Ananas comosus, Pineapple
Part of the plant used: enzymes extracted from pineapple
The pineapple plant, which is 60 to 120 cm tall, produces a very characteristic fruit, which is in fact a very complex flowerhead that wraps around the stem. Thus, the pineapple is the only cultivated fruit that has its main stem going completely through it. The plant is indigenous to South America and was spread around the world by Europeans settlers. It has been used in traditional tropical medicine for quite some time. It is now mostly cultivated for its fruit, which is used to make juice, candy and syrup.
Pineapple fruits are rich in citric acid (up to 8% in some varieties). The entire plant, fruit and juice are used commercially as a source of bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme. In the food industry, bromelain is used as a meat tenderizer. The plant's medicinal properties are attributed to bromelain, which has a 40% absorption rate when taken orally. Bromelain has been used for burn debridement, to reduce skin and mucosal irritation and inflammation. Some have claimed that bromelain could prevent ulcers and promote fat elimination in some "miracle" diets, but these effects have never been proven. In certain animals, topical application of enzymes obtained from the pineapple have promoted wound healing. In addition, bromelain increases the elimination of coagulation factors (fibrin and fibrinogen). It also appears to reduce inflammatory processes.
There is insufficient reliable information to conclude that bromelain is effective in any other indication.
In 2004, Canada adopted new regulations that control the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and importing of natural health products. The new regulations also include an adverse reaction reporting system. Products that conform to the regulation's criteria are identified with a natural product number (NPN) and can be legally sold in Canada. This number indicates that the product meets specific criteria for safety and purity, not that it is effective for any indication.
Medicinal plant contents vary naturally from plant to plant - just as fruits from the same package may vary in taste and texture. There is no standard to measure the active content of each plant. Thus, efficacy of natural products should be expected to vary from brand to brand as well as from bottle to bottle of the same brand.
For more information about the Natural Health Products Regulations, or to check if a product has been assessed, visit the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/index-eng.php.
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