The Health Benefits of Lumbrokinase

Can earthworm enzyme prevent heart attack and stroke?

Handful of earthworms
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Lumbrokinase is an enzyme derived from Lumbricus rubellus, a species of earthworm. Sold as a dietary supplement, lumbrokinase is classified as a fibrinolytic enzyme (a substance that promotes the breakdown of fibrinogen, a protein involved in blood clotting). Supplementing with lumbrokinase is thought to offer health benefits, including the prevention of stroke and the treatment of angina (coronary chest pains).

Earthworms have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat circulatory, lung, liver, and spleen disorders and are known by the name di long (meaning "earth dragon").

Lumbrokinase supplements are sometimes referred to as buluoke or buluoke lumbrokinase.

Health Benefits

Lumbrokinase is being investigated as an antithrombotic agent. Thrombocytes, also known as platelets, are red blood cells that clump together whenever tissues are compromised to help stop bleeding.

Antithrombotic agents work by inhibiting the blood cells' ability to stick together. This can be valuable in preventing or lessening the impact of diseases like stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Examples of antithrombotic agents include anticoagulants like Coumadin (warfarin) and antiplatelet drugs like aspirin and Plavix (clopidogrel). Alternative practitioners believe that lumbrokinase is a natural alternative to these pharmaceutical drugs.

Although there is little scientific evidence to support the claims, preliminary studies have hinted at certain benefits.

Angina

Lumbrokinase may aid in the treatment of stable angina, says a 2009 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. For this study, researchers assigned 10 people with angina a daily dose of lumbrokinase in addition to standard cardiovascular care. After 60 days, angina symptoms had improved in all but four patients.

While promising, the conclusions were limited by the small size of the study and the lack of a placebo control group. Further research is needed to validate these preliminary findings.

Coronary Artery Disease

There is evidence that lumbrokinase may improve outcomes in people with coronary artery disease (CAD). It appears to do so by increasing blood flow in people with myocardial ischemia (the partial blockage of one or both of the coronary arteries).

According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, rats with induced myocardial infarction experienced improved cardiovascular blood markers, reduced arrhythmia (heartbeat disorders), and reduced mortality when treated with lumbrokinase. Whether the same results would be seen in humans is uncertain.

Stroke

Preliminary research indicates that lumbrokinase may aid in the recovery of people with stroke. In a 2013 study published in the Chinese Medical Journal, 310 people hospitalized with ischemic stroke (the type that occurs when an artery in the brain becomes blocked) were treated with either standard care or standard case plus a daily dose of lumbrokinase.

By the end of the one-year study, the group provided lumbrokinase had better outcomes than those who didn't. This included improved circulation in the carotid arteries, fewer unstable plaques, fewer repeat strokes, and better overall mortality.

Diabetic Nephropathy

A 2013 study in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice suggested that lumbrokinase can help prevent diabetic nephropathy (DN), the chronic loss of kidney function in people with diabetes. The condition is associated with the poor control of diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which commonly coexist.

According to the researchers, lab mice with induced type 1 diabetes were given either lumbrokinase or an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor commonly used to treat DN. After 12 weeks, the mice provided lumbrokinase experienced an improvement of kidney function comparable to that of the ACE inhibitor. 

Possible Side Effects

Little is known about the safety of lumbrokinase. Some studies have reported mild effects among a small percentage of users, including headaches, dizziness, constipation, and nausea.

Due to the lack of research, lumbrokinase should not be used in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children. As a fibrinolytic drug, it should also be avoided in people with bleeding disorders, including hemophilia.

Lumbrokinase should also be stopped two weeks prior to scheduled surgery (including dental surgery) to avoid excessive bleeding.

It is unknown whether lumbrokinase can interact with other medications. As a precaution, avoid lumbrokinase if you on anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs as this may cause easy bruising or bleeding.

To avoid interactions, let your doctor know about any and all medications you are taking, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, and recreational drugs.

Dosage and Preparation

Lumbrokinase supplements can be found online and in specialty supplements store. Available as an oral capsule, the dose can vary by brand, ranging from 20 milligrams (mg) to 40 mg on average. In addition to the active ingredient, lumbrokinase capsules typically contain non-active fillers, such as rice hull or plant cellulose.

While there are no guidelines for the appropriate use of lumbrokinase, most manufacturers recommend taking between one to two capsules daily. As a rule of thumb, never exceed the dose recommended on the product label.

Lumbrokinase supplements can be stored at room temperature, ideally in a cool, dry cupboard or pantry. Never use lumbrokinase beyond its expiration date or if a capsule is broken, damp, or discolored.

What to Look For

Dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States and are not subject to the rigorous testing that pharmaceutical drugs are. Because of this, the quality can vary significantly from one brand to the next.

To better ensure quality and safety, choose brands that have been voluntarily tested by an independent certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International. Certification ensures that the supplement contains the ingredients listed on the product label.

Always read the product label to check for fillers that you may be allergic to.

Compared to other dietary supplements, lumbrokinase supplements can be quite expensive, ranging from between $40 and $100 for a 60-count bottle. For a twice-daily dose, that translates to between $1.33 to $3.33 per day. By contrast, a 100-count bottle of warfarin, taken once daily, averages around $45 (or 45 cents per day).

How Is Lumbrokinase Made?

Despite being considered a "natural" supplement, lumbrokinase supplements are not derived from earthworms but are created in the lab using recombinant gene technologies. This is why some products are marketed as "RNA buluoke" or "lumbrokinase RNA."

In 1991, scientists in Japan successfully extracted a group of fibrinolytic enzymes from Lumbricus rubellus, the genes of which were sequenced and replicated in the lab.

Many of the lumbrokinase supplements on market shelves today are created using genetically engineered E. coli that are able to churn out the enzyme in production volumes.

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  1. Wang KY, Tull L, Cooper E, et al. Recombinant Protein Production of Earthworm Lumbrokinase for Potential Antithrombotic Application. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:783971. doi:10.1155/2013/783971.

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