Nattokinase is an enzyme derived from the traditional Japanese food, natto, which is made from fermented soybeans and has been enjoyed for centuries. Natto is sticky with an earthy, slightly bitter taste, much like aged cheese and is believed to contribute to the longevity of the Japanese people.

Nattokinase’s medicinal benefits were first discovered in 1980 by a Japanese researcher who determined it had the ability to dissolve blood clots. Because of its antithrombotic potential, the enzyme has since been studied medicinally for its use in treating heart disease. As a supplement, it has been used in natural medicine to treat a number of cardiovascular issues including angina, atherosclerosis, deep vein thrombosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), myocardial infarction (heart attack), peripheral artery disease, stroke and varicose veins.

Nattokinase is a fibrinolytic, which means it has the ability to break up fibrin, a clotting protein, during the blood coagulation process. When a person is injured, fibrin and other plasma proteins come together to help stop the bleeding. However, if a person’s fibrinogen levels become too high, the risk of cardiovascular disease is elevated. Poor diet, in addition to genetic factors, can often contribute to these high fibrin levels, resulting in prescriptions for blood thinners which often come with very dangerous side effects.

Nattokinase can be a drugless, non-aspirin alternative to safely restore the body’s healthy blood flow. It is also a safe option for those who are immobilized due to illness, injury, paralysis or surgery, as nattokinase can help keep blood moving in the lower legs, avoiding potential blood clots that can lead to stroke. It can also be beneficial for common activities like long flights and road trips which put people at risk for deep vein thrombosis. Taking a 100mg capsule an hour before the flight should reduce the chance of a clot from long hours of sitting.

For preventative use, it can be challenging to determine who may benefit most from this powerful enzyme. Stroke genes are found in 20% of people, but require a special lipid test to detect them as they often go undetected in routine lipid panels. Unless a patient has serious heart disease, these special lipid tests are rarely ordered. My father had a stroke at age 60, so I decided to take a closer look at my cardiovascular profile. Because I had no obvious symptoms and wasn’t on any medications, my doctor was reluctant to order this special test.

Thankfully when he did, no heart disease was detected. Cautiously aware of my genetic predisposition to stroke, however, I rely on and continue to use nattokinase as a clot buster to discourage and break up potential blood clots, as there are no negative side effects.

There are several instances when nattokinase should be avoided. Persons with bleeding disorders or on blood-thinning medications should not use the enzyme. Surgical patients should refrain from use until wounds are healed to avoid bleeding. It is also contraindicated for persons with kidney disease or gout. 

Betty McDonald is a licensed acupuncturist and functional medicine practitioner. She is owner of The Wellness Place and welcomes questions at (760) 766.6223. For more information visit

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