Bromelain can refer to one of two protease enzymes extracted from the plant family Bromeliaceae, or it can refer to a combination of those enzymes along with other compounds produced in an extract. Bromelain is a mixture of sulfur-containing protein-digesting enzymesócalled proteolytic enzymes or proteasesóand several other substances in smaller quantities. The two main enzymes are: stem and fruit. The other substances include peroxidase, acid phosphatase, protease inhibitors, and calcium. The first isolation of bromelain was recorded by the Venezuelan chemist Vicente Marcano In 1892, Chittenden, assisted by Joslin and Meara, investigated the matter fully, and called it 'bromelin'. Later the term 'bromelain' was introduced and originally applied to any protease from any plant member of the plant family Bromeliaceae. Bromelain is present in all parts of the pineapple plant, but the stem is the most common commercial source, presumably because it is readily available after the fruit has been harvested. Pineapples have had a long tradition as a medicinal plant among the natives of South and Central America. However, just eating pineapple will not give you a great deal of extra bromelain, because it is mostly concentrated in the stem, which is not nearly as tasty.
Called a proteolytic enzyme, bromelain is believed to help with the digestion of protein. Some Bromelain appears to be absorbed by the body intact, so its also thought to have effects outside the digestive tract. In fact, bromelain is often marketed as a natural anti-inflammatory for conditions such as arthritis. It's one of the most popular supplements in Germany, where it is approved by the Commission E for the treatment of inflammation and swelling of the nose and sinuses due to surgery or injury. Bromelain is typically extracted from pineapples and made into capsule or tablet form. Because it's able to digest protein, it is available in some grocery stores as a meat tenderizer. A topical form of bromelain is also being explored experimentally for burns.
When used for as a digestive aid, bromelain is usually taken with meals. When used for inflammatory conditions, practitioners typically recommend taking bromelain between meals on an empty stomach to maximize absorption. Why do people use bromelain one might ask. For surgeries and injuries there is some evidence that bromelain supplements may reduce swelling, bruising, inflammation and pain after surgery and injury. In Germany, bromelain has been approved for these uses by the Commission E since 1993. Large, well-designed studies are needed, because not all studies have confirmed these results. It has been suggested as a complementary treatment for sinusitis. Preliminary studies suggest that it may help reduce congestion, improve breathing and suppress coughing. It's approved by the Commission E as a complementary treatment for nasal and sinus swelling and inflammation after ear, nose and throat surgery. A review of three small but well-designed previously published studies found that bromelain may help relieve sinusitis symptoms.