Serrapeptase is an enzyme widely used to treat pain and inflammation. It also has a range of other potential health benefits like lowering heart disease risk, reducing excess mucus, and even boosting sperm count. However, clinical and animal studies on serrapeptase are limited. Read on to see if serrapeptase is right for you.
What Is Serrapeptase?
It was first isolated from gut bacteria (Serratia E15) of silkworms, which use this enzyme to break down their cocoon walls .
Another class of anti-inflammatory drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is used more often, but they have many side effects. Therefore, alternatives like serrapeptase that have fewer side effects are becoming more popular .
After digestion, serrapeptase reaches the bloodstream in its active form .
Serrapeptase vs. Nattokinase
Both serrapeptase and nattokinase are proteolytic enzymes, meaning they both break down proteins. They are also both serine proteases. In rats, both serrapeptase and nattokinase reduced Alzheimer’s symptoms and levels of inflammatory molecules that are high in Alzheimer’s patients .
One study in zebrafish found that serrapeptase was more effective than nattokinase in breaking down amyloid plaques .
Combinations of serrapeptase and nattokinase can break down biofilms, which commonly prolong infection .
Health Benefits of Serrapeptase
1) Reduces Inflammation and Swelling
Dead cells and tissues (cellular debris) cause inflammation by overstimulating the immune system. Serrapeptase promotes the breakdown of this debris and dilutes injury made fluids, which helps drain harmful substances from the inflammatory site .
It also inactivates toxins that cause swelling and pain .
Serrapeptase reduces swelling by decreasing fluid buildup in the tissues and increasing fluid drainage .
In a study of 174 patients undergoing a Caldwell-Luc antrectomy, serrapeptase reduced swelling in the cheek after surgery .
It also reduced swelling in the upper and lower limbs in a study of 50 patients .
Serrapeptase works best in breaking down cyclooxygenase, an enzyme responsible for producing different inflammatory molecules after injury or infection (e.g., interleukins, prostaglandins, and thromboxane) .
Because of this, serrapeptase can reduce inflammation due to :
- Infections in the sinuses (sinusitis)
- Infections in the lungs (bronchitis)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
However, in a study of 150 patients who underwent dental operations, serrapeptase did not show any significant anti-inflammatory effects .
2) Reduces Pain
Serrapeptase reduced pain in a study of 24 postoperative patients .
Similarly, serrapeptase decreased pain by 64% and nighttime cramps by 53% in a study of 40 patients with inflammatory venous disease .
It also mildly reduced pain in a study of 50 patients suffering from injuries to their legs and arms .
Serrapeptase is most effective in reducing pain in localized areas of inflammation like the ears, nose, or throat .
3) Reduces Mucus and Other Secretions
In a study of 29 patients suffering from difficulty breathing due to blocked airways (chronic airway disease), serrapeptase significantly reduced mucus clearance. The amount of sputum (mucus and saliva), cough frequency, and amount of phlegm also decreased after serrapeptase treatment .
Another study of 193 patients with ear, nose, and throat conditions discovered that serrapeptase reduced nasal secretions, difficulty swallowing, and obstructions in the nose .
4) Removes Blood Clots and Plaques
Serrapeptase can break down fibrin, a blood clotting molecule, in dead tissue without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue. This helps remove blood clots and plaques. It allows for better antibiotic treatment as the antibiotics are able to further penetrate into the tissue .
Biofilms, which can be made of fibrin, grow on devices to cause infection and protect bacteria from dying. Serrapeptase can break down biofilms made of fibrin .
Fibrin is also responsible for creating scar tissue, which can be painful and unsightly. By breaking down fibrin, serrapeptase can reduce excess scar tissue formation, thereby reducing pain in the patient [24, 25, 23].
On the contrary, serrapeptase reduced the abnormal breakdown of fibrin caused by scalding in rats. Improper fibrinolysis can lead to extra bleeding, inflammation, shock, and poor immune responses .
5) May Help with Alzheimer’s Disease
Serrapeptase can also break down amyloid plaques, as seen in zebrafish .
6) May Reduce the Risk of Stroke
Serrapeptase dissolves dead and damaged tissue without harming healthy tissue. By doing this, serrapeptase can remove deposits or clots of fat, cholesterol, cellular waste, calcium, and fibrin that can build up in arteries [27, 28].
7) Improves Breast Engorgement
Serrapeptase treatment can improve breast engorgement or painful overfilling of the breasts with milk. In a study of 70 patients, serrapeptase reduced breast pain, swelling, and hardness in 86% of patients .
Although not stated in the literature, serrapeptase may be transferred through breast milk. Please consult with a doctor before taking serrapeptase when breastfeeding.
