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Enjoyed the world over as something of an icon of the tropical experience, the pineapple was used in indigenous medicine for a wide range of ailments; uses that are only now being confirmed by modern scientific methods.
While most know pineapple as an exceptionally delicious tropical fruit, indigenous peoples used it to treat a variety of ailments. Unfortunately, much of this intimate plant knowledge was considered by early anthropologists to be based on mere "superstition" and subsequently disregarded, so few in the modern world have been made aware of its formidable healing powers.
Thankfully, research on the medicinal properties of pineapple has steadily accumulated over the past few decades, to the point where the conventional medical system has been compelled to take notice.
Bromelain, for instance, is a protein-digesting enzyme extract from the pineapple plant, and has even been found to be superior to the highly toxic chemotherapy agent 5-fluorouracil as an anti-tumor agent in preclinical research.[i] [For more details, see our article on the topic: Research: Pineapple Enzyme Kills Cancer Without Killing You]
This remarkable compound, concentrated primarily within the stem (i.e. fibrous core), which is often wastefully discarded, has been researched for the following potential medicinal applications:
- Allergic Airway Disease[ii]
- Breast Cancer[iv]
- Breastfeeding Problems: Poor Milk Production/Quality[v]
- Colitis[vi] [vii]
- Colon Cancer[viii]
- Constipation: Post-operative[ix]
- Debriding Agent[x]
- Glioma (Brain Cancer)[xiii]
- Immune Disorders: Low Function[xiv]
- Inflammation[xv] [xvi] [xvii] [xviii]
- Irritable Bowel Disease[xix]
- Liver Damage[xxi]
- Lung Cancer[xxii] [xxiii]
- Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)[xxv]
- Osteoarthritis of the Knee[xxvi]
- Skin Cancer[xxviii] [xxix] [xxx]
- Tendon Injury[xxxi] [xxxii]
- Thrombosis (pathological clot)[xxxiv] [xxxv]
How To Eat Pineapple To Get The Benefits of Bromelain
Bromelain extracts are actually composed of a variety of substances, including peroxidase, acid phosphatase, calcium, and protease inhibitors. But the main active ingredients are two enzymes known as fruit and stem bromelain, respectively. Keep in mind that bromelain's potential therapeutic activity, depends entirely on how you take it. When consumed on an empty stomach, the plant's enzyme will enter the blood and exert systemic action. When consumed with food, its activity will mostly be expended on helping the body to break down dietary proteins, easing the body's digestive burden.
Bromelain is an example of something we eat that actually eats us back. Commonly used as a meat tenderizer, when used appropriately it can tenderize our overly inflammed and fibrin-congested muscles and connective tissues with its enzymes.
Word of Caution: Bromelain's fibrinolytic properties can contribute to thinning the blood, so those on blood-thinning medications must be careful, especially when consuming part of the bromelain-rich core. Also, bromelain has the ability to enhance the absorption of other nutrients and drugs due to its ability to modulate intestinal permeability. This can be a good thing, for instance, if one is trying to absorb more of a therapeutic herb or nutrient, but a bad thing if one does not wish to disrupt the delicate pharmacokinetics of the bodily absorption and distribution of potent drugs.
The Part Is Not Superior To The Whole
Keep in mind that the benefits of whole pineapple cannot be reduced down to a singular constituent such as bromelain, no matter how impressive. The pharmaceutical model only goes so far when applied to natural substances. As with most things in the realm of whole food nutrition, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Pineapple juice and leaves, for example, have additional benefits not found in bromelain alone:
- A Rich Source of Dietary Melatonin: Pineapple has been identified to be one of the richest sources of dietary melatonin tested (beating out orange and banana), capable of causing significant blood level elevations, peaking two hours after ingestion.[xxxvi]
- Pineapple Leaf Has Anti-Diabetic Properties: All parts of the pineapple plant have potential value. The leaf has been studied to have insulin-sensitizing and/or anti-diabetic properties.[xxxvii] [xxxviii]
- Pineapple Leaves May Beat Cholesterol-Drugs: Preclinical research indicates that pineapple leaves may modulate cholesterol synthesis and activity in a manner similar to statins, but likely without the over 300 known adverse health effects of the statin drug chemical class.[xxxix]
- Pineapple Juice Deactivates Rotavirus Transmission: Pineapple juice, due to its low pH and other constituents in the juice, has been found to be effective at inactivating rotavirus, while honeydew and papaya juice failed. [xl]
Whether you are fascinated by the research, simply enjoy the amazing taste and feel of pineapple, or its juice, we can be certain of one thing: food and medicine are inseparably bound within this amazing plant.
