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What is Bromelain?

Bromelain consists of two different types of protein enzymes that are extracted from a pineapple. The pineapple has been used as a medicinal plant for centuries in many parts of the tropical Americas. Bromelain is a mixture of proteolytic enzymes, calcium, peroxidase, and acid phosphatase. Bromelain is located in the stem of the pineapple fruit.

Ancient Uses of Bromelain

Bromelain has been used for centuries as a digestive aid and as well as for inflammation treatment. Bromelain was discovered by a Venezuelan chemist in 1891 by the name of Vicente Marcano. Marcano isolated the enzymes in the pineapple by dissecting it and once Marcano and his assistants were satisfied with their discovery named the enzyme "bromelin." Other researchers of the pineapple plant investigated this enzyme in 1892 and named it with its common name now, the bromelain, which is derived from the scientific plant family of the Bromeliaceae. In 1957, bromelain was used as a therapeutic health supplement.

Modern Uses of Bromelain

Researchers say that bromelain extract reduces inflammation and swelling related with soft tissue damage from tendons, ligaments and muscles. Bromelain extract fights viral and bacterial infections in the body. Bromelain extract is also used as a pain reliever to relieve inflammation and pain caused by arthritis. Additionally, researchers have said that bromelain reduces acute pain in injured knees, reduces swelling after injury or after surgery, prevents hay fever, treats ulcerative colitis, and prevents cancer and other health conditions.

Another modern use of Bromelain is as a popular meat tenderizer. The bromelain extract is typically sold in either a pure liquid or a powder format. To tenderize the meat, the bromelain would either be sprinkled on uncooked meat or the bromelain extract would be combined with the marinade. Once the bromelain makes contact with the meat, it begins to tender and it will then become much more palatable. Bromelain is traditionally found in meatballs. Scientific research of the bromelain is still being conducted today in many parts of Europe, Hawaii, Asia, and throughout Latin America.

Side Effects of Bromelain

Bromelain is generally safe to use, however, some side effects may occur:

  • Allergies - People allergic to the pineapple fruit may have an allergic relation to the bromelain extract. In addition, allergic reactions to carrots, celery sticks, ryes, grasses, pollen, papain and fennel may occur when taking bromelain.
  • Post-surgery use - It is recommended to not take bromelain two weeks before a person’s is scheduled to have surgery. Using bromelain actually increases the chances of bleeding both during the surgery and after the surgery is completed.
  • Intestinal discomfort - People who have taken bromelain extract have reported that they have received an upset stomach, which includes diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.
  • Menstrual bleeding - Some women have reports of an increase of menstrual bleeding using bromelain.
  • Increase in bleeding - People with bleeding disorders, high blood pressure, kidney or liver disease should not take bromelain extract since it may increase your risk of internal bleeding. When you take any type of blood-thinner medication, other types of aspirin such as Advil, or a combination of blood-thinner medication with herbs or health supplements, there is an increased chance of bleeding. Only take blood-thinners under supervision of your physician.

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