Would you believe it if I told you that an enzyme isolated from bacteria found in silkworms is effective at reducing inflammation and pain due to surgery, trauma, and other inflammatory conditions? Though it may seem far-fetched, it is, in fact, true. Indeed, serrapeptase, also known as serratiopeptidase, is an enzyme produced by bacteria in the digestive tract of silkworms that allows the emerging moth to digest and dissolve its cocoon. Serrapeptase has long been recognized as a potent natural anti-inflammatory and pain-killer.
If you’re using conventional anti-inflammatories, but worry about their harmful side effects, serrapeptase may be exactly what the Naturopathic Doctor ordered; a safe, highly effective, and proven natural alternative to NSAIDs.
Before we delve into what serrapeptase is and the incredible health benefits it offers, take a look at what enzymes are and what they do inside the body. In a nutshell, enzymes are proteins that act as biological catalysts (biocatalysts) to accelerate over 5,000 biochemical reactions inside the body that help sustain life. Some of these biochemical reactions include muscle growth, removing toxins, and tearing down the molecules in food throughout digestion.
Proteolytic enzymes, as the name implies, help break down and digest protein and are essential for many important processes in the body. Indeed, while proteolytic enzymes are known above and beyond anything else for their participation in the digestion of protein, they fulfill many other critical functions, such as supporting cell division, blood clotting, immune function, and protein recycling among many other essential processes. But, of course, not all proteolytic enzymes offer the same benefits to health.
Digestive Enzymes vs. Serrapeptase
Enzymes naturally occur in the body but we can also get enzymes from foods such as papaya (which supplies the enzyme called papain) and pineapple (which supplies another enzyme called bromelain), both of which are often used in digestive enzyme blends. In the case of the proteolytic enzyme serrapeptase, it is present in certain insects. While all proteolytic enzymes support digestion, the serrapeptase enzyme offers extremely potent systemic effects that go far beyond digestion.
As previously mentioned, serrapeptase is an enzyme (Serratia E-15), that’s isolated from intestinal bacteria in silkworms. The microorganism was first identified in Japan in the 1960s and soon after became a bestselling drug. In Europe and North America, serrapeptase is sold as a dietary supplement for a range of different therapeutic applications. However, you’ll be happy to know that current serrapeptase supplements do not use any part of the silkworm. The raw materials found in Serrapeptase supplements are created by fermentation of the bacteria Serratia marcescens.
As a proteolytic enzyme, serrapeptase obviously promotes healthy digestion but also boasts potent anti-inflammatory effects and is often recommended to help reduce symptoms of inflammation (heat, redness, pain, swelling) and to promote a healthy inflammatory response. Serrapeptase is also frequently used to relieve pain following surgery, accelerate recuperation and healing and is renowned for its efficacy in the treatment of chronic upper respiratory concerns including: bronchitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, and pharyngitis (sore throat), and to reduce the viscosity of mucus in the respiratory tract.
Other interesting potential applications for serrapeptase include: relief from symptoms of arthritis, the prevention of atherosclerosis (by helping to dissolve arterial plaque), and the treatment of diabetes, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), leg ulcers, and fibrotic breast disease.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that research suggests serrapeptase can help improve lockjaw (trismus), a painful condition that makes it difficult to speak, eat and maintain oral hygiene.
What to Look for in a Serrapeptase Supplement
Given its premium price point, serrapeptase would make a rather expensive digestive enzyme, so it’s important to select a serrapeptase supplement that is enteric-coated for it to be absorbed so it can offer its systemic benefits to the entire body. Otherwise, the enzyme will become deactivated by the acidic environment of the stomach.
Serrapeptase supplements are sold in doses ranging from 34 mg (20,000 IU) to 500 mg (300,000 IU); it’s generally recommended to start with a smaller dose and increase gradually. To ensure you’re getting a quality product, opt for brands that have independent third-party testing and certification like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab, which guarantees the product’s safety, potency and purity. Serrapeptase is generally well-tolerated though certain individuals may experience nausea, stomach upset, muscle aches, joint pain, cough, or, occasionally, a rash. To avoid GI upset, take your serrapeptase with food.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your practitioner prior to taking herbs or nutritional supplements.
Roos Jonsin is a Canadian naturopath and researcher dedicated to helping people live healthier lives through education about vitamins, herbs, and nutritional supplements. Roos also consults with suppliers and manufacturers with product development and marketing. National Nutrition is Canada’s leading health & nutritional supplements store, also voted as the Best Health Food Store in Canada by the experts at Canadian Health Food Association.