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What Are the Health Benefits of Nattokinase?

Most Americans are unfamiliar with nattokinase. This soybean-derived enzyme appears useful for breaking down blood clots.

No one is surprised that pharmaceutical firms span the globe. With research and marketing, they can present their products as familiar and desirable, no matter where they were originally developed. Natural products are also going international, but we have fewer means for learning about them. As a result, you may have heard of nattokinase, but your neighbor might not know anything about it. Does it have health benefits you should embrace?

What Is Nattokinase?

Q. I recently spoke with a doctor friend who is taking nattokinase on the advice of her physician. She believes that nattokinase dissolved a pulmonary embolism a day after the clot was visible on a CT scan.

My friend says this drug is not well known in the US because all of the research has been done in China. Are you aware of any benefits of nattokinase?

A. Chinese scientists have indeed studied this enzyme. However, researchers in other countries such as India, Japan, Korea and Thailand have also contributed to knowledge about it.

What Nattokinase Does:

Nattokinase is an enzyme that breaks down fibrin, a component of blood clots along with blood platelets. It is produced by the bacteria that ferment soybeans to produce the traditional Japanese food called natto. In Japan, people eat natto regularly, but elsewhere people who want the anticlotting effects of this enzyme take it as a dietary supplement. However, scientists are working on developing more potent, targeted forms of the enzyme (Molecular Pharmaceutics, Jan. 2024). Those might need to be treated more like pharmaceuticals.

Nattokinase appears less likely to lead to adverse reactions than conventional anticoagulants (International Journal of Molecular Sciences, March 2017).  Medical supervision is still appropriate. While scientists have not studied interactions thoroughly, we believe it prudent not to combine this supplement with an anticoagulant drug.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Priya V et al, "Nattokinase encapsulated nanomedicine for targeted thrombolysis: Development, improved in vivo thrombolytic effects, and ultrasound/photoacoustic imaging." Molecular Pharmaceutics, Jan. 2024. DOI: 10.1021/acs.molpharmaceut.3c00830
  • Weng Y et al, "Nattokinase: An oral antithrombotic agent for the prevention of cardiovascular disease." International Journal of Molecular Sciences, March 2017. doi: 10.3390/ijms18030523
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