- [i] Roxana Báez, Miriam T Lopes, Carlos E Salas, Martha Hernández. In vivo antitumoral activity of stem pineapple (Ananas comosus) bromelain. Planta Med. 2007 Oct;73(13):1377-83. Epub 2007 Sep 24.
- [ii] Eric R Secor, William F Carson, Michelle M Cloutier, Linda A Guernsey, Craig M Schramm, Carol A Wu, Roger S Thrall. Bromelain exerts anti-inflammatory effects in an ovalbumin-induced murine model of allergic airway disease. Cell Immunol. 2005 Sep;237(1):68-75. Epub 2005 Dec 6.
- [iii] Eric R Secor, William F Carson, Anurag Singh, Mellisa Pensa, Linda A Guernsey, Craig M Schramm, Roger S Thrall. Oral Bromelain Attenuates Inflammation in an Ovalbumin-induced Murine Model of Asthma. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Mar;5(1):61-9.
- [iv] Kulpreet Bhui, Shilpa Tyagi, Bharti Prakash, Yogeshwer Shukla. Pineapple bromelain induces autophagy, facilitating apoptotic response in mammary carcinoma cells. Biofactors. 2010 Sep 16. Epub 2010 Sep 16.
- [v][v] A Contreras, M J Paape, R H Miller, J C Corrales, C Luengo, A Sánchez. Effect of bromelain on milk yield, milk composition and mammary health in dairy goats. Trop Anim Health Prod. 2009 Apr;41(4):493-8. Epub 2008 Jul 27.
- [vi] Laura P Hale, Maciej Chichlowski, Chau T Trinh, Paula K Greer. Dietary supplementation with fresh pineapple juice decreases inflammation and colonic neoplasia in IL-10-deficient mice with colitis. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2010 Dec;16(12):2012-21.
- [vii] Laura P Hale, Paula K Greer, Chau T Trinh, Marcia R Gottfried. Treatment with oral bromelain decreases colonic inflammation in the IL-10-deficient murine model of inflammatory bowel disease. Clin Immunol. 2005 Aug;116(2):135-42.
- [viii] Ibid vi
- [ix] Suping Wen, Tom H W Huang, George Q Li, Johji Yamahara, Basil D Roufogalis, Yuhao Li. Bromelain improves decrease in defecation in postoperative rats: modulation of colonic gene expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase. Pharmacol Res. 2007 Sep;56(3):254-60. Epub 2007 Jul 14.
- [x] J C Houck, C M Chang, G Klein. Isolation of an effective debriding agent from the stems of pineapple plants. Int J Tissue React. 1983;5(2):125-34.
- [xi] R Pellicano, S Strona, D Simondi, S Reggiani, F Pallavicino, C Sguazzini, A G Bonagura, M Rizzetto, M Astegiano. Benefit of dietary integrators for treating functional dyspepsia: a prospective pilot study. Clin Exp Allergy. 2009 Jun;39(6):875-82.
- [xii] F Inchingolo, M Tatullo, M Marrelli, A M Inchingolo, V Picciariello, A D Inchingolo, G Dipalma, D Vermesan, R Cagiano. Clinical trial with bromelain in third molar exodontia. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2010 Sep;14(9):771-4.
- [xiii] B B Tysnes, H R Maurer, T Porwol, B Probst, R Bjerkvig, F Hoover. Bromelain reversibly inhibits invasive properties of glioma cells. Neoplasia. 2001 Nov-Dec;3(6):469-79.
