|March 11, 2021

What Is Serrapeptase? What to Know Before Trying It

By Spencer Brooks
Reviewed by Emily Gonzalez, ND for Scientific Accuracy

What Is Serrapeptase? What to Know Before Trying It

  • Proteolytic enzymes like serrapeptase help break down proteins into amino acids—but serrapeptase is special because it comes from—surprise!—silkworms.
  • Serrapeptase is touted as a way to help decrease inflammation and even break down mucus (good news around allergy season). But does it really work?
  • Get the details about serrapeptase, why scientists are studying it with nattokinase and what you should know before you try.

Serrapeptase is a natural dietary supplement that some people take to help with inflammation and pain. This enzyme comes from a surprising—and unexpected—source: silkworms. Serrapeptase, also known as serratiopeptidase, is a proteolytic enzyme that comes from silkworms. And while this supplement certainly has an outside-the-box origin story, there’s still plenty we don’t know about it.

Scientists and health care researchers are still trying to unravel the potential effect of the proteolytic enzyme serrapeptase. Does it work, or is it a creepy-crawly placebo? Here’s what we know so far, including why people are taking it with nattokinase.

What is serrapeptase?

Silkworm next to silk

Serrapeptase is a protease, which means it’s an enzyme that helps break down proteins.

Enzymes are compounds that control the speed at which your body’s vital processes happen. From your saliva to your stomach and pancreas, enzymes go to work breaking down the sugars, fats and proteins you eat into smaller micro-particles your body can absorb.

But enzymes do more than digest your food. Enzymes are essential to healing, protection from bacteria, keeping inflammation in check and keeping your body in top shape.

“We all have an enzyme bank account in our bodies,” explains Matt Gallant, CEO of BiOptimizers. “Everything from thinking to blinking, enzymes are involved. They’re the catalyst that kickstarts chemical and biochemical reactions in the body.”

Enzymes naturally occur in your body, but you can also get enzymes from natural sources like foods and, in the case of the proteolytic enzyme serrapeptase, some insects.

Fun fact: The supplement form of serrapeptase comes from Serratia E-15 protease, also known as Serratia peptidase—a bioactive group of bacteria that evolved from the process that allows a silkworm to become a moth. Serratia are essential to the silkworm’s survival. After it weaves a silk cocoon and begins transforming into a moth, the silkworm releases Serratia bacteria from its gut. The Serratia produce serrapeptase. Because this enzyme eats through protein, it dissolves the silk cocoon, opening it up for the silkmoth to emerge.

Now you know where it comes from, but what do we know about serrapeptase benefits?

Possible serrapeptase benefits

Bottle of white pills on green background

In Japan and Europe, serrapeptase has been used throughout history because of its short-term pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory effects. It has been explored as an alternative to NSAIDs and support for conditions like bronchitis and sinusitis.

But scientists are still trying to fully understand serrapeptase through additional studies and clinical trials. Here are a few potential serrapeptase benefits:

  • Swelling: Researchers found that serrapeptase may help decrease swelling and pain after surgery and injuries.[1]
  • Lockjaw: Researchers have considered whether serrapeptase can help improve lockjaw, also known as trismus. Their findings suggest that serrapeptase may be effective and safe to use after certain dental procedures such as removing an impacted molar.[2]
  • Inflammation: In a double-blind study, researchers found that serrapeptase helped with inflammation and swelling among people suffering from ear, nose and throat disorders.[3]
  • Infections: Serrapeptase may help improve the effectiveness of certain antibiotics by preventing bacteria from creating protective biofilms around themselves, thus supporting an overall treatment strategy for infections.[4]
  • Clotting: Serrapeptase may help with blood clots by breaking down tissue and fibrin, but researchers say more work needs to be done to understand this potential benefit.[5] [6]
  • Respiratory issues: In one small clinical study, serrapeptase helped patients with chronic airway diseases. Researchers found that serrapeptase helped lower the frequency of coughing and decrease the amount of sputum they coughed up. In the study, serrapeptase also helped decrease the viscosity, elasticity and presence of solid components of their secretions.[7]

The bottom line: More research needs to be conducted to help solidify the links between serrapeptase and its potential health benefits.

Related: What Are Peptides? How Peptides Work for Fat-Burning and Recovery

Serrapeptase and nattokinase

You might have heard of people pairing serrapeptase and nattokinase, an enzyme extracted from fermented soybeans called natto. Researchers are investigating serrapeptase and nattokinase for their effects on neuroinflammation, which is an inflammatory response in the brain or spinal cord.[8]

In an experimental animal study, researchers found that when taken together, serrapeptase and nattokinase increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1)—two key markers of brain health.[9]

We’re still learning about the effects of these enzymes. In the meantime, if you’re on the hunt for a natural supplement that supports a healthy inflammation response, reach for Bulletproof Curcumin Max, made with a blend of plant-based ingredients for holistic support. And if you’re looking for a science-backed way to boost BDNF, try Bulletproof NeuroMaster. It’s made with coffee fruit extract, which is shown to increase BDNF levels.

Should you take serrapeptase?

Person taking pill with glass of water

Before you start taking serrapeptase or other supplements, check in with your doctor or health care provider first. They can offer their professional opinion and expert medical advice about whether serrapeptase is right for you—including potential serrapeptase dangers, such as negative interactions with other medications or supplements you’re taking. This is especially important in people who may be prone to allergic reactions as new forms of proteins are introduced into their diet.

For example, serrapeptase may make thick fluids thinner. In the case of a cold, sinus infection or a persistently inflamed injury, that might be helpful. But if you’re already taking medications or supplements that also thin fluid, you should be careful about adding serrapeptase to the mix. If you’re taking blood thinners like fish oil, aspirin, ibuprofen or prescription blood thinners like Warfarin, proceed with caution.

Always be sure to choose supplements that don’t include any junk ingredients and are made by producers who are transparent about their sourcing. Thoroughly read the label and any accompanying information, including recommended dose, side effects and when to take serrapeptase for best results, such as taking it on an empty stomach.

Serrapeptase is a niche supplement that we’re just starting to understand. Want to learn more about the baseline supplements that can help you feel your best? Learn about the top 10 supplements that everyone should take.

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This article has been updated with new content.