Papaya (Carica papaya)

Papaya MintAlthough I like papaya, I never buy them at the grocery store. They just don’t taste right (like store-bought tomatoes don’t taste right). If you’ve ever been in a tropical country and had fresh papaya, you know how good a naturally ripened papaya can be.

But papaya isn’t just a tasty fruit, it’s also a very good medicine. Both the latex of the papaya plant and the fruits themselves contain two proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzymes—papain and chymopapain. The green fruits, not the ripe fruits, are the best source of these enzymes. Papaya also contains other enzymes, including lysozyme, chitotransferase, glycosidases, callase, pectinesterases, lipases, phosphatases and cycloligases.

Commercial papain is derived from the milky white latex that flows from cuts made in green fruits. It is used to make meat tenderizers for home use, but also finds it’s way into other commercial applications. Papain is used to clarify beer, treat wool and silk before dyeing and take the hair off of hides before they are tanned. It is also used in personal care products like toothpaste, cosmetics and deodorants.

Of course, in the health world, papain is used in preparations to aid digestion. This is why it is an ingredient in Food Enzymes, NSP’s main digestive enzyme formula. Because it breaks down proteins, it is also found in Everybody’s Formula, a protein powder. Besides aiding protein digestion, papain has been used to reduce swelling, fever and adhesions after surgery. It can also be used to help rid the body of parasites and heal ulcers.

However, it isn’t just papain that’s useful in natural healing. The fruits themselves are also a digestive aid, just like raw pineapple, which contains another proteolytic enzyme called bromelain. Papaya fruit is also a natural healing agent. In a London hospital in 1977, a post-operative infection in a kidney transplant patient was treated with strips of papaya that were laid on the wound and left for 24 hours. This cured the infection after all modern medications had failed.

Studies at the University of Nigeria found that extracts of ripe and unripe papaya fruits and seeds had an anti-bacterial action. They are affective against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. The crushed seeds yield a compound (the aglycone of glucotropaeolin benzyl isothiocyannate, BITC for short) which is bacteriostatic, bactericidal and anti-fungal. A single dose of 4-5 grams of crushed seeds is effective. The seeds are also taken internally to help get rid of parasites.

In countries where it grows, papaya has many other medicinal uses. In tropical folk medicine, the latex is used topically to help heal boils, warts, cancerous tumors, boils and freckles. Dried leaves are smoked to relieve asthma and have been used to dress wounds. The seeds are used to expel parasites. The seeds can also be abortive.

Papaya fruit is an ingredient in Papaya Mint Tablets, a chewable digestive aid that is also great for children. It lends help to the digestive process in Stomach Comfort, an antacid formula. It’s also an ingredient in SF, a formula that aids liver function and helps in weight loss; Skeletal Strength, a formula for supporting healthy bones; and GreenZone, a natural food blend.

Some individuals have allergic reactions to papaya. They react even to meat that has been tenderized with papain. Such individuals should probably avoid supplements containing papaya or papain. For the rest of us, papaya is a great fruit for supporting healthy digestive function.

Selected References

The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevallier
The Comprehensive Guide to NSP Products
 by Tree of Light
PDR for Herbal Medicines 
by Medical Economics Press

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