Bromelain is a generalized term that refers one or both of the proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzymes extracted from the stem and juice of pineapples. Bromelain was first isolated from pineapple in 1891, but pineapple has a long history of folk medicinal use; the native peoples of Central and Southern America used it to make dressings for wounds and skin injuries and drank its juice to ease indigestion and stomachaches. Bromelain was introduced as a therapeutic supplement in 1957, and it has been the subject of ongoing research because of its purported and anecdotal anti-inflammatory effects.
Bromelain is used for inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, hay fever, ulcerative colitis, pulmonary edema, relaxation, muscle soreness, improving antibiotic absorption, severe burns, and cancer. Research indicates the bromelain is likely ineffective for muscle soreness after exercise. Certain studies suggest that bromelain may reduce joint swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis and may reduce joint pain associated with osteoarthritis when taken alongside trypsin and rutin, but the methodologies of these studies have been criticized, thus calling into question the validity of their results.
Animal studies seem to support the use of bromelain preparations for the removal of dead skin tissue resulting from severe burns. Definitive research has yet to be conducted on bromelain’s other uses. In the absence of credible scientific evidence, consumers are advised to consult with a medical professional before using a bromelain supplement. Bromelain supplements should be taken under the direction of a doctor. Pregnant or nursing women should not take a bromelain supplement; no major studies have confirmed how bromelain may affect fetuses and infants.