You probably know pineapple is a tropical fruit with a delicate aroma and sweet taste.

Ranked behind banana and citrus as the third most important fruit crop for international export, pineapple contains essential vitamins and minerals with proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (1, 2).

Along with ancient use in traditional folk medicine, pineapple continues to be included in complementary and alternative therapies and herbal preparations (3, 4).

In addition to the fruit, researchers speculate that pineapple leaves may contain bioactive compounds. That’s why they’re sometimes used to treat conditions like the common cold, heart conditions, and diabetes.

This article looks into the evidence-based benefits of pineapple leaves and their safety.

raw pineapple with leavesShare on Pinterest
Enrique Díaz/7cero/Getty Images

The pineapple plant, Ananas comosus L., is a member of the plant family Bromeliaceae (5).

It has a rosette of waxy long-pointed leaves that grow 20–72 inches (50–180 cm) long with sharp, up-curved spines on the margins (5).

The leaves may be green in color or striped with hints of yellow, red, or ivory. They produce a white silky fiber that some cultures use to weave cloth textiles (5).

Pineapple leaf extracts are rich in phenols. Phenols are compounds that, according to animal studies, may have potent health benefits (3, 6, 7, 8).

Other compounds of medicinal interest found in pineapple leaves include p-coumaric acid (CA), flavonoids, tannins, bromelain, glycosides, proteins, and ascorbic acid (1, 3, 9, 10).

Summary

Pineapples form a rosette of waxy, long-pointed leaves. Extracts from these leaves contain several compounds of biological and medicinal interest.

Pineapple leaves are purported to have healing properties that either prevent, treat, or cure many ailments.

For example, unverified sources claim that the leaves:

  • prevent and cure tuberculosis
  • heal burn wounds faster
  • treat hemorrhoids
  • improve vein dislocation
  • stop nosebleeds

Yet, few of these uses are backed by science. Here are 5 potential health benefits of pineapple leaves that have been scientifically studied.

Improved blood sugar control

Certain chemical extracts from pineapple leaves are rich in phenols and may exert hypoglycemic, or blood sugar lowering, activity.

In two studies in mice with diabetes, these phenols reduced blood sugar levels by reducing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when your body’s cells are less responsive to the effect of the blood sugar-lowering hormone called insulin (7, 8, 11, 12).

So, phenols from pineapple leaves show potential as a future way to manage diabetes, though rigorous human clinical trials are needed to confirm this use (7, 8).

Lowered blood cholesterol

The liver is one of the main organs responsible for regulating cholesterol levels in your body (3).

When this process is disrupted due to metabolic changes, such as in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), fats can accumulate in the liver and cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (13).

Promisingly, phenols extracted from pineapple leaves have shown potential for reducing blood cholesterol and hindering the development of NAFLD in mice (3, 6, 8).

They’ve also been shown to prevent the increase of triglycerides in mice after a meal. Triglycerides are the fatty acids that build up in your blood after eating fat-containing foods (6, 8).

By working like statin drugs, phenolic compounds from pineapple leaves could potentially help reduce blood cholesterol (3, 6).

However, research is needed to determine how pineapple leaf extract may lower blood cholesterol in humans.

Anti-inflammatory benefits

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to infection or stress. Over time, it can compromise the integrity of your immune system and increase the risk of certain diseases, including cancer (14).

In one mouse study, phenols, tannins, flavonoids, glycosides, bromelain, and other compounds extracted from pineapple leaves demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties (9, 15).

Specifically, they stopped the action of inflammatory substances in the body produced by white blood cells, like macrophages (9, 15).

These findings may support the claims that pineapple leaves boost immunity and treat inflammation. Still, human studies are needed to show its potential against acute inflammatory conditions.

Antioxidant properties

Pineapple’s fruit and leaves are rich in antioxidants called phenols, flavonoids, tannins, and ascorbic acid (1, 8). Antioxidants are molecules that reduce oxidative stress and its impact on your body.

Oxidative stress occurs when there are excess free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS) in your body. These can damage cells, cause chronic inflammation, and increase disease risk (9, 16).

The presence of potent antioxidants may support the claims that pineapple leaves could improve conditions associated with oxidative stress and inflammation, such as heart and neurological diseases (16).

However, human clinical trials are needed to support these benefits.

Improved digestion

The digestive enzyme bromelain is found in the fruit and leaves of pineapple (10, 15, 17).

Bromelain extract is sold as a dietary supplement and is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (18).

Used widely as a meat tenderizer, bromelain is an enzyme that breaks down proteins into their building blocks — amino acids and peptides — and may aid digestion (3, 4).

Summary

There are numerous unverified health claims about pineapple leaves. There is potential for their future use as an alternative treatment for several conditions, but studies including humans are needed.

To be on the safe side, avoid pineapple fruit and its leaves if you’re pregnant. The fruit has been used in folk medicine to induce labor (19).

Scientific studies to support this use are lacking. One study, however, identified the presence of compounds in pineapple extracts that may contribute to contractions of the uterus (19).

Additionally, avoid both the fruit and leaves if you’re allergic to pineapples. Signs of pineapple allergy include a burning feeling and swelling in the mouth and throat, itching, and even anaphylaxis — a potentially fatal reaction that requires immediate medical intervention (20).

Summary

Compounds in pineapple extract may induce contractions of the uterus and pose a potential risk for those who are pregnant. Avoid both the fruit and leaves if you’re allergic to pineapple.

In folk medicine, pineapple leaves are boiled and enjoyed as a tea or made into juice. It’s unclear whether the leaves are also eaten raw or dehydrated and used as a food additive.

Given the lack of scientific studies proving its safety and efficacy in humans, eating pineapple leaves themselves is not recommended. What’s more, they may too sharp, bitter, and fibrous to enjoy.

Still, up to 12 g of daily bromelain supplements has been shown to be safe (21).

Pineapple fruit and leaves have been used in traditional folk medicine and continue to be used in modern-day complementary and alternative therapies and herbal preparations.

Pineapple leaf extract may potentially:

  • reduce blood cholesterol
  • improve digestion
  • provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties

However, it’s also a potential allergen.

It’s important to note that most studies on the health benefits of pineapple leaf have used extracts and were done in mice. Ultimately, more trials including humans are needed.