Ready for the latest in bizarre health trends? Serrapeptase, a promising new dietary supplement, comes from the gut bacteria of silkworms.
And it’s becoming popular as an anti-inflammatory and general pain reliever.
Serrapeptase may also help with asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, joint pain, blood clots, and ear, nose, and throat disorders. It even shows promise as a way to break down scar tissue.
But do you really need another supplement on your shelves? Read on to learn how serrapeptase works and how it might help.
Serrapeptase — also known as serratiopeptidase or serratia peptidase — is a proteolytic enzyme.
That means serrapeptase breaks down protein molecules (“proteolytic”) into their amino acid building blocks. Serrapeptase is particularly good at dissolving dense, fibrous proteins, like those that make up scar tissue.
Serrapeptase is produced by one of two bacteria: Serratia sp. or Serratia marcescens. Serratia bacteria were originally found in the intestines of silkworms in the 1960s.
And scientist soon found that the serrapeptase generated by these bacteria allowed silkworm moths to dissolve their dense silk cocoons[*].
Though serrapeptase is a relatively new dietary supplement in the United States and Canada, it’s been used in Europe and Asia for several decades. Serrapeptase has shown promise for improving several medical conditions, from postoperative swelling to breast engorgement to bronchitis.
Now, serrapeptase is becoming popular for its possible anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, as well as its ability to destroy harmful gut bacteria.
Proteolytic enzymes like serrapeptase break down proteins into smaller molecules called amino acids.
Proteins are large, sprawling strands of hundreds (sometimes thousands) amino acids, held together by chemical bonds. Serrapeptase comes in and cleaves those bonds, disintegrating proteins into smaller and smaller parcels, and eventually single amino acids[*].
This is a good thing because it’s the amino acids that your body actually uses to rebuild tissues, create neurotransmitters and hormones, and more.
Serrapeptase is good for a variety of medical conditions, particularly when it comes to inflammation and pain relief.
#1: Serrapeptase May Reduce Pain and Inflammation
Pain, swelling, and inflammation are all closely related. Your inflammatory response — if it’s working properly — generates pain and swelling in response to infection or injury, then starts to disappear as the problem subsides.
Swelling is a protective mechanism in which your body floods a damaged with immune cells. These immune cells help with wound healing.
Pain is protective too. It’s your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Without pain, you wouldn’t know when you’re injured.
But sometimes, pain and inflammation can get out of control. Short courses of serrapeptase supplementation may help. There have been quite a few clinical trials on serrapeptase and inflammation:
- Dental surgery: Serrapeptase is as effective as prescription steroids at reducing pain and swelling after dental surgery[*].
- Breast pain: In one study, serrapeptase improved breast pain from swelling in 86% of participants, which could make it useful for premenstrual or period pain relief[*].
- Carpal tunnel: Serrapeptase improved chronic inflammation and pain from carpal tunnel syndrome in a study of 20 patients[*].
- Sinus surgery: Patients who had surgery for damaged sinuses showed significantly less swelling and faster recovery after taking serrapeptase[*].
- Venous disease: Serrapeptase reduced pain, swelling, nighttime cramps, and edema in 20 patients with inflammatory venous disease (IVD)[*]. IVD is often the culprit behind varicose veins.
Serrapeptase seems to be a strong alternative to over-the-counter painkillers when it comes to relieving short-term pain, inflammation, and swelling. That said, make sure you talk to a qualified health care professional for medical advice before using serrapeptase after surgery or for a chronic illness.
#2 Serrapeptase May Improve Respiratory Health
Chronic respiratory issues like asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affect the health of millions across the globe. Respiratory issues have become more common in the last couple of decades, driven partly by airborne pollutants that harm delicate human airways[*].
Several studies suggest serrapeptase can help relieve chronic respiratory conditions.
In one study, a group of Japanese researchers tested serrapeptase supplements (vs. placebo) in 29 patients with chronic airway disease. After four weeks of treatment, the serrapeptase group had decreased phlegm thickness, fewer phlegm immune cells, and less coughing.
Serrapeptase thinned out mucus and cleared the patients’ airways, likely by dissolving mucosal proteins[*].
In another double-blind study, patients with chronic ear, nose, or throat disorders showed significantly more symptom relief than a placebo group after taking serrapeptase for a week. Serrapeptase reduced inflammation and cleared blocked passages of mucus and debris[*].
#3: Serrapeptase May Reduce Heart Disease Risk and Scar Tissue
Fibrin is a protein that helps clot your blood and forms scar tissue. You want the right amount of fibrin to heal wounds and prevent blood loss, but fibrin is also a major component of arterial plaques and can contribute to heart disease[*]. Fibrin is also a primary component of scar tissue.
While preliminary research looks promising, there’s not enough research in humans to say definitively whether serrapeptase helps with heart disease or breaking down scar tissue.
Serrapeptase has been popular in Asia and Europe for decades, but it’s only in the last couple of decades that major research on serrapeptase has picked up[*].
Because it’s so new, there haven’t been good long-term studies. However, short-term human studies report rare and mild side effects, including:
- Allergic skin reactions
- Muscle aches or joint pains
- Nausea, stomach upset, or diarrhea
- Decreased blood clotting
The major side effect to watch for here is a decrease in blood clotting. It can be a problem if you’re taking blood thinners or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or acetaminophen.
If you want to be extra careful, talk to your doctor before taking serrapeptase.
Serrapeptase should be taken on an empty stomach, otherwise, the enzymes will simply digest your food.
There are no published guidelines for dosage, but most clinical studies have used 10 to 60 milligrams of serrapeptase per day. This translates to 20,000 to 120,000 SPU (serratiopeptidase activity units) — the unit typically displayed on product labels[*].
You can get Serrapeptase in pill form at most health food stores and online, and less commonly in liquid form.
It’s always a good idea to start with the lowest dose of any supplement and work your way up over a matter of weeks.
The Takeaway: Do You Need Serrapeptase?
Serrapeptase seems to be useful for managing pain, inflammation, and swelling, as well as for chronic breathing issues like asthma or bronchitis.
In theory, serrapeptase may help break up scar tissue and reduce the risk of heart attack, although there haven’t been human studies on it yet.
If you’re looking to manage inflammation or recover from an injury, it may be worthwhile to try serrapeptase. You can also use this complete guide to inflammation to learn how to get rid of inflammation and feel your best with diet and lifestyle changes.
And as with any supplement, always talk to your doctor before trying anything new.