by EBSCO CAM Review Board


Proteolytic enzymes are a group of compounds that help the body break down food. They have been used to ease digestion. They have also been used to ease pain and promote healing in skin, muscle, and joint problems. Proteolytic enzymes can be taken as a pill. Some can also be applied to the skin or inhaled.


There are no advised doses for proteolytic enzymes.

What Research Shows

Likely Effective

  • Third molar surgery—bromelain likely to ease pain, swelling, and improve quality of life after surgery C1, C2

May Be Effective

  • Wounds—trypsin may ease pain and quicken healing D1

May Not Be Effective

  • Post-procedure ecchymosis or edema—bromelain may not have benefit B1

Unlikely to Be Effective

  • Chronic pancreatitis—pancreatin is unlikely to ease abdominal pain A1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to take proteolytic enzymes in small doses for a short time, but tummy upset and allergic reactions may happen. Not enough studies have been done to say whether they are safe to take for a long period. It is also not known whether it is safe to take by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Papain should not be taken by mouth during pregnancy.


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.


REFA Chronic Pancreatitis

REFA1 Yaghoobi M, McNabb-Baltar J, et al. Pancreatic Enzyme Supplements Are Not Effective for Relieving Abdominal Pain in Patients with Chronic Pancreatitis: Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Can J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016;2016:8541839.

REFB Post-Procedure Ecchymosis or Edema

REFB1 Ho D, Jagdeo J, et al. Is There a Role for Arnica and Bromelain in Prevention of Post-Procedure Ecchymosis or Edema? A Systematic Review of the Literature. Dermatol Surg. 2016 Apr;42(4):445-463.

REFC Third Molar Surgery

REFC1 Mendes ML, do Nascimento-Júnior EM, et al. Efficacy of proteolytic enzyme bromelain on health outcomes after third molar surgery. Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2019 Jan 1;24(1):e61-e69.

REFC2 de Souza GM, Fernandes IA, et al. Is bromelain effective in controlling the inflammatory parameters of pain, edema, and trismus after lower third molar surgery? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytother Res. 2019 Mar;33(3):473-481.

REFD Wounds

REFD1 Chandanwale A, Langade D, et al. A Randomized, Clinical Trial to Evaluate Efficacy and Tolerability of Trypsin:Chymotrypsin as Compared to Serratiopeptidase and Trypsin:Bromelain:Rutoside in Wound Management. Adv Ther. 2017;34(1):180-198.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
  • Review Date: 12/2015
  • Update Date: 04/17/2020