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Carica lechosa

Carica lechosa


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Big Melon, Pawpaw, Lechosa, Papaya


Carica lechosa plant is grows from measures  8 ft in Hawaii, to 15 ft in South America. The plant develops branches only in response to an injury.  The leaves grow from the upper part of the large stem in a circular or spiral pattern.  The leaves last for a few months and leave scarring on the trunk when they drop.  The plant produces five-petalled flowers that may be either male or female depending upon climate and response to climate changes with an unclear method of pollination.  The fruits of  C. lechosa range in size depending upon region and growth conditions and weigh between one and eight pounds.  Both fruit and seeds are edible.

Origin / Habitat

C. lechosa is native to the South American tropics including Puerto Rico and southern Mexico.  Presently it is cultivated in all global regions that have a tropical climate that matches the needs of the plant.  The plant cannot survive even the lightest frost and must have the heat of direct sunlight as well as reflected sunlight.  The habitat requirements limit the native growth to those areas mentioned, though greenhouse cultivation where soil temperature and moisture are controlled makes it suitable for growing indoors.  The plant is short-lived and fast growing [1].

Chemical Constituents

Proteolytic enzymes, including papain, chymopapain, glycyl endopeptidase and carpaine; Vitamin C and beta-carotene; Lycopene.The fruit also contains fat (including omega-3 fatty acids), potassium, choline, folate and vitamin E. Unripe, green C. lechosa fruit seems to contain the most beneficial phytochemicals [2] [3] [4] [5].

Plant Part Used

Fruit, seed [1] [6].

Traditional Use

C. lechosa fruit is used for many purposes as a food and in traditional medicine.  It is used ripened, green and fermented.  Some of the many traditional uses of C. lechosa fruit as taken internally include treating hypertension, digestive disorders, intestinal parasites, upper respiratory infections.  External applications are made using the latex and include wound care, psoriasis, warts, corns and sclerosis.   Mashed pulp of the fruit is applied to burns and skin inflammation.  In each region and for each application, the plant is prepared differently [6].



In an in-vitro laboratory study, the fermented C. lechosa preparation (FPP) was found to have anti-oxidant activity that increased cell viability and decreased the intracellular, reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation such as hydroxyl free radical and superoxide anion and nitric oxide (NO) accumulation in brain cells. The results also reported that FPP prevented brain cell apoptosis through bax/bcl-2 sensitive pathway [7].

The orange-pink color of C. lechosa is indicative of carotenoids, which are well known anti-oxidant and cancer-fighting constituents [8]. C. lechosa contains not only the anti-oxidant beta carotene, but lycopene. Lycopene (also found in tomatoes) is an important anti-oxidant, and has been reported to protect the body against various cancers, improve prostate health and cholesterol imbalances [9].

C. lechosa is well known traditionally to be effective as an antiparasitic food. An in vitro study found that a C. lechosa extract caused marked damage to the cuticle of H. polygyrus adult male and female worms, reflected in the loss of surface cuticular layers. Efficacy was comparable for both sexes of worms, was dependent on the presence of cysteine and was completely inhibited by the cysteine proteinase inhibitor, E-64 [10].

Papain is available in topical preparations as an enzymatic debridement for necrotic tissue in burns, ulcers, and other wounds. Animal studies have found that treatment with a preparation of C. lechosa accelerated wound healing and reduced the severity of local inflammation in rats with burn wounds [11].This effect is believe to be related to an increase in the effectiveness of intracellular bacterial killing by tissue phagocytes due to the inhibition of bacterial catalase, and anti-oxidant activity, which decreases the risk of oxidative damage to tissues.

A laboratory study found that C. lechosa seed extracts had antibacterial activity that inhibits growth of gram-positive and gram-negative organisms [12].

C. lechosa seed extract has been reported to have immunomodulatory properties in laboratory in vitro studies. A study found that: (1) the crude C. lechosa seed extract significantly enhanced the phytohemagglutinin responsiveness of lymphocytes; (2)  C. lechosaseed extract was able to significantly inhibit the classical complement-mediated hemolytic pathway [13]. The authors concluded that their findings provide evidence for immunostimulatory and anti-inflammatory actions of C. lechosa seed extract.

