A well-known tree sap (aka, essential oil) has been treasured since ancient times for its medicinal and aromatic properties.

Proclaimed to be worthy of kings, it was mentioned in the Bible as one of the presents brought by the three wise men who paid homage to Jesus at His birth. Now you can put it to work to improve your own health. . .

Some genes in your body suppress cell growth, and some induce cell death. There is some evidence that frankincense induces cell death in cancer cells.

You see, every healthy cell in your body is programmed to die, the process called apoptosis or programmed cell death. But cancer cells are immune or highly resistant to programmed cell death. They’re practically “immortal” — at least until they kill their host, the unfortunate patient.

Scientists think frankincense, a resin from the boswellia tree (Boswellia serrata), helps promote healthy programmed cell death.

Brain cancer and breast cancer

Though boswellia is virtually unknown by mainstream doctors, it has been shown to be helpful for brain tumor patients, especially those taking corticosteroids to control peritumoral edema. Boswellia is designated by the European Union as an orphan drug for that purpose. This means it can be prescribed by doctors for this application without having gone through the rigorous trials required of most drugs.

Many topics about frankincense are subjects of great debate, with no clear-cut answers likely to appear soon. There is evidence that boswellic acids can cross the blood-brain barrier, based on animal studies.1 If true in humans, then boswellia might be effective against brain cancer.

Boswellia may be directly toxic to brain tumor cancer cells. Studies show its extracts were cytotoxic (cell-killing) to glioma cells and stopped proliferation in a dose-dependent manner during rat studies.2

Several experimental results suggest that Boswellia sacra may be an effective therapy for treating invasive breast cancer. Boswellia sacra is a close relative of Bowellia serrata and both are a source of frankincense, although the two resins are probably not identical.

One study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that B. sacra oil induced cell death in specific breast cancer lines by disrupting the cells’ growth, limiting their cell-signaling pathways and their cell cycle regulation.

Frankincense extracts and essential oil have been studied for their effects on human pancreatic cancer — a cancer with a 5-year survival rate of less than 5 percent. Researchers found the pancreatic cancer cells to be sensitive to the higher-molecular weight frankincense compounds, which suppressed cell viability and increased the rate of cell death.

Used as a natural medicine for thousands of years

Boswellia’s properties have been used in traditional Chinese medicine and in Ayurveda for millennia. But once conventional medicine decided to focus almost exclusively on man-made drugs, the medical benefits of frankincense were largely forgotten — till scientists discovered that an ethanolic extract from it could help reduce arthritis and inflammation.

The boswellia tree actually looks more like a gnarled old shrub than what you’d likely call a tree. It grows in North Africa and the Middle East, and thrives especially well in regions with warm winters and rainy summers — the perfect growing conditions for this plant.

Frankincense has enjoyed widespread use in the preparation of perfumes and cosmetics, and you may know it best as an incense that’s still important in certain religious ceremonies. Its use in religious rituals may explain why it was one of the gifts of the Magi to Jesus. In fact, frankincense is an old French word meaning “pure incense”. In ancient times it was shipped all over Europe and the Far East.

Evidence indicates that boswellia has been harvested in the Middle East going as far back as 7,000 B.C. Traditionally, the bark was cut and allowed to “bleed out” its impurities for a number of days before the cutters returned to extract the pure sap, which could vary in color from yellow to bright green, brown, or even black.

Is boswellia a potent cancer fighter or not?

Recent scientific research indicates that Omali frankincense contains an agent that may stop cancer in its tracks. Immunologist Mahmoud Suhail believes that frankincense may reset the damaged DNA code that can lead to cancer.

Dr. H.K. Lin, Associate Professor in the Department of Urology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, has been studying the effects of frankincense oil against bladder cancer. He compared frankincense to sandalwood, balsam fir, palo santo, and tsuga oil. Frankincense was the only one of the five that showed an ability to distinguish cancer cells from normal ones, and specifically killed cancer cells.

Applied to a lab sample of human bladder cancer cells, frankincense oil caused them to revert to normal healthy cells. Frankincense oil appears to distinguish between cancerous and normal bladder cells, and to suppress cancer cell viability, although the evidence is somewhat limited.

A 2003 study on human genome sequencing showed that the MAPK (mitogen-Image result for boswellia and canceractivated protein kinase) gene was specifically activated by Frankincense, inducing “non-classical programmed cell death” in bladder tumor cells.

Another study, published in 2009, showed that frankincense oil suppressed cell viability in bladder cancer (J82) cells. Frankincense was apparently responsible for cell cycle arrest, cell growth suppression, and apoptosis (natural cell death) in J82 cancer cells.

But since this cell death didn’t result in DNA fragmentation — a hallmark of apoptosis — the conclusion at present is that boswellia seems to stop proliferation, but does not cause outright cell death. It is also considered a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis and cell invasiveness.

Even more recently, a 2011 study showed that Boswellia sacra oil suppressed important malignant features of tumor cells — invasion and multicellular tumor growth, for example. Some scientists think this may affect the potential for metastasis.

It all sounds promising, but here’s the glitch…

Are lab experiments sufficient for human trials? No. You simply cannot compare what a substance does to a lab culture of bladder cells to what it does to the whole bladder, for example.

It takes time and money to carry out this type of research. And conventional medicine lacks the incentive to take the study of a natural substance to the next step. It can’t be patented and they can’t charge thousands of dollars for it, as they can for chemotherapy drugs.

But wait… there are other uses for boswellia

Boswellia is an anti-inflammatory, and has a long history of use in India to treat arthritis. Research shows boswellia, in combination with another inflammatory herb, curcumin (a turmeric extract), helps relieve the pain of arthritis. The boswellia-curcumin combination has none of the dangerous side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.

