Serrapeptase – a cure for back pain?
Serrapeptase – (also known as Serratiopeptidase / Serralysin / Serratiapeptase).
We thought we would take the opportunity to look at this much talked about supplement. This was prompted in part by one of our patients who told us about the quite eye-catching headline they had read in the Daily Mail recently:
‘How silkworms can end back pain!’
He explained that the article told the story of a young lady who had experienced chronic back pain for many years but whose symptoms were now miraculously cured. (no pressure on us humble Osteopaths then!)
We already knew a little about Serrapeptase but we were intrigued to learn more about this miracle cure that could potentially put us out of a job!
The initial search produced a mix of blog sites, with numerous patient testimonials, and advertisements that described Serrapeptase as the “Miracle Enzyme”. From these accounts it became apparent that it was being used across a wide spectrum of painful conditions from osteoarthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome and migraine. It proved harder to find hard scientific research (i.e. from peer reviewed journals). This took a bit more digging to find.
Where does it come from?
It is a proteolytic enzyme (enzymes that breakdown protein) originally isolated in the late 1960s from the Silkworm. It is present in the silkworm’s intestine and allows the emerging moth to dissolve its cocoon.
What are the health claims?
Those who advocate the use of Serrapeptase claim that is beneficial for both pain and inflammation. They believe that it works by digesting non-living tissue including blood clots and arterial plaque and inflammation in all its forms. They point to the work of the controversial German Physician, Dr. Hans Nieper (who also claimed to have developed treatments for cancer and multiple sclerosis), who used Serrapeptase to treat arterial blockage in his coronary patients.
What does the research say?
Examine.com (an independent organisation that states that it presents un-biased research on supplements and nutrition) reports that Serrapeptase “appears to be absorbed (by the body) and have some efficacy, but seems unreliable with mediocre quality evidence.”
From the limited research, published in peer-reviewed journals, one (1) concluded that Serrapeptase did not show significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory action. A second (2) however did conclude that it was effective for eradicating some specific types of bacteria.
Any Side Effects?
One of the main selling points of supplements is that there are less reported side-effects compared to conventional mainstream medication like pain killers or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s). A word of caution though, it appears that there have been a number of side-effects reported by those who have used it in the past. These include:
~ Skin rash (as a result of allergic reaction) has been reported.
~ Pneumonitis (lung inflammation) may also affect some individuals who are allergic.
~ Body aches and mild pain in the extremities.
~ Thought to cause bleeding with individuals with clotting disorders.
~ Liver dysfunction may also occur, in very rare instances.
CAUTION: Always consult your General Practitioner before you start a new drug or supplement to make sure that there are no contra-indications with pre-existing conditions or drug regimes.
1) International Journal of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery. 2009 Apr;38(4):350-5. Epub 2009 Jan 24. ‘A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing the efficacy and safety of paracetamol, serratiopeptidase, ibuprofen and betamethasone using the dental impaction pain model.’
Chopra D, Rehan HS, Mehra P, Kakkar AK. Department of Pharmacology, Lady Hardinge Medical
2) The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 2006 Jun;88(6):1208-14. ‘The effect of proteolytic enzyme serratiopeptidase in the treatment of experimental implant-related infection.’
Mecikoglu M, Saygi B, Yildirim Y, Karadag-Saygi E, Ramadan SS, Esemenli T. Animal Research Laboratory, Marmara University School of Medicine, Istanbul, Turkey.