Bromelain is a mixture of sulfur-containing protein-digesting enzymes—called proteolytic enzymes or proteases—and several other substances in smaller quantities. The two main enzymes are:
The first isolation of bromelain was recorded by the Venezuelan chemist Vicente Marcano (BU1 1.Phar. 5,77) in 1891 from the fruit of pineapple. In 1892, Chittenden, assisted by Joslin and Meara, investigated the matter fully (Trans. Conn. Acad. Arts Sci. 8, 281-308), 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 was first introduced as a therapeutic supplement in 1957. Research on bromelain apparently was first conducted in Hawaii but more recently has been conducted in countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America. Germany has recently taken a great interest in bromelain research; bromelain is currently the 13th most widely used herbal medicine in Germany.
Bromelain is present in all parts of the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus) 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 (albeit still edible).
Historically, meat tenderizing enzymes were often injected into the muscle of a food animal while it was still living. This practice was deemed unethical, and has been largely discontinued, replaced with various postmortem application methods which are acceptable for lesser quality cuts.
Today, approximately 90% of meat tenderizer use is in consumer households. Bromelain is sold in a powdered form, which is combined with a marinade or directly sprinkled on the uncooked meat. The enzyme will penetrate the meat, and by a process called forking, cause the meat to be tender and palatable when cooked. If the enzyme is allowed to work for too long, the meat may become too "mushy" for many consumers' preferences
Bromelain can be used in a vast array of medical conditions. It was first introduced in this area in 1957, and works by blocking some proinflammatory metabolites that accelerate and worsen the inflammatory process. It is an anti-inflammatory agent, and so can be used for sports injury, trauma, arthritis, and other kinds of swelling. Its main uses are athletic injuries, digestive problems, phlebitis, sinusitis, and aiding healing after surgery.
Bromelain supplementation up to 460 mg has been shown to have no effect on human heart rate or blood pressure; however, increasing doses up to 1840 mg have been shown to increase the heart rate proportionately.
It is produced in Thailand, among other tropical parts of the world, where pineapples are grown.
Bromelain is prepared from the stem part of the pineapple plant after harvesting the fruit. This stem part is peeled, crushed and pressed to get the juice containing the soluble Bromelain enzyme.
Further processing includes concentration of the pressed juice to get a purified enzyme. This process is carried out in factories under strictly controlled conditions to assure microbiological quality and enzyme purity.
The Bromelain products are all supplied as powder.
Other plant proteases
- "PDVSA article citing Vicente Marcano (in Spanish)".
- Brien S, Lewith G, Walker A (2004). "Bromelain as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis: a Review of Clinical Studies". Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM. 1 (3): 251–257. PMID 15841258.
- Kleef R, Delohery T, Bovbjerg D (1996). "Selective modulation of cell adhesion molecules on lymphocytes by bromelain protease 5". Pathobiology. 64 (6): 339–46. PMID 9159029.
- Heinicke, R.M. and W.A. Gortner. 1957. Stem bromelain-a new protease preparation from pineapple plants. Econ. Bot. 11 (3): 225-234.
- Gutfreund A, Taussig S, Morris A (1978). "Effect of oral bromelain on blood pressure and heart rate of hypertensive patients". Hawaii medical journal. 37 (5): 143–6. PMID 659096.
Gregory S. Kelly, N.D. Bromelain: A Literature Review and Discussion of its Therapeutic Applications (Alt Med Rev 1996;1(4):243-257)
- Bromelains at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)