Bromelain Benefits Make it a Top Remedy in Europe, But What Do Studies Say?

Pineapple Enzyme

Bromelain benefits make it a top herbal remedy in Europe where it is used to treat athletic injuries, sinusitis, phlebitis (vein inflammation) and as an aide in recovery from surgery. It’s the 13th most frequently sold herb in Germany.

Bromelain earns its nickname, pineapple enzyme,from its source, the pineapple plant. It consists of a collection of protein-digesting enzymes called proteolytic enzymes.

Enzymes are specialized protein molecules that speed up physical and chemical processes. They make other things work or work faster.

Bromelain is often used with other proteolytic enzymes that come from healthy foods such as papain (found in papaya fruit) and rutin (found in buckwheat). Trypsin and chymotrypsin extracted from animal pancreas may also be used.

Bromelain Benefits

Experts at ConsumerLab.com report that unlike most large enzymes that get broken down in the digestive tract, those found in bromelain appear to be absorbed into the blood whole (to a certain extent). This characteristic may explain how bromelain can affect the whole body (have systemic effects).

Here are bromelain’s main therapeutic effects and related uses selected from reports at ConsumerLab.com and MedlinePlus:

  1. Digestive Aide

    Acts as an effective digestive enzyme, helping break down proteins for those who don’t digest food properly

  2. Reduces Inflammation

    Like arnica, bromelain contains substances that fight pain and reduce the swelling caused by inflammation in these conditions:

    • Injuries
    • Surgery
    • Hay Fever
    • Ulcerative Colitis
    • Burn Treatment
    • Pulmonary Edema (water collection in the lungs)
  3. Slows Blood Clotting
  4. Affects the Immune System

      Contains chemicals that interfere with the growth of tumor cells

  5. Other:

    • Relaxing Muscles
    • Stimulating Muscle Contractions
    • Improving Absorption of Antibiotics
    • Preventing Cancer
    • Shortening Labor
    • Helping the Body Get Rid of Fat

    What Do Studies Say About Bromelain Benefits?

    MedlinePlus experts report on a rating of studies based on their scientific evidence from Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.

    They rate studies as effective, likely effective, possibly effective, possibly ineffective, likely ineffective, ineffective, and insufficient evidence to rate:

    Possibly Effective

    • Treating arthritis (osteoarthritis) pain and knee function when used in combination with trypsin and rutin - Phlogenzym, a product that contains this formula, was found as effective as some prescription painkillers

    Possibly Ineffective

    • Preventing muscle soreness after exercise

    Insufficient Evidence (More Research Needed)

    • Knee Pain - there's some evidence that taking bromelain can reduce mild acute knee pain
    • Reducing Pain and Swelling after Surgery or Injury
    • Severe Burns
    • Inflammation
    • Improving Antibiotic Absorption
    • Hay Fever
    • Preventing Cancer
    • Shortening of Labor
    • Ulcerative Colitis

    Safety and Special Precautions

    Bromelain is safe for most people when taken as directed, although it may cause mild gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort for some. Bromelain may also cause allergic reactions, especially in those allergic to pineapple, wheat, celery, papain, carrot, fennel, cypress pollen, or grass pollen.

    Bromelain might slow blood clotting, so taking it along with drugs and herbs that also slow clotting (like aspirin and warfarin) may increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. It may also increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. It’s recommended to stop taking it two-weeks before surgery.

    Avoid bromelain supplements if you are pregnant or breast feeding since not enough is known about its use in these conditions.

    Check with your doctor if you are on antibiotics as bromelain may increase their effects.

    Dosages

    Dosages vary depending on the supplement product and its use, so it is best to follow label instructions. For instance, bromelain should be taken with meals to aide in digestion and between meals to assist the body’s response to physical stress.

    Studies indicate that a combination product, Phlogenzym, which contains rutin 100 mg, trypsin 48 mg, and bromelain 90 mg, taken as 2 tablets 3 times daily helped osteoarthritis, reports MedlinePlus Experts.

    Bromelain Benefits Key Points

    The main natural healing bromelain benefits are to aide digestion and fight pain and swelling due to inflammation.

    Bromelain also contains chemicals that interfere with the growth of tumor cells.

    It is safe for most, though some may experience GI upset. Check with your health provider before taking bromelain if you are taking medications or anticipate surgery as it may increase the effectiveness of antibiotics and slow blood clotting.

    Sources and Resources

    ConsumerLab.com, “Bromelain,” http://www.consumerlab.com/tnp.asp?chunkiid=146651&docid=/tnp/pg000406.

    MedlinePlus, “Bromelain,” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/895.html.

    Moore, Nancy, The Cure for Chronic Pain: End the Pain of Arthritis, Sports Injury, and Other Joint Problems (Peoria, AZ: Intermedia, 2009).

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