Indigenous to the tropical climes of America, the papaya plant is now found in all tropical regions across the world. The papaya plant is normally small size and belongs to the Carica papaya or the Caricaceae family. The plant has a non-timbered trunk that is hollow and bears large, long stalked and extremely lobed leaves. The papaya plant does not have any intervening or dominant branches, its fruits have smooth exterior that openly resembles the cantaloupe groups of fruits or melons. The ripened papaya fruit is yellowish-orange in color and extremely delicious. The full grown, but unripe papaya fruits give out a milky sap or latex when low cuts are made on them. This white milky substance is a useful medication and is collected and dried as crude papain. While most of the papain is collected by making incisions in the unripe papaya fruits, some quantity (approximately two per cent) of this important ingredient is also obtained from the plant’s leaves. Papain is also often known as the vegetable pepsin. This milky ingredient of raw papaya fruits is a blend of proteolytic enzymes that have multifarious activities. Papain not only hydrolyzes proteins, but also does the same with small peptides (linear molecules of amino acids), amides (organic or inorganic derivates of ammonia) as well as a number of esters.
The other elements of crude papain cause the hydrolysis of carbohydrates as well as fats in the body. Owing to its wide range of functions, early herbal medicine practitioners used papain to treat various types of digestive disorders, especially those related to the intake of protein-rich diets. In addition, the papain enzymes as well as the papaya leaves are also used as a vermifuge to throw out wormsfrom the intestines. This is particularly effective in dispelling tapewormsfrom the body. Presently, tablets prepared from papain containing 10 mg to 50 mg of the enzyme are readily available in the market to treat digestive disorders. As mentioned earlier, papain found in the papaya plant’s whitish sap or latex is basically an enzyme that helps to break up proteins. The pure form of papain is in great demand as a substance that softens meat. This is owing to pure papain’s capability to assimilate approximately 35 times its own weight in slender meat. In herbal medicine, physicians recommend papain for people who have problems is digesting proteins and also split blood clots following any surgery. In addition to these, presently doctors as well as scientists are examining the effectiveness of a sister enzyme of papain known as chymopapain in contracting broken or slithered spinal discs.
Interesting to note that papain is present in all parts of the papaya plant in small quantities. However, the maximum concentration of the enzyme can be found in the plant’s leaves as well as the skin of the full grown, but unripe fruits. It may be mentioned here that only the pure form of the milk-like enzyme or latex is worth harvesting as the process in done manually and is time consuming. Despite the fact that large orchard of the papaya plant is found almost everywhere in southern Mexico and Central America, where the species is believed to have it origin, and the plant is cultivated in almost all the tropical climatic zones across the world, the latex is commercially collected only in a few places like Zaire in central Africa. Papain forms an important ingredient in the manufacture of face creams, ointments, cleansers and other similar substances with the belief that the enzyme will apply its assimilating effect on freckles or brown spot on the skin as well as other blotches caused by the sun. It is also thought that lotions, creams and cleansers formulated with papain will provide a normal mitigating result while sanitization of the makeup facial pores.
Notwithstanding all these, the most popular use of papain to any housewife is the enzyme’s capability to tenderize meat. In fact, most supermarkets today sell the enzyme mixed with salt that acts as a stimulator and a carbohydrate that functions as a dispersing agent. When added to meat before cooking, the enzyme makes it tender by predigesting some amount of the animal protein. The enzyme is particularly effective while cooking the tough beef meat as it helps in softening fibrous animal protein present in the meat. In addition to its tenderizing effect on meat, papain may also be used to make beer chill proof and elucidate fruit juices, but these aspects of the enzyme may be discussed elsewhere later. Here is a word of caution for those who are habituated to drinking tea prepared from the papaya leaves to aid in their digestive process.
According to the French herbal physicians, it is necessary to first put the papaya leaves in a fermentation process much like in the case of the black tea. Once the leaves are fermented, it makes the extraction of the active elements easier by boiling water and also brews a more plentiful beverage than that could be acquired from the usual papaya leaves. However, the bad news is that papain is somewhat unbalanced in the company of digestive juices and hence its effectiveness as a vermifuge to throw out intestinal worms or as a digestive aid is quite questionable. Thus, even after studying the proof substantiating the hypothetical efficiency of papaya, the German health authorities have come to the conclusion that the plant’s usefulness still remains unverified. As a consequence, the German health authorities have not approved or recommended the use of the plant or its fruit for remedial use. PARTS USED
Fruit, Iatex, leaves, flowers, seeds. USES
Papaya is basically an agent that helps in the digestive process. The leaves of the tree as well as the fruit, both ripe and raw, are used medicinally to aid digestion. It is interesting to note the unripe papaya fruit is medicinally more advantageous. The milky white sap produced by the trunk of the papaya tree is also a useful remedy and is applied externally to accelerate the curing of abrasions, ulcers, boils, warts andcancerous growth. The papaya seeds are also useful as when ingested they help in throwing out worms from the body. The latex or the white sap produced by the papaya tree trunk is also effectual in this manner, but comparatively more aggressive. On the other hand, an infusion prepared with the flowers of the plant may be used to stimulate menstruation. The decoction prepared by boiling the ripe fruit in water is useful for curing enduring diarrhea and dysentery among children. While the raw papaya contains a white milky substance called papain, the ripe fruit is moderately laxative and helps in the movement of bowels. The leaves of the papaya tree are useful too as they are often used for dressing wounds and injuries. HABITAT AND CULTIVATION
Papaya is native to the tropical regions of South America, but is now cultivated commercially in all tropical climes across the globe. CONSTITUENTS
Chemical analysis of the papaya has found that the fruit encloses proteolytic enzymes such as papain and chymopapain. In addition, the fruit also contains hints of an alkaloid called carpaine. Papain is a milky white sticky substance that flows from the raw fruit when it is cut. The substance is highly useful as a medication and is known to be an enzyme that dissolves protein. Regular ingestion of papain helps in the digestion process. PAPAYA SKIN TREATMENT
Papaya, a fruit that appears similar to a melon, contains an enzyme which assists in getting rid of dried out scaly skin. However, it is advisable that you should never allow the papaya to remain on your face for an extended period, as this fruit has a propensity to dehydrate the skin. Just a wedge of papaya is enough for this treatment. Slice out a wedge from a ripened papaya and keep the remaining fruit for consumption. Get rid of the seeds, dig out the pulp of the fruit and pound it. Apply the smooth pulp over your face evenly and after a few minutes, clean up your face using a washcloth. Subsequently, splash some cool water on your face for a refreshing experience.