Papaya (Carica papaya) is a fruit-bearing tree grown in tropical regions around the world. Commonly eaten parts of the plant include the fruit and leaves. Traditionally, juice from the papaya fruit and root has been used to treat boils, burns, and warts. The leaves have been used to treat ulcers and, together with papaya seeds, intestinal parasites. Unripened papaya fruit also has been used for wound healing, colds, and indigestion; the roots and seeds have been used for hemorrhoids and to induce abortion. Papaya also has been used as a folk remedy for birth control and as a digestive aid.
The fruit and leaves contain the protein-digesting enzymes papain and chymopapain, which have been isolated and studied for their effects on injured skin tissue. Results of research suggest that the papaya fruit, enzymes, and seed extracts may have other therapeutic properties such as anticancer, antifungal, antiparasitic, blood lipid-lowering, blood sugar-lowering, birth control, and immune system effects. Despite a wealth of positive early research, high quality human trials supporting the use of papaya for any human condition remain lacking.
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Combination product examples: Immun'Age® (fermented papaya, yeast, and dextrose), Bionormalizer® (biofermentation products of Carica papaya, Pennisetum purpureum, and Sechium edule), Wobenzym® (ingredients: pancreatin, bromelain, papain, lipase, amylase, trypsin, alpha chymotrypsin, and rutin).
Note: This monograph is primarily concerned with the leaves, seeds, and fruit of the papaya tree. Papain, an enzyme contained in papaya, is also discussed briefly when relevant; however, for a more in-depth review of papain, a separate monograph is available in the Natural Standard Herb & Supplements database.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Papaya has been shown to have potent antioxidant properties. Although early research results are encouraging, further studies are required before any conclusion can be made.
Papaya applied directly on a wound appears effective in removing damaged tissue from wounds and in limiting burn wound infection. While preliminary and traditional evidence is promising, further clinical research is required before a conclusion can be made.
Papaya extract and papaya products have been shown to have potential anticancer properties. Additional research is required before a firm conclusion can be made.
Preliminary study revealed that consumption of papaya at least once weekly was associated with a decreased risk of persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Human clinical trials are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
Early study showed that a fermented papaya preparation effectively lowered blood sugar levels in healthy and type 2 diabetic subjects. Although these findings are encouraging, additional research is needed.
Papaya has been used as a folk remedy for wound management in several regions of the world. Preliminary human study indicates that papaya may aid skin ulcer healing. Further study is needed.
Vitamin A deficiency
Preliminary study showed that papaya, which is rich in carotenes (provitamin A), may improve vitamin A status in breastfeeding women. Evidence regarding papaya's ability to treat vitamin A deficiency remains limited. Additional research is required before any conclusion can be made.