Bromelain is an enzyme that is extracted from the stem and fruit of the pineapple. It is used to help reduce inflammation in the body, speed the healing of wounds and bruises, and aid in the digestion of proteins. Preliminary studies suggest that it may also be beneficial in helping to fight cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Bromelain is widely accepted as an effective treatment for pain and swelling caused by trauma (including sports injuries, surgery, and infections). Many studies have repeatedly demonstrated bromelain’s ability help the body recover from injury more quickly by preventing the accumulation of fibrin and potent inflammatory substances, such as leukotrienes. The German Expert Panel (Commission E) has approved bromelain for treatment of swelling and athletic injuries, and recommends a dose of 80 to 120 milligrams two to three times daily.
There’s also strong evidence that a taking 1,200 to 1,800 milligrams of bromelain each day can help relive painful inflammation in those that suffer with rheumatoid arthritis. When combined with antibiotics, bromelain may also help reduce inflammation that accompanies sinusitis. Studies have shown that bromelain is beneficial for reducing swelling and improving breathing.
Bromelain inhibits the aggregation (clumping) of platelets, and so it has been theorized that it might help prevent heart disease caused by plaque formation that could lead to a heart attack. It has been studied for its effectiveness in treating angina and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), both alone and in combination with other therapies. However, higher doses of bromelain may increase the heart rate and the effects of prescription blood thinners often prescribed to treat heart disease; people with cardiovascular disease should talk to their physician before trying bromelain supplements.
Bromelain may increase the absorption of some drugs, including antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and certain blood pressure medications. It has been theorized that bromelain may help cancer treatments be more successful. However, some researchers worry that bromelain could increase the effects of other medications as well, most notably blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin); anti-inflammatory medications such as Motrin, Advil, naproxen, and aspirin; antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix); herbs, such as ginkgo, saw palmetto, or garlic; and high doses of vitamin E. People who have are taking any of these substances, or who suffer from bleeding disorders should take this supplement with caution.
Bromelain may help those suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) by inhibiting the prostaglandin hormones that cause premenstrual cramps, although some studies have shown that bromelain may actually increase bleeding during menstruation.
If you suffer from pain or inflammation, or have recently sustained an injury, you may very well benefit from taking bromelain supplements. There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for bromelain, but doses of up to 1,000 milligrams taken three times daily have shown no toxic effects. Bromelain supplements are available in tablets and in a topical cream. Some experts recommend taking bromelain on an empty stomach (potatoes and soybeans may interfere with its absorption) in conjunction with magnesium, which may increase the effects of bromelain.
People who are allergic to pineapples, tree or grass pollen, carrots, celery, fennel, bees, latex, or flour should avoid bromelain, as it has been reported to cause allergic and asthmatic reactions in these people.
However, few serious side effects have been reported with the use of bromelain. The most common side effects reported are stomach upset and diarrhea. Keep in mind that bromelain may increase the sedative effects of certain medications and substances, including alcohol, antidepressants, barbiturates, and narcotics such as codeine, and use caution when combining bromelain with these substances.