There is varied scientific evidence surrounding the effectiveness of using bromelain for these purposes.
This article will look at the reported benefits, as well as the potential risks, of using bromelain.
What is bromelain?
Bromelain is an enzyme in pineapples that people can take as a supplement.
Bromelain is an enzyme mixture that people can extract from the stem or fruit of the pineapple plant Ananas comosus.
Healers have used these enzymes for hundreds of years in many ways. Now, retailers tend to sell bromelain either as a health supplement or skin cream.
Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes that have active effects in the body. The active ingredients in bromelain include proteinases and proteases, which are enzymes that break down proteins in the body.
Benefits of bromelain
People use bromelain as a natural remedy for many health issues. There is little quality scientific research to support many of its use, however.
We discuss the possible benefits of bromelain supplements, along with the research, below:
Bromelain may be helpful as a supportive therapy to reduce the symptoms of sinusitis and related conditions that affect breathing and the nasal passages.
A 2006 systematic review reports that bromelain, when a person uses it alongside standard medications, can help relieve inflammation in the sinuses. This study provides high-quality evidence, as it looked at 10 randomized control trials.
People commonly use bromelain supplements to improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
A 2004 review of clinical studies found that bromelain is a useful treatment for osteoarthritis, possibly due to its anti-inflammatory effects. The researchers say that further research is needed into the effectiveness and suitable dosages.
However, this is an older study, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) say that the research to date is mixed about whether bromelain, alone or with other medications, is effective in treating osteoarthritis.
Research suggests that bromelain may be beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Along with reducing nasal inflammation in sinusitis, bromelain may also reduce inflammation elsewhere in the body.
Bromelain also may help stimulate a healthy immune system to release inflammation-fighting immune system compounds.
The review also suggests that bromelain can reduce transforming growth factor beta, which is a compound associated with inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis and osteomyelofibrosis.
However, scientists had conducted many of these studies on mice or in a cell-based laboratory setting, so researchers do not currently know the effects that bromelain has in humans.
Bromelain may have anticancer effects both on cancer cells and by improving inflammation in the body and boosting the immune system, according to a 2010 review in the journal Cancer Letters.
However, the NIH say that there is currently not enough evidence to suggest that bromelain has any effects on cancer.
Some people take bromelain to relieve stomach upset and the symptoms of digestive disorders. Due to its inflammation-reducing properties, some people use it as an adjunct therapy to treat inflammatory bowel disorders.
The NIH state that there is not enough evidence for using bromelain to aid digestion.
Some supplement manufacturers are marketing bromelain as a weight loss aid. They state that the enzymes in bromelain can increase the speed at which the body digests fats.
However, there is little research to suggest that bromelain could help a person lose weight.
Sources of bromelain
Bromelain is naturally present in a pineapple's stem and yellow fruit. Manufacturers may sell bromelain as a capsule, cream, powder, or tablet. Manufacturers may also package bromelain along with other supplements, such as conjugated linoleic acid, which is a compound that may help with weight loss.
The body is usually able to absorb a significant amount of bromelain safely. People can consume about 12 grams per day of bromelain without it producing any unwanted side effects.
However, neither doctors nor researchers have established a specific amount of bromelain that a person should take to see health benefits. The dose may depend on what type of bromelain a person is taking (from the stem or the fruit), how it is prepared, and the manufacturer's recommendations.
Risks, side effects, and interactions
A stomach upset can be a side effect of taking bromelain.
While bromelain is a natural substance, it can have some side effects. These include:
- stomach upset
- an increased heart rate
- menstrual problems
If a person experiences these side effects, they should stop using bromelain and talk to their doctor about other possible treatments.
People with sensitivities or allergies to pineapples should avoid taking bromelain. It can cause allergic reactions that range from mild to severe, and in extreme cases, it can result in anaphylaxis.
A person should seek emergency medical attention if they experience any of the following after taking or applying bromelain:
- difficulty breathing
- severely red or swollen skin
- a weak, rapid pulse
Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes derived from the pineapple fruit or stem. Research suggests that bromelain can have health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and helping heal wounds, when a person uses it as a supplement.
However, there are no large-scale human research studies to back up its effectiveness. There are few side effects associated with bromelain. A person may wish to add this supplement to their diet, but it should not replace medical treatment.
People who wish to try bromelain supplements can find them in drug stores, some grocery stores, and online.