Serrapeptase is an enzyme meaning that it is a selection of amino acids used as ‘catalysts’ in chemical reactions. In other words when it comes into contact with the correct combination of chemicals, it causes them to react which can in turn case them to break down or change form. Serrapeptase is an enzyme whose role is digestive meaning that it is used in order to break down food. Specifically serrapeptase is actually a digestive enzyme for silk worm and is produced in their intestines and is used to dissolve the cocoons so that the moth can emerge.
So what interest does serrapeptase have for the rest of us? Well according to several alternative medicine practitioners it can act as an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory and has been suggested in the treatment of everything from back pain to asthma to heart conditions. The claim is that it can thin and drain fluids around any injury in the body which in turn can speed the repair of tissue and prevent the release of various compounds linked to the sensation of pain.
Does it Work?
If alarm bells are going off in your head at this point then you’ve been well trained. Of course anyone who likes to research their medicines before taking them will know that it is not uncommon for online peddlers to get hold of a particular drug or chemical that has health benefits which are spurious at best, and then to claim that they cure every problem in the world.
The reality is quite different and actually serrapeptase is not fully supported by the evidence. An overview of 34 studies dealing with the enzyme found that there were no studies that followed rigorous scientific procedures and that those which did not find positive results. Subsequent studies compared the effects of serrapeptase to a control group using placebos, and found that they were not shown to be significantly more effective.
In light of these discoveries Takeda Pharmaceutical Co in 2011 agreed to voluntarily remove their serrapeptase product from the market – though they pointed out at the time that there were many other similar products on the market.
While there is no concrete evidence for the use of the enzyme, there are as yet no side effects demonstrated either (though there have been some mild cases of skin rashes and stomach pains). With some people reporting positively on the drug it might be something worth trying if you are at your wits end – but in general you are much better off sticking with something more reliable such as Aspirin; even if only to avoid supporting companies that are willing to make outrageous claims and sell products that aren’t founded in science.
As an enzyme that helps to break down protein, I wonder whether this is something that could be used to aid in protein digestion for bodybuilders. Perhaps an area for future study?