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Lyme Arthritis: Boswellia (Frankincense) for “Trigger Finger”

This may be of help to anyone with strange mysterious joint pain. Over the last two weeks, I’ve progressively lost function of my fingers of both hands, especially upon waking. Daily worsening “trigger finger,” an arthritis-like swelling of tendons, makes it more and more painful and difficult to move my fingers. My Kaiser doctors say that the cause of the tendon swelling is a mystery. A rheumatologist gave me a topical anti-inflammatory drug. My symptoms started 9/7/18, a few days after a deep puncture wound through my shoe into my right foot on 9/4/18, but I had progressive morning stiffness in one thumb joint about 17 months ago which eventually went away.

The audio isn’t great on this next video, but this shows what is going on, mechanically with trigger finger.


The drug I was given for topical use has some wretched (though unlikely) possible side effects, including death. Not worth the risk, not yet anyway.

Vitamin B6 (P5P) for WBCs – How much is too much?

The reason B6 may cure trigger finger in some people is that it boosts the immune system’s white blood cell (WBC) production.  P5P (p-5-p is “symptom free” vitamin B6) has reportedly resolved trigger finger for some people but B6 is neurotoxic and an ER doctor told me to stop taking it to resolve crazy itching and twitching I was having, which worked.

The RDA for B6 is 1.3 mg/day for people under 50 and it varies a little for men and women (see the link). I backed off to ~10 mg/day as 100 mg/day really messed me up. Many people apparantly get peripheral neropathy from over supplementing B vitamins.

My recent B6 test showed my level way high at 273.2 nmol/L with the standard range being 20.0 to 125.0 nmol/L.  Some have reported levels of B6 over 500 nmol/L without taking supplements. There is a logical reason to take B6, B12 and folic acid supplements if you can’t get the from foods like spinach, asparagus and yogurt, but don’t damage yourself with too much.

Vitamins B6 and B12 as well as folic acid are all responsible for producing WBCs in the body. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Medical Case Reports notes that a neutropenia patient reported significantly decreased levels of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid. Oral vitamin B6 supplementation increased the level of neutrophil WBCs and corrected her condition.

via TopRemedies

Other WBC / Immunity Boosters Beyond B Vitamins

If bosting white blood cells can help reverse trigger finger, here are a few other things to try:

Astragalus – A 2006 study published in Cancer Letters notes that the astragalus membranaceus plant exhibits T-cell-boosting properties in cancer patients. T-cells are the body’s vital immunity-boosting WBCs.

Cat’s Claw – Studies have demonstrated the efficacy of cat’s claw consumption in patients who had a low WBC count post chemotherapy. Caution: It’s blood thinner.

Echinacea – The most consistently proven effect of echinacea is that it stimulates activity of WBCs that fight diseases through a process called phagocytosis. It encourages white blood cells and lymphocytes to attack invading organisms and increases the number and activity of immune system cells. It increases the amount of T-cells and macrophages in the bloodstream as well as increases the amount of Interferon, Interleukin, Immunoglobulin and other immune chemicals present in the blood. Caution: It’s blood thinner.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Dietary omega-3 fatty acids increase the body’s production of phagocytes, a type of WBCs that engulf harmful entities like bacteria. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology notes that fish oil consumption promotes activity of a type of WBCs called B cells.

Copper – Copper deficiency is rare, due to use in copper pipes in most household water systems, but it is possible and leads to a number of disorders including leukopenia. Healthy adults have between 50 and 80 milligrams of copper in their blood. Avocados, brazil nuts, pine nuts and pistachios are my favorite food sources of copper.

Myrrh – Myrrh has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, anti-parasitic properties.(6) The extract is effective at significantly reducing swelling in hands and feet and may work by reducing leukotaxine (a chemical produced by injured tissue that causes inflammation) as well as helping to “reduce the permeability of blood capillaries, which can also add to inflammation and pain in joints and surrounding tissue.” Frankincense and Myrrh work synergistically together to relieve pain, active blood circulation, and  treat inflammatory diseases. (via NIH)

Frankincense, The Safer Tylenol?

