Bromelain is a complex mixture of protein-digesting enzymes that has many medicinal applications. Since it is commonly believed to relieve upset stomach and heartburn, it is an age-old remedy for indigestion. Today, bromelain is popularly used to reduce inflammation related to infection, injury and arthritis. And new evidence suggests that it is also effective in removing dead tissue from wounds and burns. The bromelain in topical salves and capsules is derived from the stem and juice of the pineapple plant. But while pineapple is a major dietary source of bromelain, it does not provide a medicinally-effective dosage of the substance. Nonetheless, pineapple is a wholesome addition to any diet and it can play a key role in maintaining good health.
In addition to having trace amounts of bromelain, the flesh of pineapple is a valuable source of vitamin C, manganese and thiamin. Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that safeguards the body against free radicals that attack and destroy healthy cells. Free radicals facilitate the build-up of plaque in arteries, induce asthma attacks, promote colon cancer and contribute to joint pain. In addition to reducing the risk of these conditions, vitamin C supports immune function and prevents the recurrence of infection. Pineapple fruit is also a rich source of manganese and thiamin, nutrients that aid in antioxidant defenses and energy production. And like all fruits, regular consumption of pineapple can reduce an individual’s risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
Like pineapple fruit, pineapple juice is good source of vitamin C, manganese, and thiamin–however it has a higher concentration of bromelain. In fact, bromelain was once extracted from pineapple juice, but now the proteolytic enzyme is removed from mature plant stems. While its anti-inflammatory properties are mild, pineapple juice is commonly given to post-operative patients to alleviate pain from surgery. A report in the British Journal of Radiology also suggests that the juice's manganese content can sharpen the resolution of pancreatic ducts and other organ structures in MRIs. As a result, some doctors advise patients to drink pineapple juice before they undergo an MRI. Pineapple juice is also common folk remedy, historically it has been used as a diuretic and as a delivery aid for child labor. It has also been drunk as an antidote for seasickness and gargled to treat a sore throat.
Because it contains protein-digesting enzymes, the bromelain that’s extracted from pineapple is regularly used as a meat tenderizer. Commonly available in powdered form, bromelain can be combined with marinades or directly added to meat. Pineapple juice can also be used as a meat tenderizer, although it will have a much lower concentration of bromelain. Cooked and canned pineapple are not as effective in tenderizing meat since their enzymes have denatured.