Bromelain: an NSAID alternative?

Studies show bromelain, an enzyme from pineapples, helps reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis due to its natural anti-inflammatory power. In a study from the University of Reading in England, researchers found bromelain to be effective in relieving symptoms and improving well-being in healthy adults with mild knee pain. The study’s 77 volunteers were given either 200 mg or 400 mg per day of bromelain. At the trial’s end, symptoms were significantly reduced, by 41% and 59% in the low and high-dose groups, respectively. In addition, improvements in stiffness and physical function were significantly greater in the high-dose group. Overall well-being was significantly improved in both groups as well.

At the Pakistan King Edward Medical College, researchers compared the effectiveness and safety of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and the enzymes bromelain and trypsin (another digestive enzyme that breaks down protein) in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. A total of 103 patients with OA of the knee were treated for six weeks; 52 patients with the enzyme combination and 51 patients with an NSAID called diclofenac. Symptoms such as pain at rest, pain on motion and restricted function were measured. The results showed that both treatments yielded improvements: symptom scores decreased from 13.0 to 9.4 in the enzyme group and from 12.5 to 9.4 in the NSAID group. Effectiveness results were 51.4% for the enzyme group and 37.2% for the NSAID group. The researchers said bromelain could be considered an effective and safe alternative to NSAIDs in the treatment of OA of the knee.

Sources: Phytomedicine. 2002 Dec;9(8):681-6; Clin Rheumatol. 2004 Oct;23(5):410-5. Epub 2004 Jul 24