What is Wobenzym? Is there evidence it helps with arthritis?

I’ve had many arthritis patients come in through the years who claim that Wobenzym helps them, so what is Wobenzym? Is there data that shows it helps arthritis? How does that data stack up against more well known arthritis supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin? How about against anti-inflammatory supplements like curcumin?

Wobenzym is a proprietary mixture of plant based enzymes bromelain (pineapple extract) and papain (papaya extract), natural pancreatic enzymes trypsin and chymotrypsin, and the antioxidant flavonoid rutin. Despite all of the good things I’ve heard from my patients, I was disappointed to find that there’s very little published research at this point on the effectiveness of Wobenzym. As a comparison, when I run a search for glucosamine and arthritis at the US National Library of Medicine I get 903 research articles. Chondoitin sulfate and arthritis gets me 844 research papers. Curcumin and arthritis returns some 110 articles. So how many did that search return for Wobenzym and arthritis? Six papers, most of which don’t have much to do with arthritis. There was one German study of 80 patients who either took the NSAID diclofenac or Wobenzym and the two seemed equivalent over a short period, but also had similar side effect profiles (although I doubt Wobenzym can increase heart attack risk like the NSAID can). 

Maybe if we “part out” the mixture and look at the components individually we can find more research? There are 27 papers that come up on bromelain and arthritis. One small randomized study of moderate to severe knee arthritis showed no difference between bromelain and placebo. One small non-randomized study looked at bromelain for acute knee pain and seem to find some efficacy. There were a few others, but they generally combined bromelain with things not found in Wobenzym. Finally, there really isn’t much published research on arthritis and the other enzymes.

The upshot? The data that Wobenzym is helpful for arthritis is surprisingly sparse. There simply is no comparison to the data that more common supplements like glucosamine/chondroitin and curcumin have amassed. Having said that, if you take Wobenzym and you feel like it helps, then I’d recommend continuing the supplement. If you’re considering taking new supplements for arthritis, then I’d start with the ones that have been well tested like glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oil, and curcumin.

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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