- [xiv] H Barth, A Guseo, R Klein. In vitro study on the immunological effect of bromelain and trypsin on mononuclear cells from humans. Eur J Med Res. 2005 Aug 17;10(8):325-31.
- [xv] Eric R Secor, Anurag Singh, Linda A Guernsey, Jeff T McNamara, Lijun Zhan, Nilanjana Maulik, Roger S Thrall. Bromelain treatment reduces CD25 expression on activated CD4+ T cells in vitro. Int Immunopharmacol. 2009 Mar;9(3):340-6. Epub 2009 Jan 20.
- [xvi] Jing-Rong Huang, Chia-Chuan Wu, Rolis Chien-Wei Hou, Kee-Ching Jeng. Bromelain inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced cytokine production in human THP-1 monocytes via the removal of CD14. J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2003;23(2):151-3. : 18569070
- [xvii] Rolis Chien-Wei Hou, Yuh-Shuen Chen, Jing-Rong Huang, Kee-Ching G Jeng. Cross-linked bromelain inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced cytokine production involving cellular signaling suppression in rats. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Mar 22;54(6):2193-8.
- [xviii] David J Fitzhugh, Siqing Shan, Mark W Dewhirst, Laura P Hale. Bromelain treatment decreases neutrophil migration to sites of inflammation. Clin Immunol. 2008 Jul;128(1):66-74. Epub 2008 May 14. PMID: 18482869
- [xix] Jane E Onken, Paula K Greer, Brian Calingaert, Laura P Hale. Bromelain treatment decreases secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by colon biopsies in vitro. Clin Immunol. 2008 Mar;126(3):345-52. Epub 2007 Dec 21.
- [xx] Iu A Smirnova, L V Kordiukova, M V Serebriakova, I Iu Filippova, E N Lysogorskaia, L A Baratova. [Flu virion as a substrate for proteolytic enzymes]. Bioorg Khim. 2008 May-Jun;34(3):409-15.
- [xxi] Ralf Bahde, Daniel Palmes, Evgeni Minin, Udo Stratmann, Ricarda Diller, Jörg Haier, Hans-Ullrich Spiegel. Bromelain ameliorates hepatic microcirculation after warm ischemia. J Surg Res. 2007 May 1;139(1):88-96. Epub 2007 Feb 8.
- [xxii] S Batkin, S J Taussig, J Szekerezes. Antimetastatic effect of bromelain with or without its proteolytic and anticoagulant activity. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 1988;114(5):507-8. PMID: 3182910
- [xxiii] Ibid i
- [xxiv] Kulpreet Bhui, Shilpa Tyagi, Amit Kumar Srivastava, Madhulika Singh, Preeti Roy, Richa Singh, Yogeshwer Shukla. Bromelain inhibits nuclear factor kappa-B translocation, driving human epidermoid carcinoma A431 and melanoma A375 cells through G(2) /M arrest to apoptosis. Mol Carcinog. 2011 Mar 22. Epub 2011 Mar 22.
- [xxv] Bela Juhasz, Mahesh Thirunavukkarasu, Rima Pant, Lijun Zhan, Suresh Varma Penumathsa, Eric R Secor, Sapna Srivastava, Utpal Raychaudhuri, Venugopal P Menon, Hajime Otani, Roger S Thrall, Nilanjana Maulik. Bromelain induces cardioprotection against ischemia-reperfusion injury through Akt/FOXO pathway in rat myocardium. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2008 Mar;294(3):H1365-70. Epub 2008 Jan 11. PMID: 18192224
- [xxvi] A F Walker, R Bundy, S M Hicks, R W Middleton. Bromelain reduces mild acute knee pain and improves well-being in a dose-dependent fashion in an open study of otherwise healthy adults. Phytomedicine. 2002 Dec;9(8):681-6. PMID: 12587686
- [xxvii] J M Braun, B Schneider, H J Beuth. Therapeutic use, efficiency and safety of the proteolytic pineapple enzyme Bromelain-POS in children with acute sinusitis in Germany. In Vivo. 2005 Mar-Apr;19(2):417-21. PMID: 15796206
- [xxviii] Kulpreet Bhui, Shilpa Tyagi, Amit Kumar Srivastava, Madhulika Singh, Preeti Roy, Richa Singh, Yogeshwer Shukla. Bromelain inhibits nuclear factor kappa-B translocation, driving human epidermoid carcinoma A431 and melanoma A375 cells through G(2) /M arrest to apoptosis. Mol Carcinog. 2011 Mar 22. Epub 2011 Mar 22.