Traditional uses of C. lechosa seed includes as a contraceptive. Laboratory studies since the 1970s have been studying C. lechosaseed extract as a contraceptive agent [14]. When the crude extract of C. lechosa seeds are fed to male rats, the quantity and quality of the sperm they produced deteriorated [15].The mechanism of contraception was shown by reduction in nuclear and cytoplasmic volume, normal nuclear characteristics and vacuolization in the cytoplasmic organelles of the Sertoli cells, as well as nuclear degeneration in spermatocytes and spermatids indicating disturbed spermatogenesis [16].


C. lechosa contains antioxidant phytochemicals, such as vitamin C, vitamin A and lycopene [17] [18].In a small double-blind, placebo controlled study, a fermented extract of C. lechosa (9 grams daily) was administered for 3 months to 54 elderly patients without major diseases. The fermented C. lechosa preparation (FPP) supplemented group showed a significant enhancement of the individual’s anti-oxidant defense system [19] [20].

Lechosa’s blood sugar regulatory properties are based, in part, on its antioxidant capacity. A fermented C. lechosa preparation (FPP) was administered to 50 individuals, 25 healthy and 25 with type-2 diabetes mellitus under treatment with oral hypoglycemics. All subjects were given 3 g of FPP daily, during lunch, for two months. FPP induced a significant decrease in plasma sugar levels in both healthy subjects and type 2 diabetic patients. Patients were able to reduce the dosage of their antidiabetic oral therapy [21].

A clinical observation found that mashed C. lechosa pulp applied daily to full thickness and infected burns appears to be effective in desloughing necrotic tissue, preventing burn wound infection, and providing a granulating wound suitable for the application of a split thickness skin graft. Possible mechanisms of action include the activity of proteolytic enzymes chymopapain and papain, as well as an antimicrobial activity, although further studies are required [22].

A specific purified fraction, chymopapain, is approved for chemonucleosis (the treatment of herniated intervertebral discs by injection). However, due to allergic and other adverse reactions, this extract of C. lechosa enzymes is not routinely used medically. A study found that proteolytic enzymes found in Lechosa, decreased pain (up to 85%) after injection into the lumbar intervertebral disc of 80 patients suffering from intractable root pain due to herniated discs [23].

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

C. lechosa and the enzyme papain have been reported safe in recommended doses.

Papain should be used with caution in those taking blood-thinning medications such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin).

Discontinue if allergy occurs.

If you are male with prostate dysfunction, such as BPH or prostate cancer, do not use C. lechosa as a medicinal agent due to an increase in iron absorption.

C. lechosa may increase the absorption of iron. Excess iron may increase oxidative stress, especially in the aging male. Iron overload may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer [25].


If trying to get pregnant, do not take C. lechosa supplements. Do not uses in pregnancy as C. lechosa seed may have abortifacient effect [24].

Age limitation

No documentation..

Adverse reaction

No documentation.