8) Improves Superficial Thrombophlebitis
Serrapeptase showed improvement in 65% of patients with superficial thrombophlebitis (pain and inflammation caused by a blood clot in the vein) in a 40-patient study. Many symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis such as pain, inflammation, and skin decay decreased after serrapeptase treatment .
9) Enhances Antimicrobial Treatments
Combining antibiotics and serrapeptase increases the concentrations of antibiotics in tissues. This is because serrapeptase dissolves dead tissue, allowing antibiotics to penetrate deeper into tissues. Not only does this enhance the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment, but is also safer for patients due to lower drug use [30, 31].
10) May Improve Peri-implantitis
Peri-implantitis is inflammation of the soft and hard tissue of dental implants. Patients that received serrapeptase healed faster and had lower implant failure rates than patients receiving placebo or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs .
11) May Improve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
In a study, 13 of 20 patients with carpal tunnel syndrome showed significant clinical improvement after serrapeptase treatment. However, the condition recurred in four of the 13 patients .
12) Reduces Red Patches on the Skin
Serrapeptase reduced red patches on the skin (erythema) by 58% in a study of 40 patients with inflammatory venous disease .
13) May Increase Sperm Count
In a study of infertile 50 male patients with accessory gland infections, a combination of quinolones and serrapeptase increased sperm count in 22 of the patients. Because serrapeptase enhances the activity of antibiotics like quinolone in fighting infections, it may partly account for this increase in sperm count .
Although there is popular opinion supporting the use of serrapeptase for these diseases, there is no scientific evidence backing its use in:
- Fibroids (noncancerous growths in women’s uteri)
- Bartholin cyst (swelling of the Bartholin gland)
- Endometriosis (abnormal external uterine tissue growth)
Other common side effects include :
- Skin inflammation
- Bulls-eye shaped lesions of the skin
- Muscle ache
- Joint pains
- Blood clot abnormalities
Although rare, cases were reported when serrapeptase caused pneumonia. There are cases of a 69-year-old man with a common cold, an 84-year-old man with recurrent bladder infections, and a 32-year-old woman that took serrapeptase for treatment and saw worsening of symptoms and development of pneumonia. Stopping treatment reduced pneumonia symptoms [36, 37, 38].
Patients with abscesses, especially in the cheek area, should avoid serrapeptase. The drug can cause painful swelling in the abscess area .
Limitations and Caveats
Despite its wide usage as a drug and supplement, clinical studies proving serrapeptase’s effectiveness in treating pain and inflammation are limited and larger, better-designed, placebo-controlled trials are needed. In addition, research on the side effects and long-term safety of this enzyme is lacking .
1 to 2 capsules of serrapeptase for healthy maintenance and up to 4 to 6 capsules a day for therapeutic action are recommended. Reviews of serrapeptase are fairly mixed with some people for the drug and others against.
People have said that serrapeptase has helped them with both inflammation and pain, but they did mention that other drugs like FlexoPlex seemed to work better for reducing pain.
One person with bad knees said he used to have to stretch for up to 20 minutes in the mornings but no longer has to due to taking serrapeptase.
One review noted that the serrapeptase was making him and his friend tired and was giving them headaches. His friend ended up developing pneumonia as well. Stopping serrapeptase helped ease the symptoms.
Serrapeptase is effective in different doses. Doses as small as 5 mg were enough to reduce swelling and pain after tooth surgery .
Most clinical studies use serrapeptase in doses ranging from 10 to 60 mg/day .
Serrapeptase has also been developed as a gel or ointment for use over the skin. These forms are better for localized treatments and produce fewer side effects .
Serrapeptase has to be taken on an empty stomach or 2 hours after eating. Food should not be consumed for the next 30 minutes after taking serrapeptase .
There have been no dosage studies in humans to this day. Studies for the minimum concentration needed to produce therapeutic effects in humans have not been conducted. However, drug companies recommend at least 15 to 30 mg/day. You should consult a doctor for more information on correct dosing [11, 11].
Serrapeptase inhibits biofilm production, which is a coating that many bacteria produce to protect themselves from antibiotics. It enhances the effects of many antibiotics such as ampicillin, cyclacillin, cephalexin, minocycline, and cefotiam [44, 41].
5.6% of rats saw continued infection when combining serrapeptase with antibiotics while 37.5% of rats saw continued infection with only antibiotics .
A study of 18 lung-cancer patients found that serrapeptase with cefotiam, an antibiotic, increased lung cefotiam levels compared to the blood by 44%. This is especially useful for patients needing lung surgery .
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