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Bromelain

Bromelain / pineapple
© Thinkstock

Common Names: bromelain, pineapple extract

Latin Names: (Pineapple Plant) Ananas comosus

Background

  • Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes found in the pineapple plant. Pineapple is native to the Americas but is now grown throughout the world in tropical and subtropical regions. Historically, natives of Central and South America used pineapple for a variety of ailments, such as digestive disorders.
  • Currently, bromelain is used as a dietary supplement for nasal swelling and inflammation, osteoarthritis, cancer, poor digestion, and muscle soreness. Topical (applied to the skin) bromelain is used for wounds and burns.
  • Bromelain is obtained from the stem or fruit of the pineapple. It is sold in the form of a powder, cream, tablet, or capsule, and it may be used alone or in combination with other ingredients.

How Much Do We Know?

  • There have been several studies on the use of bromelain for nasal swelling and inflammation and for removing dead skin from burns. Little research has been done on other uses of bromelain.

What Have We Learned?

  • A systematic review of the evidence indicates that bromelain is helpful in relieving symptoms of acute nasal and sinus inflammation when used in combination with standard medications.
  • Research in human and animal studies has found that topical bromelain preparations may help remove dead skin from burns. However, not enough evidence exists to show whether topical bromelain helps to treat burns and other wounds.
  • There is conflicting evidence about whether bromelain, alone or in combination with other ingredients, is helpful for osteoarthritis and for muscle soreness after exercise.
  • There is not enough evidence to determine if bromelain is effective for the other conditions for which it has been used, including cancer and gastrointestinal problems.
  • NCCIH-funded research is examining bromelain for inflammatory conditions and asthma.

What Do We Know About Safety?

  • There have been some reports of gastrointestinal problems, increased heart rate, and menstrual problems in people who have taken bromelain orally.
  • Allergic reactions may occur in individuals who are sensitive or allergic to pineapples or who may have other allergies.

Keep in Mind

  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

For More Information

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-888-644-6226

tty (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers):

1-866-464-3615

Website: https://nccih.nih.gov/

Email: info@nccih.nih.gov (link sends e-mail)

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.

Website: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

ODS seeks to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, supporting research, sharing research results, and educating the public. Its resources include publications (such as Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know), fact sheets on a variety of specific supplement ingredients and products (such as vitamin D and multivitamin/mineral supplements), and the PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset.

Website: https://ods.od.nih.gov/

Email: ods@nih.gov (link sends e-mail)

Key References

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

Last Updated: September 2016