  1. California Rare Fruit Growers Association Website. Available from: . [Accessed on 24 September 2009].
  2. Looze Y, Boussard P, Huet J, Vandenbussche G, Raussens V, Wintjens R. Purification and characterization of a wound-inducible thaumatin-like protein from the latex of Carica papaya. Phytochemistry. May 2009;70(8):970-978.
  3. Azarkan M, Wintjens R, Looze Y, et al. Detection of three wound-induced proteins in papaya latex. Phytochemistry. Mar2004;65(5):525-534.
  4. Gouado I, Schweigert FJ, Ejoh RA, Tchouanguep MF, Camp JV. Systemic levels of carotenoids from mangoes and papaya consumed in three forms (juice, fresh and dry slice). Eur J Clin Nutr. Oct2007;61(10):1180-1188.
  5. Anuar NS, Zahari SS, Taib IA, Rahman MT. Effect of green and ripe Carica papaya epicarp extracts on wound healing and during pregnancy. Food Chem Toxicol. Jul2008;46(7):2384-2389.
  6. Duke JA. Medicinal Plants of Latin America. New York:Taylor and Francis;2009.212.
  7. Zhang J, Mori A, Chen Q, Zhao B. Fermented papaya preparation attenuates beta-amyloid precursor protein: beta-amyloid-mediated copper neurotoxicity in beta-amyloid precursor protein and beta-amyloid precursor protein Swedish mutation overexpressing SH-SY5Y cells. Neuroscience. 17Nov2006;143(1):63-72.
  8. Toniolo P, Van Kappel AL, Akhmedkhanov A, et al. Serum carotenoids and breast cancer. Am J Epidemiol. Jun2001;153(12):1142-1147.
  9. Giovannucci E. Tomatoes, Tomato-based Products, Lycopene, and Cancer: Review of the Epidemiologic Literature. J Natl Cancer Inst. Feb1999;91(4):317-331.
  10. Stepek G, Buttle DJ, Duce IR, Lowe A, Behnke JM. Assessment of the anthelmintic effect of natural plant cysteine proteinases against the gastrointestinal nematode, Heligmosomoides polygyrus, in vitro. Parasitology. Feb2005;130(Pt 2):203-211.
  11. Mikhal'chik EV, Ivanova AV, Anurov MV, et al. Wound-healing effect of papaya-based preparation in experimental thermal trauma. Bull Exp Biol Med. Jun2004;137(6):560-562.
  12. Dawkins G, Hewitt H, Wint Y, Obiefuna PC, Wint B. Antibacterial effects of Carica papaya fruit on common wound organisms. West Indian Med J. Dec2003;52(4):290-292.
  13. Mojica-Henshaw MP, Francisco AD, De Guzman F, Tigno XT. Possible immunomodulatory actions of Carica papaya seed extract. Clin Hemorheol Microcirc. 2003;29(3-4):219-229.
  14. Lohiya NK, Mishra PK, Pathak N, et al. Efficacy trial on the purified compounds of the seeds of Carica papaya for male contraception in albino rat. Reproductive Toxicology. 2005;20(1): 135-148.
  15. Lohiya NK, Kothari LK, Manivannan B, Mishra PK, Pathak N. Human sperm immobilization effect of Carica papaya seed extracts: an in vitro study. Asian J Androl. Jun2000;2(2):103-109.
  16. Manivannan B, Mittal R, Goyal S, Ansari AS, Lohiya NK. Sperm characteristics and ultrastructure of testes of rats after long-term treatment with the methanol subfraction of Carica papaya seeds.Asian J Androl. Sep 2009;11(5):583-599.
  17. Aruoma OI, Colognato R, Fontana I, et al. Molecular effects of fermented papaya preparation on oxidative damage, MAP Kinase activation and modulation of the benzo[a]pyrene mediated genotoxicity. Biofactors. 2006;26(2):147-159.
  18. Amer J, Goldfarb A, Rachmilewitz EA, Fibach E. Fermented papaya preparation as redox regulator in blood cells of beta-thalassemic mice and patients. Phytother Res. Jun2008;22(6):820-828.
  19. Marotta F, Weksler M, Naito Y, Yoshida C, Yoshioka M, Marandola P. Nutraceutical supplementation: effect of a fermented papaya preparation on redox status and DNA damage in healthy elderly individuals and relationship with GSTM1 genotype: a randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. Ann N Y Acad Sci. May2006;1067:400-407.
  20. Osata JA, Santiago LA, Mori A, et al. Antioxidant defences of Immunge. Malden Mass: Magn Reson Med; 1995;6:306-308.
  21. Danese C, Esposito D, D'Alfonso V, Cirene M, Ambrosino M, Colotto M. Plasma glucose level decreases as collateral effect of fermented papaya preparation use. Clin Ter. May-Jun2006;157(3):195-198.
  22. Starley IF, Mohammed P, Schneider G, Bickler SW. The treatment of paediatric burns using topical papaya. Burns. Nov1999;25(7):636-639.
  23. Troisier O, Gozlan E, Durey A, Rodineau J, Gounot-Halbout MC, Pelleray B. [The treatment of lumbosciatica by intra-discal injection of proteolytic enzymes (nucleolysis). 80 cases (author's transl)] Nouv Presse Med. 19Jan1980;9(4):227-230.
  24. Oderinde O, Noronha C, Oremosu A, Kusemiju T, Okanlawon OA. Abortifacient properties of aqueous extract of Carica papaya (Linn) seeds on female Sprague-Dawley rats. Niger Postgrad Med J. Jun2002;9(2):95-98.
  25. Choi Ji-Y,  Choi, Neuhouser ML, Barnett MJ, et al. Iron intake, oxidative stress-related genes (MnSOD and MPO) and prostate cancer risk in CARET cohort. Carcinogenesis. 2008;29(5):964-970.

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