Can Bromelain Ease Your Pain?

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes found naturally in the juice and stems of pineapples. Available in dietary supplement form, it's considered a proteolytic enzyme (a class of enzymes thought to aid in the digestion of protein). Bromelain supplements are said to treat a variety of health conditions, especially those associated with chronic inflammation.


Bromelain is frequently touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems: allergiesanginaasthmabronchitischronic pain, muscle soreness, nasal swelling, osteoarthritissinusitis, and ulcerative colitis.

Bromelain is also said to stimulate digestion and improve heart health, as well as protect against some forms of cancer.

Health Benefits

Here's a look at several findings from the available research on the potential health benefits of bromelain:

1) Knee Pain

So far, studies testing bromelain's effects on knee pain have yielded mixed results.

In a small study published in QJM: Monthly Journal of the Association of Physicians in 2006, for example, bromelain supplements appeared to be no more effective than a placebo in alleviating symptoms such as pain and stiffness in people with osteoarthritis of the knee. The 12-week-long study involved 47 patients with moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis.

However, some research shows that bromelain may ease knee pain in people without arthritis. This research includes a small study published in Phytomedicine in 2002. In their analysis of data on 77 otherwise healthy adults with mild acute knee pain, the study's authors found that one month of treatment with bromelain significantly relieved symptoms and improved physical function.

2)  Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A mouse-based study published in Clinical Immunology in 2005 indicates that bromelain may aid in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. The study determined that bromelain may help suppress IBD-related inflammation.

3)  Asthma

Bromelain shows promise in the treatment of asthma, according to a preliminary study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in 2012. In tests on mice, researchers observed that treatment with bromelain may inhibit asthma-related airway inflammation.

4)  Cancer

Some preliminary research suggests that bromelain may possess anti-cancer properties.

In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2012, for instance, tests on breast cancer cells demonstrated that bromelain may fight breast cancer by inducing apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells).

Side Effects and Safety Concerns

Side effects commonly associated with bromelain include abnormal uterine bleeding, diarrhea, drowsiness, heavy menstruation, increased heart rate, indigestion, nausea, and vomiting.

In some individuals, bromelain may trigger allergic reactions and asthma symptoms, such as breathing problems, tightness in the throat, hives, rash, and itchy skin. People with allergies to pineapples should avoid bromelain. Allergic reactions may also occur in people with allergies to latex, carrot, celery, fennel, rye, wheat, papain, bee venom or grass, birch, or cypress pollens.

In addition, pregnant women and people with peptic ulcers should not use bromelain. Those with other digestive disorders should consult their physicians before taking bromelain supplements. 

Since bromelain may increase the risk of bleeding, it should also be avoided prior to undergoing surgery. Bromelain may be harmful to people with bleeding disorders and people taking blood-thinning (anticoagulant or anti-platelet) medication or supplements such as aspirin, warfarin, or ginkgo biloba. 

Tips for Using Supplements

When used for as a digestive aid, bromelain is usually taken with meals. When used for inflammatory conditions, it's often taken between meals on an empty stomach in order to maximize absorption.

It should also be noted that avoiding or delaying standard care and self-treating a chronic condition with bromelain supplements may have serious consequences. Talk to your doctor if you're thinking of using bromelain for any condition.

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