Bromelain is a group of protein-digesting enzymes obtained from the fruit and stem of pineapple. These enzymes are useful for treating a wide range of health conditions, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. As an herbal remedy, bromelain is available in tablets and capsules, and it also can be applied topically. Consult with a qualified health care provider before beginning any herbal therapy.
Bromelain is particularly beneficial for decreasing inflammation, explains the UMMC. Commission E, the German regulatory agency for herbs, has approved bromelain to treat swelling and inflammation following surgery. These enzymes also may reduce healing time, swelling and pain caused by injuries, including sprains and muscle strains. Bromelain may relieve the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, bromelain may decrease symptoms of sinusitis and hay fever. As a group of protein-digesting enzymes, bromelain may relieve upset stomach and heartburn. Topically, it can decrease swelling from insect stings and bites and help remove damaged tissue from severe burns.
Because you may experience side effects from bromelain supplements, and because bromelain interacts with some medications, the UMMC recommends taking bromelain only with the supervision of a qualified health care provider. It's best not to give bromelain to children, because pediatric research is lacking on this supplement. You generally should not take bromelain for longer than 10 days consecutively.
Commission E recommends taking 80 to 320 mg of bromelain two or three times per day, according to MedlinePlus. In contrast, some herbalists recommend taking 500 to 1,000 mg three times daily. The UMMC notes standard doses for specific conditions include 500 mg per day in divided doses for digestive issues, 500 mg four times per day for injuries and 500 to 2,000 mg per day in two divided doses for arthritis. For digestive problems, take the supplement with meals, and otherwise, take it on an empty stomach. You might consider starting with a low dose and increasing the amount if necessary.
Bromelain also is available in topical creams. Some health care providers clean wounds and treat severe burns with these topical preparations. The UMMC cautions people not to attempt treating severe burns without professional medical attention.
Bromelain interacts with numerous drugs, as noted by MedlinePlus, so you might not want to take bromelain if you are using these medications. The substance can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that have blood-thinning effects, such as warfarin, heparin, clopidogrel, ibuprofen and aspirin. Bromelain may increase absorption of some antibiotics, particularly amoxicillin and tetracycline, which can increase side effects of these drugs. Bromelain also may increase the effects of some sedatives, high blood pressure drugs and chemotherapy medications.