Bromelain is an extract from the stem or fruit of the pineapple plant, Ananas comosus, that contains any of several protein-digesting enzymes plus several other active components. Bromelain is known for its anti-inflammatory, mucolytic, and analgesic properties.


Inflammation: Bromelain reduces swelling and pain caused by injuries to the musculoskeletal system, and it speeds healing from bruises. Given before surgery, bromelain can reduce the number of days required for inflammation and pain to disappear.

Digestive aid: Bromelain is helpful as a digestive aid when there is pancreatic insufficiency. In research animals, it has also been shown to heal gastric ulcers.

Mucolytic: Bromelain thins mucus, which makes it especially useful in treating respiratory congestion associated with allergies, sinusitis, or pneumonia.

Angina: Bromelain reduces the severity of angina pectoris (chest pain caused by too little oxygen to the heart).

Thrombophlebitis: In a study of 73 patients, bromelain, with analgesics, decreased edema, pain, tenderness, and disability associated with acute thrombophlebitis.

Wound debridement (i.e., removal of dead tissue): Bromelain in topical form as a cream (35% bromelain in a lipid base) can help remove burn debris and speed healing. This is thought to occur through the action of a component other than a proteolytic enzyme.

Antiobiotic potentiation: Taking bromelain with amoxicillin for pneumonia or other lung infections makes the amoxicillin more effective.

Antitumor: In animal studies, bromelain has been shown to slow the spread of tumors.

How Much To Take

Activity of bromelain is most often measured in GDU (gelatin-digesting units).

The majority of product labels specify milligrams and GDU/gram. It is important to calculate the activity (GDU) per tablet or capsule to know how much you are taking.

As a digestive aid, manufacturers’ recommendations range from 24 to 1200 GDU with each protein-containing meal.

For purposes other than promoting digestion, bromelain should not be taken at mealtime; typically, one-half hour before eating or two hours after is recommended. A suggested effective amount is 600 to 1000 GDU one to three times per day. []

An amount considered sufficient to improve the effect of amoxicillin is 2400 GDU/day. []


Bromelain is generally considered safe and free of side effects when taken for short durations at customary doses. However, persons allergic to pineapple should not take it, and it should be used with caution by peoples with high blood pressure, as it may increase heart rate at high doses. Because of its blood-thinning action, bromelain should not be taken in conjunction with anticoagulatory drugs.

The information contained in this article came from Alternative Medicine Review 1998; 3 (4):302-304, unless otherwise specified.