Papaya

Carica papaya (Caricaceae)

Characteristics

Trees or shrubs 6-10 m tall. Stem (20 cm diameter) with leaf scars helically arranged, bark green to brown. Leaf blade 20-60 cm. Berries hanging from trunk near summit, green to orange. Edible.

Distribution

Papayas are grown throughout the tropics of the world, chiefly at low elevations, and tend to become escapes everywhere. Its natural origin is in the tropics of America, probably from southern Mexico

Natural Medical Properties

The skin of the unripe fruit, the leaves, sap and seeds of the papaya are all a source of the enzyme papain, a digestive stimulant that facilitates the digestion of protein.

The unripe fruit is an especially good source.

Papain can be used internally, especially in the form of the extracted enzyme, to treat digestive disorders.

It is also applied externally to aid the healing of deep or slow-healing wounds.

An infusion of the young, latex-filled, green fruit is used as a children’s vermifuge.

The juice of the fruit is used to treat diabetes and hypertension.

The immature fruit, sometimes combined with aspirin, is used as an abortifacient.

The fruit pulp is mixed with fat in a pomade to remedy abscesses.

The juice of the fruit is used to dissolve warts.

The leaves and the fruit, especially the unripe fruit, are taken internally in the treatment of a range of digestive disorders, diarrhoea, high blood pressure and painful womb.

The green leaves are cooked as a treatment for Dengue fever, tertiary malaria and for irregular bowel movement in children.

Externally, the leaves are applied to wounds as a dressing that helps to speed the healing process.
The leaves and seeds are used locally to rid the body of threadworms and roundworms.

The seeds are used as a gentle purgative to rid the body of worms.

Immature seeds are swallowed to treat diarrhoea.
The seed is eaten as a children’s vermifuge, and also to increase visual acuity.
The latex from the trunk of the tree has a strong purgative action when taken internally and is sometimes used to rid the body of worms.

The latex is applied externally to wounds, boils, ulcers, warts and cancerous tumours in order to speed their healing.

It is also applied to the gums to treat toothache.
The ripe fruit is a mild laxative.

A decoction of the ripe fruit is used to treat persistent diarrhoea and dysentery in children.

An infusion of the flowers is drunk in order to induce menstruation, and also to treat laryngitis, bronchitis and venereal diseases.

The flowers are used in combination with milk and butter as an appetite stimulant.
The bark is used to treat diarrhoea.

The inner bark is used to treat toothache.
The root is aphrodisiac, astringent and vermifuge.

The macerated root is used in the treatment of gonorrhoea.

An infusion of the root in alcohol is used to treat bladder and kidney problems.

A decoction is drunk to treat abdominal stricture, diarrhoea, malaria and intestinal worms.

Applied externally, an infusion of the root in alcohol is rubbed on the limbs to treat rickets.

A decoction of the root is used externally to treat abdominal stricture.

The latex contains the protein-degrading (proteolytic) and mucolytic enzymes papain and chymopapain.

The plant contains hydrocyanic acid, carpaine, terpene hydrocarbons, terpene alcohols, cyanogenic glycosides.

Did you know?

Papaya plants grow in three sexes: male, female and hermaphrodite. The male produces only pollen, never fruit. The female produces small, inedible fruits unless pollinated. The hermaphrodite can self-pollinate since its flowets contain both male stamens and female ovaries. Almost all commercial papaya orchards contain only hermaphrodites.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species