According to ArthritisMD.com, boswellic acid prevents leukotrienes from forming. (They help move inflammation-producing cells around.)

Got asthma? This is another inflammatory condition, and it can kill. Treatment with boswellia helped asthma sufferers sustain fewer attacks and enjoy better measurable air movement through the lungs.

Frankincense could also be a treatment against ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease, in which the bowels are plagued with inflammation.

And there’s more…

It may be beneficial for infections because it has antiseptic properties. And some propose its use as a diuretic for those who retain water, and for relieving female reproductive pain and cramping.

What you need to know before you try frankincense

Frankincense can be purchased over the counter. Recommended doses vary wildly, however, and are dependent on your individual biochemistry and the type and stage of cancer you’re fighting. Therefore, boswellia should be used under the guidance of a physician experienced in its use for cancer.

If you’re looking for it in a joint supplement, one study showed symptomatic improvement from six grams per day (in three divided doses of two grams each).3

Will frankincense oil work for everyone? We have no way of knowing at this time. To find out will likely take many years of research — to look at genetic variations, many different cancer types and stages, different species of frankincense and different preparation of the oils.

Though boswellia extract is considered safe to use and isn’t known to have serious side effects, here’s the lowdown on precautions:

  • Although it’s rare, some people get a rash, nausea, and/or diarrhea.
  • There are no known drug interactions — but research in this area is skimpy.
  • Do not use frankincense if you are pregnant or breastfeeding… its safety during pregnancy has not been established.
  • Some sources say it can be ingested, and others say not to. But it is being sold in supplement form, and reports of adverse side effects are rare.

In sum, not only is frankincense becoming popular for cancer, but now it’s also known as an inflammation fighter4 — helpful for diseases like arthritis.

Unfortunately, boswellia suffers the same dilemma as many other herbal remedies. There aren’t enough studies yet to confirm its benefits, and much of the evidence is anecdotal.

So where does that leave you? You would need to consult with a doctor who has clinical experience with boswellia, do your own additional research… and then proceed with caution.

Ok, remind me what my thyroid does…

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck near your collarbone. It’s one of your hormone-producing endocrine glands. Thyroid hormones control a variety of important processes, such as:

  • How fast you burn calories
  • How fast your heart beats
  • How your body experiences temperature changes
  • How much calcium you have in your blood

When your thyroid is a normal size, you can’t feel it. But if your thyroid swells, this produces what’s called a goiter. These may be harmless—but they can also be a sign of iodine deficiency or other inflammation problems.

It’s possible that both goiter and thyroid cancer are on the rise because consumption of iodine has fallen. Low iodine levels are also implicated in breast cancer.

It used to be that public health officials were concerned about goiter. To protect the public from thyroid problems, many brands of bread were enriched with iodine and, of course, most table salt was iodized. That’s no longer the case. The average American is now iodine-deficient.

To make sure your iodine levels are healthy, the simplest option is probably to take a kelp supplement, readily available in health food stores. I use the Nature’s Way brand, but there are many others.

If you have a sluggish thyroid, the condition is called hypothyroidism. You may experience unexpected weight gain… feel constant fatigue… and have difficulty dealing with cold temperatures…

A hyperactive thyroid produces more hormones than your body needs—a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Excess thyroid hormone can cause weight loss, a rapid heart rate, and make you overly sensitive to heat.

Besides iodine deficiency, the two biggest risk factors for thyroid cancer are:

  1. Large doses of radiation therapy—having more than five x-rays each year (even dental x-rays) increases your risk
  2. Genetics—having parents or siblings with thyroid cancer puts you at greater risk

As I said earlier, papillary thyroid cancer accounts for about 80 percent of all cases. Patients usually are diagnosed in their mid-40s. And women get this cancer about three times more often than men.

So you might be wondering…

How to find this silent, stealthy cancer

By some estimates, as many as 59 million Americans have undiagnosed thyroid problems.

Doctors sometimes find them during routine physical exams. Or you may notice a growth in your neck area when looking in the mirror.

Other signs that you may have thyroid problems include:

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Lingering cough unrelated to a cold
  • Pain or swelling in the neck

Undiagnosed thyroid problems can put you at risk for a number of health problems including anxiety and depression, hair loss, heart disease, infertility, sexual dysfunction and more.

The ideal would be to catch any potential problems before they damage your overall health.

Your doctor may use a variety of tests to diagnose thyroid cancer, including:

  • Blood tests—blood samples are checked for abnormal levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Your pituitary gland makes TSH to stimulate the release of thyroid hormone and control how fast thyroid cells grow. Excess TSH may be a sign of a diseased thyroid.
  • Laryngoscopy—your doctor checks your larynx with a mirror or laryngoscope to see if the vocal cords are moving normally or if they are inhibited by a thyroid tumor.
  • Surgical biopsy—involves removing the thyroid nodule or one lobe of the thyroid so that a pathologist can view cells and tissues under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
  • Ultrasound exam—this procedure can show the size of a thyroid tumor and whether it is solid or filled with fluid. Doctors can also use an ultrasound test to perform a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.

If you receive a thyroid cancer diagnosis, you’ll most likely hear that your treatment options involve chemotherapy, radiation and possibly surgery — the familiar “cut, burn and poison.” As you know if you read this newsletter, I strongly prefer natural and alternative methods of treating cancer. Particularly for slow-growing and most-likely-harmless papillary thyroid cancer, I would try alternatives first.

The treatment a conventional doctor recommends will depend on the type and stage of your thyroid cancer.

Doctors may opt to remove all of the gland or just a portion with surgery. If you have the entire gland removed, you have less chance of any recurring cancers.

But in either case—you’ll have to take hormone medications for life to supply the missing hormone your thyroid would normally produce.

If doctors recommend radioactive iodine treatments, you may experience nausea, pain and an altered sense of taste or smell.

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