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Carica papaya


Carica papaya


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Pawpaw, Gwandu, Okworo-beke, Etighi-mbakara, Papayu, Big melon


The Carica papaya plant is grows from 8 ft to 15 ft.  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 the C. papaya range in size depending upon region and growth conditions and weigh between one pound and eight pounds.  Both fruit and seeds are edible.

Origin / Habitat

C. papaya is native to the South American tropics including Puerto Rico and southern Mexico and to the areas of Africa south of the Sahara.  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 fats (including omega-3 fatty acids), potassium, choline, folate and vitamin E. Unripe, green C. papaya fruit seems to contain the most beneficial phytochemicals [2] [3] [4] [5].

Plant Part Used

Fruit, Leaf, Seed [1][6][8].

Traditional Use

Though C. papaya is an edible and flavorful fruit, it has been used throughout Africa for its medicinal benefits since it was introduced from the Americas.  C. papaya has been used as treatment for numerous maladies, ranging from gastrointestinal disorders to asthma and sexually transmitted diseases.  Perhaps the most common use of C. papaya is that of an antihelmintic.  Often, the plant is boiled along with herbal adjuvants in order to expel worms [6].  A decoction made from the seeds of C. papaya has been used to much the same effect [1].  The leaves have also been used in infusions to treat internal parasites [8].

Along with its use as an antihelmintic, C. papaya has been used to treat numerous gastrointestinal disorders.  The ingested fruit has been suggested to be carminative, stomachic, and diuretic [8].  The whole fruit of C. papaya has also been boiled and used as an infusion in order to treat stomach ulcers [7].  In Madagascar, a tea made of from C. papaya leaves has also been used in order to treat gastric ulcers as well as general gastric discomfort [9].  In the Congolese region of Africa, a decoction made of the ripe seeds is said to be a very effective treatment of dysentery [10]C. papaya is also thought to be effective in treatment of malaria.  Along with the leaves of Azadirachta indica, C. papaya has been used as a steam treatment for malaria [8].

The fruit of C. papaya has also been used as a popular hepatoprotective.  In cases of jaundice and hepatitis, immature fruit is either eaten or used in a decoction.  Often, the fruit is eaten in conjunction with the meat and head of a chicken [6].

C. papaya has also been used in cases of asthma and other respiratory disorders.  Often, the leaves are rolled into something resembling a cigar and smoked [6]. In other cases, the fruit is eaten in conjunction with Citrus aurantifolia [7].



In an in-vitro laboratory study, the fermented C. papaya preparation was found to have antioxidant 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 [11].

The orange-pink color of C. papaya is indicative of carotenoids, which are well known antioxidant and cancer-fighting constituents [12]. C. papaya contains not only the antioxidant beta carotene, but lycopene. Lycopene (also found in tomatoes) is an important antioxidant, and has been reported to protect the body against various cancers, improve prostate health and cholesterol imbalances [13].

C. papaya is well known traditionally to be effective as an antiparasitic food. An in vitro study found that a C. papaya 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 [14].

Papain as extracted from C. papaya 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. papaya accelerated wound healing and reduced the severity of local inflammation in rats with burn wounds [15].  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 antioxidant activity, which decreases the risk of oxidative damage to tissues.

A laboratory study found that C. papaya seed extracts had antibacterial activity that inhibits growth of gram-positive and gram-negative organisms [16].

C. papaya seed extract has been reported to have immunomodulatory properties in laboratory in vitro studies. A study found that: (1) the crude C. papaya Seed Extract significantly enhanced the phytohemagglutinin responsiveness of lymphocytes; (2) C. papaya seed extract was able to significantly inhibit the classical complement-mediated hemolytic pathway [17]. The authors concluded that their findings provide evidence for immunostimulatory and anti-inflammatory actions of C. papaya seed extract.

Traditional uses of C. papaya seed includes as a contraceptive. Laboratory studies since the 1970s have been studying C. papaya seed extract as a contraceptive agent [18].  When the crude extract of C. papaya seeds are fed to male rats, the quantity and quality of the sperm they produced deteriorated [18]. The mechanism of contraception was shown by reduction in nuclear and cytoplasmic volume, normal nuclear characteristics and vacuolisation in the cytoplasmic organelles of the Sertoli cells, as well as nuclear degeneration in spermatocytes and spermatids indicating disturbed spermatogenesis [19].

C. papaya contains antioxidant phytochemicals, such as vitamin C, vitamin A and lycopene [20] [21]. In a small double-blind, placebo controlled study, a fermented extract of C. papaya (9 g daily) was administered for 3 months to 54 elderly patients without major diseases. The fermented C. papaya preparation supplemented group showed a significant enhancement of the individual’s antioxidant defense system [22] [23].


C. papaya’s blood sugar regulatory properties are based, in part, on its antioxidant capacity. A fermented C. papaya preparation 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 the fermented product daily, during lunch, for two months. This fermented form of C. papaya 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 [24].

A clinical observation found that mashed C. papaya 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 [25].

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. papaya enzymes is not routinely used medically. A study found that proteolytic enzymes found in C. papaya, decreased pain (up to 85%) after injection into the lumbar intervertebral disc of 80 patients suffering from intractable root pain due to herniated discs [26].

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

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

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals with bleeding disorders or those taking blood-thinning medications such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin).

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

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

If you are male with prostate dysfunction, such as BPH or prostate cancer, do not use C. papaya as a medicinal agent due to an increase in iron absorption. Excess iron may increase oxidative stress, especially in the aging male. Iron overload may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer [28].


Do not use in pregnancy as C. papaya seed may have abortifacient effects [27].

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Read More

  1) Botanical Info

  2) Western Herb


  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. May2009;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. Neuwinger HD. African Traditional Medicine: A Dictionary of Plant Use and Applications. Stuttgart, Germany: Medpharm Gmbh Scientific Publishers; 2000.
  7. Baerts-Lehmann M, Lehmann J.  Prelude Medicinal Plants Database.  Catholic University of Louvain; 2007.  Available from:  [Accessed on 25 January 2009].
  8. Iwu, Maurice. Handbook of African Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1993.
  9. Novy JW. Medicinal plants of the eastern region of Madagascar. J Ethnopharmacol. Jan  1997;55(2):119-126.
  10. Tona L, Kambu K, Ngimbi N, Cimanga K, Vlietinck AJ. Antiamoebic and phytochemical screening of some Congolese medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol. May1998;61(1):57-65.
  11. 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.
  12. Toniolo P, Van Kappel AL, Akhmedkhanov A, et al. Serum carotenoids and breast cancer. Am J Epidemiol. Jun2001;153(12):1142-1147.
  13. Giovannucci E. Tomatoes, Tomato-based Products, Lycopene, and Cancer: Review of the Epidemiologic Literature. J Natl Cancer Inst. Feb1999;91(4):317-331.
  14. 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(2):203-211.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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. Sep2009;11(5):583-599.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. Osata JA, Santiago LA, Mori A, et al. Antioxidant defences of Immunge. Magn Reson Med.1995;6:306-308.
  24. 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-Jun.2006;157(3):195-198.
  25. Starley IF, Mohammed P, Schneider G, Bickler SW. The treatment of paediatric burns using topical papaya. Burns. Nov1999;25(7):636-639.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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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