Bromelain (Ananas comosus) are a family of sulfhydryl proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes derived from the stem and juice of the pineapple plant. The pineapple plant is grown and harvested in the American Tropics, southern Brazil, Paraguay, Japan, Hawaii and Taiwan.
Sufficient amounts of Bromelain can not be obtained from dietary sources.
What does it do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?
Bromelain is a versatile group of enzymes that are used by the body for a wide variety of physiological purposes.
Although bromelains chief use is as a blood thinning agent due to its ability to prevent blood clotting1, its use is not limited to this application.
Bromelain has long been used as an antiinflamatory1 and pain killer2,3,4 an anti-tumor agent5,6 a digestive aide7, and anecdotal evidence suggests that bromelain may be effective at reducing the inflammation associated with hemorrhoids. It is also efficacious for the treatment of arthritis pain.8
Bromelain is known to increase immune function through an increase in white blood cell count9,10 and because of this it has been used as a post-surgery and injury wound healing agent.11
When used in conjunction with antibiotic therapy, bromelain has been shown to increase antibiotic effectiveness and absorption.12,13,14 It has also been shown to be an effective treatment for angina pectoris15, sinusitis16 and asthma17. Breast cancer patients have derived benefit from bromelain supplementation through immune system fortification and a reduction in the activity of the disease.18
Who needs it and what are some symptoms of deficiency?
Bromelain is a diverse group of powerful enzymes, and as such all persons can derive benefit from bromelain supplementation. Athletes and persons with compromised immune function can derive particular benefit from bromelain supplementation.
Symptoms of deficiency can include compromised immune function and slower recovery times associated with injury and surgery.
How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?
All persons should strictly adhere to label directions.
Although bromelain has a very low toxicity, some people are allergic to bromelain, and symptoms of overdose can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and menorrhagia (excessively heavy menstrual flow).
Persons with a bromelain allergy should refrain from bromelain supplementation and persons on blood thinning medications or those supplementing with ginkgo biloba or garlic should also avoid supplementation.
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2. Seligman B. Bromelain: an anti-inflammatory agent. Angiology 1962;13:508-10.
3. Cirelli MG. Treatment of inflammation and edema with bromelain. Delaware Med J 1962;34:159-67.
4. Seltzer AP. Minimizing post-operative edema and ecchymoses by the use of an oral enzyme preparation (bromelain). EENT Monthly 1962;41:813-7.
5. Gerard G. Anti-cancer therapy with bromelain. Agress 1972;3:261-274.
6. Nieper HA. A program for the treatment of cancer. Krebs 1974;6:124-127.
7. Balakrishnan V, Hareendran A, Nair CS. Double-blind cross-over trial of an enzyme preparation in pancreatic steatorrhea. J Assoc Physicians India 1981;29:207-9.
8. Cohen A, Goldman J. Bromelains therapy in rheumatoid arthritis. Pennsylvania Med J 1964;67:27-30.
9. Munzig E, Eckert K, Harrach T, et al. Bromelain protease F9 reduces the CD44 mediated adhesions of human peripheral blood lymphocytes to human umbilical vein endothelial cells. FEBS Lett 1995;351:215-8.
10. Engwerda CR, Andrew D, Murphy M, Mynott TL. "Bromelain activates murine macrophages and natural killer cells in vitro." Cell Immunol. 2001 May 25;210(1):5-10.
11. MacKay D, Miller AL. Nutritional support for wound healing. Altern Med Rev. 2003 Nov;8(4):359-77.
12. Tinozzi S, Venegoni A. Effect of bromelain on serum and tissue levels of amoxycillin. Drugs Expt Clin Res 1978;4:39-44.
13. Luerti M, Vignali ML. Influence of bromelain on penetration of antibiotics in uterus, salpinx and ovary. Drugs Expt Clin Res 1978;4:45-48.
14. Renzinni G, Varengo M. The absorption of tetracyclin in combination with bromelain by oral application. Arzneim-Forsch 1972;22:410-412.
15. Nieper HA. Effect of bromelain on coronary heart disease and angina pectoris. Acta Med Empirica 1978;5:274-278.
16. Ryan RE. A double-blind clinical evaluation of bromelains in the treatment of acute sinusitis. Headache 1967;7:13-17.
17. Schafer A, Adelman B. Plasma inhibition of platelet function and of arachidonic acid metabolism J Clin Invest 1985;75:456-61.
18. Eckert K, Grabowska E, Stange R, Schneider U, Eschmann K, Maurer HR. "Effects of oral bromelain administration on the impaired immunocytotoxicity of mononuclear cells from mammary tumor patients." Oncol Rep. 1999 Nov-Dec;6(6):1191-9.