Papaya

Scientific names: Carica papaya

Common names: Papaya is also known as pawpaw and melon tree.

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Papaya?

Papaya is a small, bushy tree with a hollow trunk, large palmate leaves, and oblong smooth-skinned fruits (melons). The melons are usually picked in a green state and allowed to ripen. When ripe, the flesh is sweet and juicy and similar in taste to other melons.

Slideshow: Grapefruit and Medicines: A Possible Deadly Mix?

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can react adversely with over 85 prescription medications.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Papaya, a tropical plant believed to have originated in southern Mexico and Central America, is now cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. C. papaya is cultivated for its edible ripe fruit; its juice is a popular beverage, and its young leaves, shoots, and fruits are cooked as a vegetable. The fruits are a source of flavoring used in candies, jellies, preserves, and ice cream. Shallow cuts on the surface of fully grown but unripe fruits cause a milky sap or latex to ooze that is collected, dried, and termed “crude papain.” Papain has many industrial uses, as well as milk-clotting (rennet) and protein-digesting properties. Nearly 80% of American beer is treated with papain, which allows the beer to remain clear upon cooling. Papain is most commonly used commercially in meat tenderizers and chewing gums. Cosmetically, papain is used in some toothpastes, shampoos, and facial creams.

Miscellaneous uses

Papaya has been used widely in folk medicine for many ailments: the juice for warts, corns, cancers, tumors, and thickened skin; the roots or their extracts for cancers of the uterus, syphilis, the tropical infection, hemorrhoids, and to remove mineral concretions in the urine; the unripe fruit as a mild laxative or diuretic, and to stimulate lactation, labor, or abortion; the ripe fruit for rheumatism and alkalinizing the urine; the seeds for intestinal worms or to stimulate menstruation or abortion; the leaves as a poultice for nervous pains and elephantoid growths, or smoked for asthma relief; and the latex for psoriasis, ringworm, indigestion, or applied externally as an antiseptic or to heal burns or scalds, or applied to the cervix to contract the uterus.

General uses

In some developing countries, the traditional use of papaya is being investigated as an alternative to standard treatments for a range of ailments. C. papaya has a wide range of purported medicinal properties for treatment of diabetes, as birth control, as an antiseptic, antimicrobial, or diuretic, to control parasites, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. While there are only limited data to support most of these uses, there is some evidence for healing bed sores and other wounds and in treating intestinal worms in humans.

What is the recommended dosage?

A commercially produced ointment to debride wounds is available by prescription in the United States. Each 1 g contains 8.3 × 105 USP units papain and 100 mg of urea. There is very little data available to make specific recommendations regarding systemic doses of papaya. One study used a 4 g dose of air-dried papaya seeds in 20 mL of honey to treat helminthiasis. In the United States, the fruit is generally recognized as safe (GRAS status) when used as a food.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Papaya may cause severe allergic reactions and is therefore contraindicated in sensitive people.

Pregnancy/nursing

Possibly unsafe depending on the part of the plant being used and dose administered. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Papaya may cause severe allergic reactions in sensitive people. Papaya latex can be a severe irritant and vesicant on skin. Papaya juice and papaya seeds are unlikely to cause adverse effects when taken orally; however, papaya leaves at high doses may cause stomach irritation.

Toxicities

There are parts of the plant (eg, seeds) that contain benzyl isothiocyanate, which may cause poisoning at high doses.

References

  1. Papaya. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc; December 2010.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

Hide
(web4)