Tylenol (like alchohol) kills liver cells, so I don’t ever take it.

The drug is so toxic that as many as 80,000 people are rushed to the emergency room annually due to acetaminophen poisoning, and another 500-or-so end up dead from liver failure.

via Link

An ER doctor recommended a week of AM and PM Tylenol or something similar to reduce my tendon inflammation. Given potential organ damaging effects of these common OTC meds such as asprin, I have recently been searching for safe and effective anti-inflammatory alternatives. I already eat a lot of tumeric, but that and ginger essential oils have not stopped my joint problems. It’s spreading everywhere, fingers, toes right knee, right elbow, right hip, lower back, breastbone, neck, and shoulder pains and cracking.

I’m trying something new today: Boswellia, affectionately known as “Frank” for Frankinsence by those who use essential oils.

Boswellia Serrata is a gum resin extracted from a tree, which is sometimes burnt (the entire species of Boswellia is commonly known as Frankinsence) as an aromatic or otherwise administered as medicine. It has most usage for medicine in Ayurvedic medicine, some reading into Traditional Chinese Medicine, and its usage extends to the Middle East and other tropical regions.

Boswellia Serrata, via its active boswellic acids, appears to be a novel inhibitory of a pro-inflammatory enzyme called 5-Lipoxygenase and may possess other anti-inflammatory effects (such as nF-kB inhibition, which are not as novel). These anti-inflammatory effects have been investigated for their benefits in osteoarthritis (OA), and it appears that oral Boswellia supplements can suppress pain and immobility associated with OA quite significantly with the effects taking as little as a week to occur. The studies are well conducted, but funded by the producers of the tested supplements. There are limited non-funded interventions with Boswellic for this claim, but they seem to agree with the battery of funded study in effect size.

Remarkably, Boswellia appears to be quite anti-cancer that appears to be more anti-proliferative rather than apoptotic (the latter meaning to induce regulated cell death) since it is a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis and cell invasiveness. There are not a large battery of studies on these claims, but preliminary mouse and rat evidence where the rodents are injected with tumors suggest that Boswellia can potently suppress tumor growth (Pancreatic, Colorectal) and in some cases actually outright prevent tumor growth (Prostatic, Glioma). Boswellia appears to be a very promising anti-cancer herb due to the potency it exhibits in animals, with one study noting this after oral administration (100mg/kg of the main boswellic acid in animals). The potency has been replicated in other cancer cell lines in vitro (including breast, cervical, myeloma and leukemia) but these cancers do not yet have animal interventions yet.

Boswellia appears to be fairly nontoxic, has a history of usage as a phytopharmaceutical for brain edema associated with radiotherapy (a cancer treatment), and the general anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects make it a fairly interesting herb relative to others that have subpar evidence.

via Examine.com

… Boswellic acids are effective anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic agents, for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, soft tissue rheumatism, and low back pain. They also help control excessively high blood lipids and atherosclerosis, and protect the liver against bacterial galactosamine-endotoxins. The non-acid part of the gum has pain-relieving and sedative qualities, and in high doses can lower blood pressure, and reduce heart rate in dogs but increase it in frogs. Observed benefits of Boswellia include reduction in joint swelling, increased mobility, steroid sparing action (less steroids required in combined treatment), less morning stiffness, improved grip strength, and general improvement in quality of life, for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

– Pachnanda et al., Ind. J. Pharmacol., 1981;13: 63. – The Wealth of Asia, P.I.D.,C.S.I.R., 1996, New Delhi

via ProHealth

Boswellia serrata – the active constituents are boswellic acids. This herb has been used in arthritis and in maintaining joint health as it possesses analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects important in reducing joint pain and inflammation. For those suffering from Lyme arthritis, essential oil from Boswellia serrata applied together with coconut oil as a carrier on joints and other affected body parts, can be helpful in minimalizing pain and
symptoms of LD.

A bunch of things, possibly several working together, can cause trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis. Sten-o-sing ten-o-syno-vitis. What a thing to have. A stenosis, or a stricture, is an abnormal narrowing in a blood vessel or other tubular organ or structure.  Tenosynovitis is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sheath that surrounds a tendon, typically leading to joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Tenosynovitis can be either infectious or noninfectious.

