Bromelain is a substance found in the juice and stem of the pineapple. Long used by Native Americans to cure a variety of ailments such as sore throat and seasickness, it was also used as a diuretic, an aid to digestion and to treat wounds and inflammation. In Germany, the use of bromelain to treat inflammation and swelling after surgery (particularly surgery on the sinuses) was approved in 1993. It also has been shown to boost the ability of the body to absorb antibiotics as well as help with arthritis and ease the pain caused by milk engorgement in nursing mothers.
Bromelain breaks down a protein called fibrin, thereby preventing clotting and improving circulation. It also slows the buildup of hormone-like prostaglandins in the body. According to some studies, bromelain reduces swelling as much as standard anti-inflammatory agents such as ibuprofen and naproxen. People with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis reported less pain and swelling of the joints when they took bromelain, as did those with carpal tunnel syndrome. When applied to the skin, bromelain removes dead cells in a process known as debridement.
Although bromelain's side effects are usually milder than those of a lot of synthetic medications, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, nausea, increased heart rate and stomach pain have been reported. Due to bromelain's blood-thinning effect, people who are already taking blood thinners such as aspirin or Coumadin and people on anticoagulants should be very careful about using it. People with bleeding disorders, high blood pressure, peptic ulcers or liver and kidney disease are also warned to speak with their doctors before taking bromelain.
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