Bioavailability boost: Study backs frankincense to ease IBS symptoms

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

IBS is complex and incompletely understood. Factors including genetic/social learning factors, diet, intestinal microbiota and low-grade chronic intestinal inflammation, have been associated with IBS. ©iStock
IBS is complex and incompletely understood. Factors including genetic/social learning factors, diet, intestinal microbiota and low-grade chronic intestinal inflammation, have been associated with IBS. ©iStock
A new proprietary method to deliver the Indian botanical extract Boswellia, could boost bioavailability and help manage the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), finds a study by Italian botanical player Indena.

The method centres on a lecithin-based delivery form of Boswellia serrata​ (BSE), a plant extract native to India, also known as frankincense.

Its delivery using lecithin improves the plant’s absorption, penetration across biological membranes and bioavailability, although its exact mechanism of action is not completely understood.

Researchers from Chieti-Pescara University and Italian botanical specialists Indena showed this combination reduced symptoms associated with mild ulcerative colitis, including intestinal pain, diarrhoea episodes and cramps.

Indena’s proprietary BSE formulation Casperome was also associated “with a lower incidence of side effects (mainly stypsis).”

“In addition, no alterations of gut microbiota – as assessed by examination of faeces – were reported,” ​the study commented.

While the causes of IBS are still up for debate, the gut–brain axis has been previously implicated with chances of developing IBS significantly increasing after gastrointestinal infection.

The use of herbal remedies such as BSE in its treatment have been hampered in the past by poor bioavailability, possible drug interactions and adverse effects.

Study details

Clinical trials involving 71 subjects with IBS followed one of three treatment strategies: Hyoscine butylbromide, administered when needed (group one); papaverine hydrochloride 10 milligrams (mg) and belladonna extract 10 mg, administered when needed (group two); and supplementation with Casperome, one tablet of 250 mg per day, for four weeks (group three).

All three groups were similarly comparable in age, gender and IBS severity.  Subjects before the start and the end of the four-week trial were evaluated for condition symptoms (abdominal pain, altered bowel movements, meteorism and cramps).

The team found that during the four-week stint these IBS symptoms improved in all three management strategies.

However, the Casperome-supplemented group was the only one to show a decrease in the number of subjects with any IBS symptoms (58% of subjects down to 12.5%). This compared to group one (20.8%) and group two (26.0%.)

Additionally, this group needed less medical attention with only one subject needing treatment (4.1%) compared to group one (12.5%) and group two (13%.)

The incidence of side effects also favoured the Casperome supplemented subjects (8.2%) with (28% for group one and 26% for group two).

“In IBS patients supplemented with Casperome, mild stypsis was the only unwanted effect recorded,” ​the study’s authors discussed.

“Two subjects with ISB symptoms managed by conventional, pharmacological options (group one and group two) experienced a mild, transient hypotension, possibly linked to the treatment.”

IBS supplementation

The team also commented on the use of supplements when IBS was well diagnosed and of mild intensity, believing this approach could reduce costs and side effects.

Peppermint oil and probiotics appear to improve symptoms with efficacious strains including Lactobacillus, Streptococcus​, Bifidobacterium,​ as well as combinations of probiotics.

One of the most popular formulations that has proved beneficial is Bayer’s Iberogast, a liquid formulation of nine herbs.

Its formulation includes bitter candytuft (Iberis amara​), angelica root (Angelicae radix​), milk thistle fruit (Silybi mariani fructus​), celandine herb (Chelidonii herba​), caraway fruit (Carvi fructus​), liquorice root (Liquiritiae radix​), peppermint herb (Menthae piperitae folium​), balm leaf (Melissae folium​) and chamomile flower (Matricariae flos​).

Source: European Review of Medical and Pharmacological Science

Published online ahead of print: doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2006.03.022

“Supplementation with a lecithin-based delivery form of Boswellia serrata extract (Casperome®) controls symptoms of mild irritable bowel syndrome.”

Authors: G.Belcaro et al.

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1 comment

Nano Boswellia liposomes ?

Posted by Mile,

Let's confirm that these herbal extracts are not manufactured using liposomes or micelles as lecithin is often used with Polysorbate 80 ( containing Polyoxyethylene glycol residues) or other synthetic emulsifiers, with nanotechnology process used to form such micelles. Nanotechnology is under consideration in food and health , for its potential risk ... Improved bioavailability is interesting but must not result in counterpart in long term degenerative genotoxicity ...

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