Repetitive Stress

It is most commonly caused by overuse from chronic repetitive activities using the hand or the involved finger. In some cases (I feel probably most) it is a combination of infection and physical abuse that does it.

I did a bunch of tree pruning to help some friends last month and a few weeks ago ran a jackhammer for several days.

Transmissible Arthritis

There is also the odd possibility of catching arthritis from a pet. In cats, septic arthritis is an illness started by one of several bacteria, fungi or the feline calicivirus.

I was taking care of a cat with arthritis and because I have weakened anti-body production (specific IgG subclass deficiencies by recent lab tests) I seem to be susceptible to some odd things.

Back to the point of this article, luckily we have “Frank” ( added black bold emphasis below is mine).

Because it may help turn off reactions of the immune system that drive up inflammation and swelling, boswellia is a potential natural treatment for cancer, capable of helping to fight pain in addition to inflammation. Boswellia serrata extract is so powerful that today it’s considered comparable to NSAID pain relievers (the leading type of chemical anti-inflammatory medications).

However, unlike over-the-counter or prescription medications that come along with all sorts of side effects, boswellia extract has been used safely and without complications for thousands of years. The chemical structure of boswellic acids closely resemble those of steroids — however their actions are different and do much more than mask symptoms. …

Over the past several decades, research has given us a better understanding of how boswellia and frankincense oils may benefit our health and boost the immune system. Boswellia extracts seem to lower inflammation and support immune function on multiple levels, including (3):

  • interfering with cytokine production that raises inflammation (interferon gamma, interleukin-4 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha)
  • delaying reactions to sensitivities
  • helping regulate lymphocytes (white blood cells) and T-cells interactions
  • regulating production of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies, which protect the body from bacterial and viral infections
  • regulating production of immunoglobulin M (igM) antibodies, which are found mainly in the blood and lymph fluid.

Frank can also help with so called autoimmune diseases:

… Boswellia interferes with autoimmune disease development, since it seems to help control the production of immunoglobulins, or antibodies, which are made by the immune system to fight potential threats: bacteria, viruses, fungi and toxins.

The fact that boswellia serrata has inhibitory actions that decrease production of leukotrienes has received high attention by researchers who study chronic inflammatory diseases that are rooted in increased leukotriene activity. As one study published in the International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology puts it, “At the end of the cascade of events in the cellular immune system, as far as it directs to various tissues of the body — i.e. autoimmune diseases — formation of oxygen radicals and proteases play an important destructive role … it’s not surprising that positive effects of boswellia in some chronic inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, bronchial asthma, osteoarthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have been reported.” (12) …

The following dosages of boswellia are often recommended, although it depends on your specific goals and current health condition:

  • For lowering inflammation, take 600 to 900 milligrams of boswellia standardized (60 percent to 65 percent boswellic acid). This dosage might require taking several capsules daily.
  • For treating inflammatory conditions like arthritis, osteroarthritis, asthma, chronic pain, inflammatory bowel disease or injuries, try a higher dose between 900–1,200 milligrams per day. (22)

via DrAxe

Franincense, a Broad Spectrum Anti-Microbial

Besides fighting the swelling that causes trigger finger, Frank is also anti-microbial, “Anti-viral (especially EBV…)” and antibacterial.

“Smaller studies have focused on its antiviral and antibacterial effects, as well as its potential as an antidepressant.”

via DietvsDisease

In one experiment against several bacterial types, Boswellia beat the standard anti-biotic Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) for suppressing both Gram positive and the more anti-biotic resistant Gram negative bacteria. This is good to know given the cautions I’ve read about Cipro, e.g. related to Lyme.

As a side note if you are fighting Lyme with standard antibiotics:

There are safer antibiotics being used to treat Lyme, among them is Clarithromycin. But all antibiotics have downsides that include the destruction of Good Bacteria in the gut, and serious overgrowth infections such as Candida and Clostridium Difficile Infection, both of which can lead to long-term serious, and often unrecognized, health problems.

via FQResearch

My fingers are cracking as I type this, but perhaps the Frank essential oil is working it’s magic even now.