- [xxix] Kulpreet Bhui, Sahdeo Prasad, Jasmine George, Yogeshwer Shukla. Bromelain inhibits COX-2 expression by blocking the activation of MAPK regulated NF-kappa B against skin tumor-initiation triggering mitochondrial death pathway. Cancer Lett. 2009 Sep 18;282(2):167-76. Epub 2009 Mar 31.
- [xxx] Neetu Kalra, Kulpreet Bhui, Preeti Roy, Smita Srivastava, Jasmine George, Sahdeo Prasad, Yogeshwer Shukla. Regulation of p53, nuclear factor kappaB and cyclooxygenase-2 expression by bromelain through targeting mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway in mouse skin. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2008 Jan 1;226(1):30-7. Epub 2007 Aug 23.
- [xxxi] Ayoola I Aiyegbusi, Olaleye O Olabiyi, Francis I O Duru, Cressie C Noronha, Abayomi O Okanlawon. A comparative study of the effects of bromelain and fresh pineapple juice on the early phase of healing in acute crush achilles tendon injury. J Med Food. 2011 Apr;14(4):348-52. Epub 2011 Jan 23.
- [xxxii] A I Aiyegbusi, F I O Duru, C C Anunobi, C C Noronha, A O Okanlawon. Bromelain in the early phase of healing in acute crush Achilles tendon injury. Ann Nutr Metab. 2009;54(4):283-90. Epub 2009 Jul 27.
- [xxxiii] H R Maurer. Bromelain: biochemistry, pharmacology and medical use. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2001 Aug ;58(9):1234-45.
- [xxxiv] C Metzig, E Grabowska, K Eckert, K Rehse, H R Maurer. Bromelain proteases reduce human platelet aggregation in vitro, adhesion to bovine endothelial cells and thrombus formation in rat vessels in vivo. In Vivo. 1999 Jan-Feb;13(1):7-12.
- [xxxv] Doreen Gläser, Thomas Hilberg. The influence of bromelain on platelet count and platelet activity in vitro. Platelets. 2006 Feb;17(1):37-41.
- [xxxvi] Manit Sae-Teaw, Jeffrey Johns, Nutjaree Pratheepawanit Johns, Suphat Subongkot. Serum melatonin levels and antioxidant capacities after consumption of pineapple, orange, or banana by healthy male volunteers. J Pineal Res. 2012 Oct 5. Epub 2012 Oct 5.
- [xxxvii] Weidong Xie, Wei Wang, Hui Su, Dongming Xing, Yang Pan, Lijun Du. Effect of ethanolic extracts of Ananas comosus L. leaves on insulin sensitivity in rats and HepG2. Comp Biochem Physiol C Toxicol Pharmacol. 2006 Aug;143(4):429-35. Epub 2006 Apr 28.
- [xxxviii] Weidong Xie, Dongming Xing, Hong Sun, Wei Wang, Yi Ding, Lijun Du. The effects of Ananas comosus L. leaves on diabetic-dyslipidemic rats induced by alloxan and a high-fat/high-cholesterol diet. Am J Chin Med. 2005;33(1):95-105.
- [xxxix] Weidong Xie, Wei Wang, Hui Su, Dongming Xing, Guoping Cai, Lijun Du. Hypolipidemic mechanisms of Ananas comosus L. leaves in mice: different from fibrates but similar to statins. J Pharmacol Sci. 2007 Mar;103(3):267-74.
- [xl] Yap Kok Leong, Ong Chiaw Xui, Ong Kien Chia. Survival of SA11 rotavirus in fresh fruit juices of pineapple, papaya, and honeydew melon. J Food Prot. 2008 May ;71(5):1035-7.