Study leader Dr. Emma Blain and Vic Duance, both from Cardiff University, and Dr. Ahmed Ali of the Compton Group, say England and Wales have a longstanding connection with the Somali community, whose members have used extracts of frankincense as a traditional herbal remedy for arthritic conditions.
"What our research has focused on is whether and how these extracts can help relieve the inflammation that causes the pain," Blain said in a statement.
The Cardiff scientists say they demonstrated treatment with an extract of Boswellia frereana -- a rare frankincense species -- inhibits the production of key inflammatory molecules that helps prevent the breakdown of the cartilage tissue which causes arthritis.
"The search for new drugs to alleviate the symptoms of conditions like inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis is a priority area for scientists," Ali said. "What our research has managed to achieve is to use innovative chemical extraction techniques to determine the active ingredient in frankincense."
Frankincense, grown on Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa and used in incense and perfumes, was one of the gifts given to the baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men in the New Testament account of Jesus' birth.