My first morning stiffness ever was April 2017, in the joint nearest the right thumbnail, with white “milk spots” (now gone) under that nail and some cysts in that hand (now gone or not painful.) That was the end of April 2017. It got better eventually with me doing everything I could short of drugs to get healthy. My last success included use of low concentration ionic silver, a potent anti-microbial agent which, like ozone, hydrogen peroxide, vitamin C and exercise, uses oxygen to kill invaders.

On Sept 7 of 2018, I had morning right hand trigger finger and it has gotten worse, involving more joints to a worse degree daily, until today Sept 24, 2018. Alternating hot and cold water is less effective at restoring movement each day.

Yesterday I took a Himalaya brand Boswellia serrata (Indian frankincense extract) internally, twice during the day. Not helpful yet, but I’ll give it time and will continue to try the topical essential oil as well as using heat and exercise to oxygenate my tissues.

As of now I’m losing function of my hands, my feet are cramping up and nothing is stopping the progression. Disconcerting, to say the least.

Lyme arthritis, if it’s that, does usually get better, even without antibiotics, but takes months. Without saying the word Lyme, the Kaiser ER doctor said he has other patients “like me,” that it’s a long road, and he mentioned my autoimmune sjogrens anti-body going negative, all of which may have been the “Kaiser way” of saying it is hidden Lyme (it disables part of the immune system to hide) and that it really sucks long term.

Lyme hides in the lymph nodes and structurally damages them:

Symptoms of Lyme disease are quite variable and may include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash. If the infection is not treated, it can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.

Usually, Lyme disease can be successfully treated with about four weeks of antibiotics; treatment is most successful during the early stages of infection.

The UC Davis study

Swollen lymph nodes, or lymphadenopathy, is one of the hallmarks of Lyme disease, although it has been unclear why this occurs or how it affects the course of the disease. The UC Davis research team set out to explore in mice the mechanisms that cause the enlarged lymph nodes and to determine the nature of the resulting immune response.

They found that when mice were infected with B. burgdorferi, these live spirochetes accumulated in the animals’ lymph nodes. The lymph nodes responded with a strong, rapid accumulation of B cells, white blood cells that produce antibodies to fight infections. Also, the presence of B. burgdorferi caused the destruction of the distinct architecture of the lymph node that usually helps it to function normally.

While B cells accumulated in large numbers and made some specific antibodies against B. burgdorferi, they did not form “germinal centers,” structures that are needed for the generation of highly functional and long-lived antibody responses.

“Overall, these findings suggest that B. burgdorferi hinder the immune system from generating a response that is fully functional and that can persist and protect after repeat infections,” Baumgarth said. “Thus, the study might explain why people living in endemic areas can be repeatedly infected with these disease-causing spirochetes.”

Via SciDaily

Yes, I have new swollen neck lymph glands and have had recent powerful but transient chest pains. I also have markers that show B cell maturation impairment in my immune system. A heart attack from infection may eventually kill me during a flare up. I’ve also had neurological symptoms like brain fog, memory problems and ocular migraine. My Igenex Lyme test was negative, but a bit suspicious. There is now a supposedly more accurate test that I may get, but it is $400, requires a doctor’s request, and is not covered by insurance.

Dr. Utpal Pal, Professor in Veterinary Medicine, has been studying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria throughout his twelve years with UMD, and his work has already produced the protein marker used to identify this bacterial infection in the body. Now, Dr. Pal and his team have isolated a protein produced by the bacteria that disables one of the body’s first immune responses … “Lyme disease is actually caused by your immune system,” explains Pal. “This bacteria wins the first battle, and your body overreacts so much that it causes intense inflammation in all the joints and areas that the bacteria spreads by sending so many reinforcements to kill it. Borrelia is then killed, but the inflammation remains and causes many of your symptoms for Lyme disease.

Via LymeDisAssoc

The paper below has more detail about how Lyme works to live long term extracellularly in the body.

