Bromelain vs. Serrapeptase

Silkworms eating mulberry leaf in the tray.
Close-up of silkworms eating mulberry leaves. (Image: subinpumsom/iStock/Getty Images)

Enzymes are biological catalysts that speed up chemical reactions in your body. Bromelain and serrapeptase are enzymes that accelerate the break down and digestion of proteins. Bromelain is produced from the fruit and stems of pineapples. Serrapeptase was originally found in the gut of the silk worm, but it is produced commercially using a special strain of the Serratia marcescences bacteria. Both bromelain and serrapeptase are sold as dietary supplements and used as alternative treatments for pain and inflammation. Consult with your physician before you take bromelain or serrapeptase supplements to treat a medical condition.

Serrapeptase Uses

Serrapeptase has been used to treat carpal tunnel, arthritis, swelling and inflammation after surgery and pain from dental surgery. It has also been used to enhance antibiotic effectiveness, dissolve blood clots and debride wounds. Serrapeptase supplements are often sold in enteric-coated dosage forms to prevent the enzyme from being broken down in the stomach. Once serrapeptase reaches the small intestine, it is absorbed into the blood stream. Topical serrapeptase preparations have been developed and tested as a way to treat local inflammation and avoid gastrointestinal side effects.

Bromelain Uses

Bromelain has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and fibrinolytic activity: It can break up and prevent the formation of clots and arterial plaque. Alone or in combination with other proteolytic enzymes, bromelain has been used as a digestive aid and to relieve joint pain and swelling. Bromelain has also been used to treat hay fever, ulcerative colitis, burn wound debridement, pulmonary edema, cancer and obesity. MedlinePlus lists bromelain as "possibly effective" for osteoarthritis pain when used with another enzyme, trypsin. The German Commission E review of natural products approved bromelain for swelling and inflammation following sinus surgery.

Effectiveness of Bromelain

Although bromelain has been used for a number of years, there is little scientific evidence to support many of its reported benefits. According to MedlinePlus, there is "[i]nsufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for" knee pain, cancer prevention, shortening of labor, ulcerative colitis, severe burns, hay fever, or reducing swelling after surgery or injury. Both bromelain and serrapeptase can cause gastrointestinal side effects, including upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Since each is a foreign protein, either may trigger an immune system response. Avoid bromelain supplements if you are allergic to pineapples.

Effectiveness of Serrapeptase

A review published in the online journal "Bandolier" concluded that clinical studies of serrapeptase were of poor quality and unreliable. In February 2011, Japanese pharmaceutical manufacturer Takeda announced a voluntary recall of its serrapeptase product, Dasen, which had been on the market in Japan since 1968. According to the press release, the company pulled the product because double-blind studies failed to show that Dasen worked any better than placebo. In Japan, Dasen was approved for treating swelling following surgery; galactostasis, the abnormal accumulation of breast milk; chronic sinusitis; and difficulty coughing and spitting up phlegm from the throat or lungs.

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