One of the original Christmas presents may turn out to be a 21st century gift to people with multiple sclerosis.
Most people, whatever their faith if any, will be familiar with the story of the Three Kings, or wise men. According to the story, they arrived in Bethlehem and gave the baby Jesus their offerings of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
If you didn’t know, and I don’t see why you should, frankincense is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes. It is obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia.
Now, a group of researchers in Germany say that an extract can be used to treat relapsing MS.
The study, “A standardised frankincense extract reduces disease activity in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (the SABA phase IIa trial)” was published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgy, and Psychiatry, on December 16, 2017.
It found that an oral administration of a standardised frankincense extract (SFE) is safe and reduces disease activity in patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS).
The researchers concluded that the oral SFE was safe, tolerated well and exhibited beneficial effects on RMS disease activity. They added that it warrants further investigation in a controlled phase IIb or III clinical trial.
Frankincense study explained
The study reports that, after a 4-month baseline observation phase, patients were treated for 8 months with an option to extend treatment for up to 36 months.
It says: “The primary outcome measures were the number and volume of contrast-enhancing lesions (CEL) measured in MRI during the 4-month treatment period compared with the 4-month baseline period.
“Eighty patients were screened at two centres, 38 patients were included in the trial, 28 completed the 8-month treatment period and 18 of these participated in the extension period.
“The SFE significantly reduced the median number of monthly CELs from 1.00 to 0.50 at months 5-8. We observed significantly less brain atrophy as assessed by parenchymal brain volume change.
“Adverse events were generally mild (57.7%) or moderate (38.6%) and comprised mainly gastrointestinal symptoms and minor infections.
“Mechanistic studies showed a significant increase in regulatory CD4+ T cell markers and a significant decrease in interleukin-17A-producing CD8+ T cells, indicating a distinct mechanism of action of the study drug.”
The science seems to be based on the fact that frankincense contains boswellic acids that are anti-inflammatory.
It will be interesting to see if further studies will be undertaken and, if so, what the eventual outcome may be.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.
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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.