Papaya (Carica papaya)
Other common names: Papaw, pawpaw, Papaya vulgaris, mamaeire, melon tree
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Actions: Vermifuge, detoxifier, hypotensive, antitumorigenic, laxative (mild), stomachic, nutritive, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, carminitive, cardiovascular tonic, immune system tonic, anti-cancer, vulnerary.
Harvest: A papaya fruit is harvested when approximately half of it has turned yellow, and then it is ripened at room temperature. In commercial production, papayas are treated with heat to kill insect larvae that might be in the fruit. Leaves are harvested in late spring to early summer. Seeds can be taken from ripened fruit.
Part used: Leaves, fruit, seeds, latex (papain)
Constituents: Papain, caricin, benzyl isothiocyanate (seeds, trace amounts), saponins, tannins, carpaine, dietary fiber, vitamins A, C and E, flavonoids, chymopapain, cysteine endopeptidases, myrosin, cardenolides, phenloics, steroids, sugars, amino acids, cardiac glycosides, anthraquinones, and others.
Papaya is used for enhancing digestion, killing parasites, healing liver conditions such as cirrhosis, detoxifying the body, reducing inflammation, gas and bloating, killing bacteria and viruses in the digestive tract, encouraging beneficial digestive flora (especially after taking conventional antibiotics), treating rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, reducing tumour size, preventing heart attacks and strokes, bringing on menstruation, boosting immune function and healing sores caused by radiation treatment (consult with a doctor before using if you are or will be undergoing cancer treatments), as well as toothaches and oral irritation. Papaya is considered a preventative measure to help guard against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It can also treat psoriasis, asthma, ringworm and other conditions.
Leaves can be dried and used in tea, as can the fruit. Do not use the leaves in excessive amounts, as they can cause stomach upset. The fruit can also be used raw, or cooked in culinary dishes. The seeds are an excellent vermifuge to eliminate parasites, and have a number of other benefits as well when taken internally. Seeds are generally ground and eaten, but they can be chewed raw. Seeds should be taken in small amounts, as large amounts can be mildly toxic. The dried and prepared latex can be found in capsule form, labeled as papain.
An infusion of the leaves can be used in cosmetics, and the fruit juice is also good for skin conditions and wounds that are slow to heal. The latex is a strong irritant when applied topically, and external use is primarily reserved for debriding ointments where it is used to break down dead tissues (it’s so good at breaking down tissues, it is even used in meat tenderizers!) In recent years this preparation has become controversial. Do not administer for this purpose without a doctor’s prescription or guidance.
Do not use the fruit in therapeutic doses (and don’t use the seeds or leaves at all) if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you suffer from low blood pressure, blood clotting disorders or allergies to kiwi, fig or latex. May reduce male fertility. Do not use papaya daily at a therapeutic dosage for longer than one month without taking a few days off. Some individuals may have a severe allergic reaction, so use with caution in those who are prone to other allergies or trying papaya for the first time. Using the leaves internally in excessive amounts can cause digestive upset, and topical use of the latex can cause skin irritation and is not advised without the guidance of a doctor. Stop taking two weeks prior to undergoing surgery.
I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.
It was rumoured that working extensively with papaya would soften your hands so much that your fingerprints would disappear. There may have been some truth to this, given the plant’s enzymatic ability to exfoliate and break down tissues. Tribal societies in Bengal value Papaya as a sacred plant and use it in ceremonies. Mixed with mandrake it can break a hex, and eaten with one’s lover it can solidify a bond.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.