes angelica (dong quai), capsicum, clove, dandelion, danshen, evening primrose, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, poplar, red clover, saw palmetto, and willow.

Which is better for joint pain, turmeric or boswellia? ›

Turmeric (and its active compound, curcumin) is widely known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Fewer studies focus on Boswellia, as it is less available and less popular than turmeric. Research, however, has found that long-term use of Boswellia for patients with osteoarthritis is safe and effective.

Is turmeric and frankincense good together? ›

Research has found that when turmeric and frankincense are paired together, the benefits of both were enhanced. The two work synergistically to produce an optimal effect against inflammation. The theory behind this is that boswellic acid (frankincense) increases the bioavailability of curcumin.

What is the strongest natural painkiller? ›

Endorphins are the body's natural painkillers. Released by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in response to pain or stress, this group of peptide hormones both relieves pain and creates a general feeling of well-being.

What is the best pain reliever for muscle pain? ›

Some feel acetaminophen works better for them, whereas others find ibuprofen better relieves a headache. Muscle ache or pulled/strained muscle. Ibuprofen typically works better for this kind of pain relief, due to the anti-inflammatory effects.

How much turmeric should I take for severe pain? ›

The Science Behind Turmeric and Turmeric Extracts

Multiple studies have shown that taking higher doses of curcumin in supplement form — around 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day — had similar pain relief effects to taking a prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

What oil is best for arthritis pain? ›

Dr. Oz and his collaborator, clinical aromatherapist Jane Buckle, PhD, recommend using 15 drops of an essential oil, such as lavender, chamomile or eucalyptus, diluted with 1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) of a “carrier” or neutral oil, such as almond, avocado or jojoba, dabbed directly on the skin.

What happens if you put frankincense directly on skin? ›

When applied to the skin: Frankincense essential oil or gum extract is possibly safe. It might cause skin irritation in some people. When inhaled: Frankincense essential oil is possibly safe. There isn't enough reliable information to know what the side effects might be.

What is the best carrier oil to mix with frankincense? ›

The carrier oils that can be used for frankincense are fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, and sweet almond oil. Some additional carrier oils that can be used are avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, grapeseed oil, apricot kernel oil, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil.

How do you dilute frankincense oil for arthritis? ›

  1. 20–30 drops pure frankincense essential oil.
  2. 10 drops pure ginger essential oil.
  3. 20–30 drops myrrh essential oil.
  4. 4 ounces fractionated coconut oil (or unrefined)

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