Although pineapples have been part of indigenous America for centuries, the bioactive essence of the plant -- bromelain -- was not isolated in chemical form until the late 19th century. In 1957, bromelain was introduced to the market as a therapeutic supplement [source: Wellness Trader].
Bromelain's potency comes from enzymes, or proteins, that stimulate chemical activity in the body. Bromelain is known as a proteolytic enzyme, which means that it digests proteins (or proteases). Eight different chemicals within bromelain help digest proteins [source: PDI].
While inflammation helps heal the body during injury, too much swelling can lead to health complications and accelerate aging. By breaking down fibrins, bromelain is said to help prevent clotting and improve circulation. Similarly, supplement makers claim this enzymatic activity thins the blood, prevents the buildup of plaque in the arteries, and slows the coagulation (or clumping) of blood platelets. That's why Native Americans used parts of the pineapple plant to dress and treat wounds [source: Wellness Trader].
Bromelain also slows the accumulation of kinins, another byproduct of inflammation, and prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds found throughout the body. Prostaglandins, associated with swelling and clotting at sites of injury, can contribute to the formation of diseases when their presence is excessive. In a five-year study of more than 200 people, bromelain was found to be effective in slowing the growth of inflammatory prostaglandins [source: Endo Resolved].
Read on to find out what else bromelain could do for you.