Borrelia burgdorferi is one of the few extracellular pathogens capable of establishing persistent infection. We show that a spirochete surface protein of unknown function, BBA57, is an unorthodox regulator of multiple virulent determinants. The protein orchestrates unique host immune evasion strategies crucial for early spirochete infection in mammals. It suppresses host complement-mediated killing and neutrophil-derived microbicidal responses, including induction of antimicrobial peptides, and promotes pathogen dissemination by regulating type I interferon. In the absence of BBA57, spirochetes can undergo nonheritable transcriptional reprograming events ultimately favoring pathogen persistence. These studies highlight the evolution of plasticity in immune evasion strategies of atypical pathogens like B. burgdorferi, which is remarkably adapted to persist in multiple hosts and on a long-term basis without host clearance.


Today I can still dictate articles like this and do minor editing without bending my fingers.

Yesterday 10 minutes of alternating hot and cold water freed my right hand to move. Today 20 minutes of hot and cold did not. But after that a few minutes after applying doTerra Deep Blue rub and then doTerra frankincense oil (Boswellia carterii, frereana, and sacra species), I could again move my right hand. And tomorrow?

Next morning, fingers were worse but Boswellia essential oil alone let my hands move again within 3 minutes. Unfortunately the stiffness always comes back and still seems to be getting worse daily. My sense is that if I don’t fight this it will become permanent arthritis or even cancer.

Here are a few other things I’ve learned since writing this:

Serrapeptase can help break down the scar tissue to restore movement. I found a formula with several enzymes (Amylase, Bromelaine including this one that work together.

Try Eliminating Nightshade Vegetables, such as tomatoes, as contain the alkaloid chemical solanine which is toxic in large amounts and which some studies link with joint pain.

Probiotics – meta-analysis of 20 clinical trials has shown probiotics decrease inflammation. To heal the body, start with the gut, a major part of the immune system.

Massage of the forearms by a trained person using a device can help free up trigger fingers.

Massage of the painful joints can help free up trigger finger.

Black teabags, after being soaked in hot water and drained, when put on top of the joints for 10 minutes can greatly help reduce inflammation.

Aloe vera gel fresh from leaves topically reduces the swelling and pain involved.

Brisk walking and swinging the arms to move the lymph and oxygenate tissues helps a compromised system, so I’m doing that today after 20 minutes on a BioMat heating pad to therapeutically raise my body temperature.

Good sleep – poor sleep can aggravate joint pain and fatigue. Improve sleep hygiene so you find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Is this all just a flu and repetitive stress from pruning and jackhammering? Lyme arthritis? A virus?

It could all be due to a single bacteria:

Gut-residing segmented filamentous bacteria drive autoimmune arthritis via T helper 17 cells

Introduction of a single gut-residing species, segmented filamentous bacteria, into GF animals reinstated the lamina propria Th17 cell compartment and production of autoantibodies, and arthritis rapidly ensued. Thus, a single commensal microbe, via its ability to promote a specific Th cell subset, can drive an autoimmune disease. … treatment of K/BxN mice from birth with vancomycin or ampicillin, but not metronidazole or neomycin, strongly inhibited the development of arthritis. … a single bacterial species that is a component of normal gut microbiota, SFB was sufficient to induce the development of SI-LP Th17 cells in mice … Introduction of SFB greatly accelerated arthritis onset in the transferred mice, beginning 3 days after gavage…

Via Cell

So, it’s segmented filamentous gut bacteria also called Candidatus Savagella causing “SI-LP Th17” cell production, at least in mice. Our T helper 17 cells help maintain mucosal immunity in the body. They maintain mucosal barriers and contribute to pathogen clearance at mucosal surfaces, but have also been implicated in “autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.”

Revitalizing Th17 cells has been shown to decrease symptoms of chronic infection, including decreased inflammation …

How? It may be as simple as taking vitamin D3 if you are deficient.

The active form of vitamin D (1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3) has been found to ‘severely impair’ production of the IL-17 and IL-17F cytokines by Th17 cells. Thus, active form of vitamin D is a direct inhibitor for Th17 differentiation. In this way, oral administration of vitamin D3 was proposed to be a promising tool for the treatment of Th17-mediated diseases.

