Bromelain is used in natural skin care products for its anti-inflammatory and scar tissue dissolving properties.

Bromelain

Bromelain is used in natural skin care products for its anti-inflammatory and scar tissue dissolving properties. Pineapple is one of the world’s most popular tropical fruits.

It originated in South America and had been domesticated by Native Americans in the West Indies centuries before Columbus introduced it to Europe after encountering its tangy sweetness on a voyage to the island of Guadeloupe. Now enjoyed on almost every continent, the pineapple has been increasingly recognized for its medicinal properties. Specifically, a substance called bromelain — found in its juice and stem — has become a popular nutritional supplement.

Bromelain contains enzymes with a range of potent effects. One of the most powerful is its ability to reduce inflammation. In 1993, a German government commission approved the use of bromelain to treat swelling and inflammation following surgery, especially sinus surgery. Some studies have supported its use as a natural remedy for easing the symptoms of arthritis, including pain and joint stiffness. Bromelain has also been reported to have beneficial effects on the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems, and possibly on the immune system. One research study even found that bromelain — when combined with trypsin — eased the pain associated with breast engorgement as a result of nursing.

This 21st century research is supported by pineapple’s longstanding use by the indigenous people of the Americas, who used the juice as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic and digestive aid. They also drank it to ease sore throats, reduce seasickness and induce labor. And according to folk medicine, its fruit was even used to terminate pregnancies by women who ate the flesh of young, toxic pineapple.
Bromelain’s potency comes from enzymes, or proteins, that stimulate chemical activity in the body.

Bromelain is known as a proteolytic enzyme, which means that it digests proteins (or proteases). Eight different chemicals within bromelain help digest proteins. The key to bromelain’s potential as a natural remedy for is its affect on collagen — the primary material in scar tissue. Of all the protein-digesting enzymes, bromelain is most effective at stimulating collagenase, the enzyme that breaks down collagen by dissolving the peptide bonds that hold their proteins together. Taking bromelain may slow or reverse the scar tissue buildup.

While inflammation helps heal the body during injury, too much swelling can lead to health complications and accelerate aging. By breaking down fibrins, bromelain is said to help prevent clotting and improve circulation. Similarly, supplement makers claim this enzymatic activity thins the blood, prevents the buildup of plaque in the arteries, and slows the coagulation (or clumping) of blood platelets. That’s why Native Americans used parts of the pineapple plant to dress and treat wounds.

Bromelain also slows the accumulation of kinins, another byproduct of inflammation, and prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds found throughout the body. Prostaglandins, associated with swelling and clotting at sites of injury, can contribute to the formation of diseases when their presence is excessive. In a five-year study of more than 200 people, bromelain was found to be effective in slowing the growth of inflammatory prostaglandins

you will find pineapple or bromelain in masks, scrubs or lotions. The addition of pineapple delivers an exfoliant action; bromelain helps to break down dead, dry surface skin cells leading to softer and smoother skin. This effect is helpful in dry and/or blemished skin.

in some studies, bromelain has proven to be as effective in reducing swelling as anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac (Voltaren) and Piroxicam (Feldene). Patients suffering from osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis have experienced a reduction of pain and joint swelling when taking bromelain. Bromelain’s anti-inflammatory effects may also alleviate pain and improve motor activity in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Bromelain has been used to treat bronchitis, sinus infections and other respiratory conditions involving inflammation. Because it also can act as a blood thinner, it’s been used to treat blood-related diseases like angina and thrombophlebitis, a condition characterized by blood clots causing swelling in the veins, particularly in the legs.

Bromelain helps relieve indigestion and stomach aches by breaking down proteins. It is especially effective when combined with enzymes that digest carbohydrates (such as amylase) and fats (such as lipase).

Applied topically, bromelain is the source of a commercial product used after burns for removing dead skin cells, a process called debridement. its potential to eliminate burn debris and to accelerate wound healing. Topical bromelain (35% in a lipid base) has achieved complete debridement on experimental burns.

The research about bromelain is related to oral consumption and animal studies. Theoretically, bromelain breaks down the connecting structure that holds surface skin cells together, which causes exfoliation but can also cause irritation. However, exactly how much bromelain is needed (the amount used in skin-care products is typically less than 1%), whether it is stable as used in cosmetics, and in what bases and pH it works best have not been established.

In cosmetics, it’s primarily known for its anti-inflammatory properties. As an anti-inflammatory and anti-blood clotting agent, it is often used to help reduce the redness, bruising and pain that typically follows invasive cosmetic procedures.

Theoretically, the topical application of Bromelain would digest the skin’s dead proteins (such as broken down collagen), exfoliate, rebuild collagen and reveal a younger and more even layer of skin. While a significant amount of research suggests that oral supplements of the ingredient can effectively reduce swelling, bruising and inflammation on the skin, very little is known regarding the effects of Bromelain directly applied to the skin. Furthermore, most of what we do know regarding its topical application concerns the healing of burns, and not the purported anti-aging benefits of a decrease in facial sagging, age spots and wrinkles.

Thus, more research is warranted in order to determine the ingredient’s stability, effective concentrations, pH levels and bases. In the meantime, many companies have begun to include it in various skin care products such as exfoliants/scrubs, masks, moisturizers, bath oils, lip balms and acne treatments.

Very little is known regarding the safety of this ingredient with humans, and it is generally recommended that pregnant/breastfeeding women and children avoid it at all costs. If the assumption is true about a topical application exfoliating the skin, then there is a possibility that they skin may experience irritation and sensitization (as with all exfoliants).

When taken orally, this ingredient has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, anti-coagulating, diuretic and de-clotting abilities, both on the internal and external parts of the body. It’s often administered as a pain remedy for arthritis, a digestive aid, a decongestant for sinusitis and, most recently, as a complementary treatment for cancer patients. It’s also been demonstrated to work synergistically with Turmeric, another anti-inflammatory.

With regards to oral consumption, the FDA does not regulate herbal supplements, and one should take caution when orally taking Bromelain. Few serious side effects have been reported thus far, although there have been multiple reports of allergic/asthmatic reactions, upset stomach and diarrhea. In addition, because the ingredient increases the risk of bleeding, it is not recommended for those with bleeding disorders or taking blood thinners. It has also been shown to cause an increased heart rate in some and should be used cautiously by individuals with heart conditions.