The researchers from the University of Texas found that patients taking the supplement recovered from a plastic surgery procedure like a facelift three days faster than those taking placebo.
The results could be a result of the antioxidant activity present in all four ingredients in the supplement although the scientists could not tell which ingredient or combination is the active ingredient.
"We were completely surprised that this combination of supplements actually reduced the recovery time for our patients," said Rod Rohrich, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and co-author of the study.
Rohrich and colleagues found patients healed 17 per cent faster by taking the mixture of bromelain, vitamin C, rutin and grape seed extract.
"Previously, it would generally take 18 days for a patient to recover from a plastic surgery procedure, such as a facelift," said co-author James Chao. "By taking these supplements right after the procedure, patients can fully heal in just 15 days."
The supplement could bring cost savings by cutting down on healing time as well as medicine for increasing numbers of plastic surgery patients. The results also demonstrate the potential benefits of the supplement ingredients for other types of wounds.
In the study, published in the July issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (114, issue 1, 237-244), 26 healthy volunteers took part in a randomized, crossover, placebo-controlled, clinical trial consisting of two phases, each lasting 21 days. In the first phase, subjects were subjected to a 3-mm forearm skin biopsy and randomly received a placebo or oral supplement (four capsules per day for seven days).
After a two-week washout period, a second biopsy was performed to start the second phase, with each subject receiving the respective placebo or supplement capsules. Digital photographs were taken during wound healing in both phases and analyzed for wound areas and perimeters.
More than 80 per cent of the participants benefited from taking the supplements during the early phase of the healing process, which accelerated the soft-tissue wound healing compared with subjects who received the placebo.
The researchers said they observed decreased redness in the wound for subjects receiving the supplement, indicating that the supplement cocktail more than likely changed the inflammatory process. As with all wounds, if the wound stays inflamed longer, it takes longer to heal.
All of the ingredients included in the mixture, (made by Enzymes Inc, based in Parkville, Missouri) are antioxidants, which enhance cellular stability and decrease swelling. Bromelain is an anti-inflammatory agent that helps heal minor injuries, including sprains, strains and muscle injuries, and has been found to dramatically reduce postoperative swelling.
Preliminary studies also suggest that vitamin C supplements in non-deficient people can speed healing of various types of wounds and trauma, including surgery, minor injuries, herniated intervertebral disks and skin ulcers.
In addition there is evidence that both rutin and grape seed extract helps the vitamin C's activity in cells. A study at Ohio State University in 2002 found grape seed extract to help skin wounds heal faster and with less scarring, by helping regenerate damaged blood vessels and increasing the amount of free radicals in the wound site.
However Dr Rohrich warned: "This study is a bridge towards discovering if any of these individual supplements have merit separately or combined together. Only through further study can we discover how these antioxidants work to shorten recovery time for patients."