With this clue, I checked my vitamin D level with a blood test and it was low, 37 ng/mL, so I’ve started taking a supplement to get up around 70 ng/mL.

The Vitamin D Council recommends maintaining serum levels of 50 ng/ml (equivalent to 125 nmol/L*), with the following reference ranges:

Deficient: 0-40 ng/ml (0-100 nmol/l)

Sufficient: 40-80 ng/ml (100-200 nmol/l)

High Normal: 80-100 ng/ml (200-250 nmol/l)

Undesirable: > 100 ng/ml (> 250 nmol/l)

Toxic: > 150 ng/ml (> 375 nmol/l)

Via VitDCounsel

Vitamin D3 – A person’s new doctor after an arthritis evaluation started them with 15,000 IU’s of vitamin D a day. Symptoms began to subside 3 days later and in a month the person with RA was completely OFF all the medications they had been steadily taking for ten years! Today the person still takes 10,000 IU’s a day and feels hip pain on missing a dose.

Whatever I have, it’s no fun, getting worse and still a mystery, but at least I understand some possibilities better after all this research.


About Xeno

E pluribus unum.


6 thoughts on “Lyme Arthritis: Boswellia (Frankincense) for “Trigger Finger”

  1. That sounds absolutely horrid. So sorry you’re going through this health challenge. Interestingly, just last week I listened to a series of podcasts called Ancient Medicine for Modern Disease last week hosted by Nick Polizi – https://www.thesacredscience.com/ Lyme disease was covered quite extensively in it. So nasty. I took some notes that may be of interest to you .
    As Lyme mimics so many other conditions and co-infections are common, an integrative approach to treatment is best, early detection if at all possible. However, ‘normal’ tests and labs are not reliable for detecting Lyme disease. The recommended IGenex lab ELISA test is supposed to be the most reliable. Stephen Harrod Buhner is a world leader in the detection and treatment of Lyme disease – http://buhnerhealinglyme.com/
    His book Healing Lyme seems to be readily available on the internet – sorry for the lengthy link. https://books.google.com.au/books?id=RJ4YG4_WPckC&printsec=frontcover&dq=amazon+healing+lyme&hl=en&sa=X&ved
    Frankincense is an amazing essential oil. I use it regularly. In the Middle East during the era of the camel caravans, it was more highly prized than gold. It was considered a ‘must have’ in the first aid kit.
    My personal preference is to use Young Living oils. They set the gold standard world wide in purity and quality in an industry that is not well regulated. They will not put any oils on the market without stringent independent testing to ensure that the quality is up to their very strict standards.
    I hope you find some answers and treatments that work for you.

    Posted by Soul Gifts | 24 Sep 2018, 9:32 pm
    • Thanks! I’ll checkout the info, much appreciated! We will know enough about Lyme when we can eradicate it.

      As I understand it, the person who started doTerra was originally a Young Living employee, so the two companies have similarities and I think both have very high quality standards. What species does the YL have for its frankincense EO? I wonder if they differ there. Thanks again!

      Posted by Xeno | 24 Sep 2018, 11:01 pm
      • Yes, doTerra was started by an ex-YL employee. Apparently there was some sort of dispute. A lot of ugly rumours and untruths about YL were involved. The whole nasty business ended up in court.
        Garry Young, the founder of YL, spent a long time sourcing Boswellia frankincense. YL has a partnership in place with the locals, along with a YL sponsored school for the children.

        Posted by Soul Gifts | 24 Sep 2018, 11:18 pm
      • Does YL say what Boswellia species are in their blend?

        Posted by Xeno | 24 Sep 2018, 11:26 pm
      • Frankincense (Boswellia carterii). They also sell 100% pure Frankincense

        Posted by Soul Gifts | 24 Sep 2018, 11:36 pm
  2. Thank you Zeno, for this informative article on Lyme. Have family member suffering from the terrible disease! Will pass this information on. Have sadly lost contact with many since my son’s (Allen) passing.

    Posted by Victoria Murphy | 25 Sep 2018, 12:46 pm

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