Bromelain: Overview

Bromelain is the term used to describe a family of sulfhydryl-containing, proteolytic enzymes derived from the stem and fruit of the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus).  As a plant enzyme, bromelain has many advantages and uses as a supplemental ingredient.

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Bromelain is used by itself, or in combination with other enzymes, in many products to aid pancreatic enzymes in digestion.  Bromelain is also helpful in the absorption of many other supplemental ingredients such as glucosamine, quercetin, rutin, and many others.


Bromelain is found in many different types of products.  It is common in digestive, vascular, respiratory, allergy, and anti-inflammatory products.

Possible hidden sources of bromelain include meat tenderizers and beer, where it is used in the clarification process.

Function; Why it is Recommended

It appears a great deal of the physiological activity of bromelain cannot be accounted for by its large proteolytic content, but that its beneficial effects are due to multiple factors, some of which are as yet unknown.

A variety of designations have been used to indicate the activity of bromelain.  Rorer units (RU), gelatin dissolving units (GDU), and milk clotting units (MCU) are the most commonly used measures of activity.  One gram of bromelain standardized to 2,000 MCU would be approximately equal to 1gm with 1,200 GDU of activity or 8gm with 100,000 RU of activity.

Bromelain is essentially a protease (enzyme that breaks down proteins); and because it is plant-derived, it is active at a wide pH range (3-10) and temperature range.  This makes it useful as a digestive aid, as it works in both the stomach and the intestines.

Bromelain is absorbed intact through the gastrointestinal tract, with the highest concentration of bromelain being found in the blood one hour after administration.  However, its proteolytic activity is rapidly deactivated.

Bromelain is potent enzyme that naturally supports the body's ability to break down blood clots as they develop and diminish inflammation.  It has also been found to have antitumor properties [Maurer 2001].

As Bromelain passes into the blood stream, it has some very beneficial activities systemically.  It has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent in both gross injury type swellings (surgery, trauma injury, sprains; for which it received an "Approved status by the German Commission E) as well as micro inflammations (allergic reactions, localized internal infections).  Here it is thought to work on both the fibrin and kinin pathways to decrease active inflammation, as well as prevent the blockage of other anti-inflammatory agents from entering the site of infection.  Other activities associated with bromelain include inhibition of platelet aggregation, decreasing the viscosity of mucus (mucolytic), antibiotic activity and smooth muscle relaxant.

Bromelain is commonly taken as a digestive aid to enhance absorption of proteins.


Bromelain has shown therapeutic benefits in doses as small as 160mg per day.  For most conditions, the best results occur at doses of 750-1000mg per day.  Most research on bromelain has been done utilizing four divided daily doses, usually between meals.


In human clinical tests, side-effects are generally not observed.  However, there is always the possibility that someone may develop an allergy to bromelain.

Bromelain can help with the following:


Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus)

If there is kidney involvement, bromelain can be added as a cleansing agent.  Flax oil or fish oil along with bromelain between meals is a good natural anti-inflammatory combination.



Dosage: 150 to 250mg qid away from meals.  Inhibits platelet aggregation and breaks down plaque.

Phlebitis / Thrombophlebitis

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to prevent blood platelet aggregation, bromelain has been suggested as a treatment for phlebitis.  There are some positive reports in clinical trials of bromelain improving thrombophlebitis. [Planta Med 1990 56:249, Alt. Med. Rev. 1996 1:243, Angiology. 1969;20: pp.22-6]


Research has indicated that bromelain prevents or minimizes the severity of angina pectoris.  A reduction in the incidence of heart attacks after administration of potassium and magnesium orotate along with 120-400mg of bromelain per day has been reported also. [J IAPM 1979;6: pp.139-51]

Poor/Slow Wound Healing

Bromelain is found in pineapple and contains a proteolytic enzyme with the ability to break down or dissolve proteins.  This mechanism of action can be helpful in chronic wounds or wounds having too much scar tissue.  According to the PDR for Nutritional Supplements [2001, p. 72], bromelain speeds up healing time after surgical procedures, shows positive effects in the treatment of athletic injuries, and in at least one study has reduced swelling and pain from injuries of the musculoskeletal system.

Not recommended for
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

While bromelain is considered to have very low toxicity, caution is advised when treating individuals with hypertension.  One report has indicated that those with pre-existing hypertension might experience tachycardia following high doses of bromelain. [Hawaii Med J 1978;37: pp.143-6]


Gastric/Peptic/Duodenal Ulcers

In an extensive study of the effect of bromelain on the stomach lining, it was found that bromelain increased the uptake of sulfur by 50% and glucosamine by 30-90%.  Increased uptake of these substances allows the tissue to heal more rapidly. [Hawaii Med J 1976;2: pp.39-47]

Digestive Enzyme Need

Bromelain has been used successfully as a digestive enzyme following pancreatectomy, in cases of pancreas insufficiency, and in other intestinal disorders.  The combination of ox bile, pancreatin, and bromelain is effective in lowering stool fat excretion in patients with pancreatic insufficiency and resulting in a symptomatic improvement in pain, flatulence and stool frequency. [J Asso Phys Ind 1981;29: pp.207-209]


Painful Menstruation (Dysmenorrhea)

Bromelain at 250 to 500mg can be taken 3 to 4 times per day on an empty stomach.  Fish oil and bromelain make a powerful anti-inflammatory combination.


Chronic Inflammation

Bromelain's most common application is in the treatment of inflammation and soft tissue injuries.  Bromelain's anti-inflammatory activity appears to be due to a variety of physiological actions.  It has been shown to speed healing from bruises and hematomas.  Treatment with bromelain following blunt injuries to the musculoskeletal system results in a clear reduction in swelling, pain at rest and during movement, and tenderness.  Administration of bromelain pre-surgically can reduce the average number of days for complete disappearance of pain and inflammation. [Fortschr Med 1995;113: pp.303-306]

Neck / Spine

Low Back Pain

See the link between Lower Back Pain and Digestive Enzymes.



In a clinical study of 124 patients hospitalized with chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, bronchopneumonia, bronchiectasis, or pulmonary abscess, those receiving bromelain orally showed a decrease in the volume and pus-like quality of the sputum. [J Clin Invest 1985;75: pp.456-61]

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Bromelain has been shown to reduce cough and thin mucus secretions for easier removal in chronic bronchitis, but probably not in acute bronchitis.


Urinary Stress/Urge Incontinence

Bromelain at 400mg three times per day, separate from meals, may have an anti-inflammatory action in patients with an overactive bladder.

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Bromelain can help prevent the following:



Bromelain is potent enzyme that naturally supports the body's ability to break down blood clots as they develop and diminish inflammation.

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May be useful: may help with
May be useful:
may help with
Moderately useful: often helps with; often prevents
Moderately useful:
often helps with; often prevents
Often counterindicated: is often not recommended for
Often counterindicated:
is often not recommended for
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