Health-savvy folks have always known that plants have healing powers.  Just ask your neighborhood nutritionist.  But if you ask your local shaman or Hawaiian kahuna elder, and they’ll direct you straight to the nearest pineapple.  That’s right; the sweet, tasty pineapple is brimming with beneficial bromelain and the anti-oxidant vitamin C, as well as manganese and thiamin (vitamin B1.)

Bromelain is a powerful enzyme—called a proteolytic enzyme, which means it digests proteins, and fresh pineapple is loaded with it.  For many years, this amazing enzyme has been used as a digestive enzyme, to help treat muscle injuries, as an anti-inflammatory, and for relief of joint pain.  Pineapple is a member of the bromeliad family and is naturally packed with nutrition.  Consuming fresh pineapple and pineapple juice can add tremendous flavor to any meal; and the supplement bromelain can add to the natural boost for your good health.

Bromelain has been shown to be a natural anti-inflammatory, and is very effective in treating bruises, sprains and strains by reducing swelling, tenderness and pain. This powerful anti-inflammatory effect can also help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and reduce post-operative swelling.

Bromelain helps to aid digestion by enhancing the effects of digestive enzymes called trypsin and pepsin.  It works to help prevent heartburn and ease diarrhea, if caused by a deficiency of digestive enzymes. Plus you get the bonus of a significant supply of vitamin C, an effective antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage and boosts the immune system. Vitamin C brings with it the potential to help build and repair bodily tissue and promote wound healing.  Basically, bromelain is doubly good for your health in multiple ways.

Personally, I always keep a bottle of bromelain (pineapple enzyme) in my natural medicine cabinet.  Long ago, my husband and I tossed those chalky, nasty antacids—which can include some unpleasant side effects.  We’re not alone… for years people have relied on bromelain to help bring relief from intestinal distress such as tummy upsets, gas and even diarrhea.  You see, the enzyme bromelain helps break down the amino acid bonds in proteins, which promotes good digestion.

In terms of helping to relieve minor muscle injuries such as sprains and strains, bromelain has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory properties.  Researchers found that bromelain even helps to improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.  Topical application of bromelain may help to speed wound healing.

If you have any doubt as to the living enzymatic power contained in a pineapple, think about this: have you ever seen a recipe that calls for canned pineapple—but cautions you not to use fresh pineapple?  Check it out, you’ll see that the naturally-powerful enzymes in fresh pineapple are so active that they prevent gelatin from gelling in a recipe (or coagulating).  You can include canned pineapple in recipes such as these, but only because the canning process has destroyed the enzymes!  Two points become clear: pineapple enzymes are a natural anti-coagulant; and the canning process clearly works to destroy the enzymatic power contained in the food prior to canning… But those are topics for another discussion.

Meanwhile, how can you increase the amount of bromelain in your diet?  It’s easy; pineapple comes in many easy-to-use forms.  Drink pineapple juice straight or mix it with other juices too. You can get pineapple tidbits fresh frozen to keep on hand for smoothies and recipes.  Fresh pineapple can be purchased as-is, or pre-cored for easy use.  Try pineapple with a fruit plate, with yogurt, and in many entrees, such as stir-fries and even shish kabobs!  Grilled pineapple is delicious all year long.

Here’s my favorite Tropical Fruit Smoothie recipe, for a delicious and nutritious smoothie, loaded with bromelain, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin (vitamin B-2), iron, fiber and isoflavones.

Tropical Fruit Smoothie
1 frozen banana
1 cup fresh pineapple
1 scoop Go Ruby Go
3/4 cup soymilk
1 tablespoon honey or sugar (optional)

Blend all of the above ingredients in a food processor or blender for 1-2 minutes, until smooth and creamy.   This makes about 2-3/4 cups (2 servings)

Get good at making smoothies; they’re delicious, easy, quick and can include as much taste and as many nutrients as you can fit into your blender.  Improvise and experiment with smoothies; they’re easy and a nutritious way to start the day—they’re even great for dinner or dessert!

Bromelain is available in supplement form, and is great to have on hand for all its natural healing properties, such as helping treat muscle injuries, as an anti-inflammatory, for relief of joint pain, and for digestive upsets—I keep some in my purse for stomach upsets away from home.

Truly wise seekers of great health and long life turn to the powerful and healing gifts of nature.  Those investigators of these gifts range from scientists to shamans, nutritionists to the great Kahuna elders of Hawaii.  But you don’t have to go all the way to Hawaii for delicious pineapple or for easy-to-use bromelain.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that something as delicious and pure as a pineapple can be so great for your health, too?

References and Studies:  Masson M. Bromelain in the treatment of blunt injuries to the musculoskeletal system. Fortschr Med 1995;113:303-6.
Jellin JM, Gregory PJ, Batz F, Hitchens K, et al. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 8th ed. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 2006:pg 204-6.
Orsini, R. A. (2006). "Bromelain." Plast Reconstr Surg 118(7): 1640-4.
Kamenicek, V., P. Holan, et al. (2001). "[Systemic enzyme therapy in the treatment and prevention of post-traumatic and postoperative swelling]." Acta Chir Orthop Traumatol Cech 68(1): 45-9.
Klein, G., W. Kullich, et al. (2006). "Efficacy and tolerance of an oral enzyme combination in painful osteoarthritis of the hip. A double-blind, randomised study comparing oral enzymes with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs." Clin Exp Rheumatol 24(1): 25-30.