Papaya Leaves Their Role as a Drug

The Proteolytic enzyme, papain, is chemically similar to pepsin, can be taken instead of anti-acid digestive tablets, and seems to reduce stomach acid secretions. Papain retains its proteolytic activity over a wide pH range, unlike other proteases, and is used during surgical procedures to dissolve ruptured spinal discs; it is called `natures scalpel because it preferentially degrades dead tissue. The inner bark has been used to relieve toothache. The latex and seeds are used in Central America to kill Entamoeba histolytica, which causes dysentery and liver abscesses. It is also used to treat ulcers, swelling, fever and to expel wind. Fresh latex can be smeared on boils, warts or freckles to remove them. Research has shown that extracts of ripe and unripe papaya fruits and seeds have an active ingredient against Gram-+ bacteria, and are also probably fungicidal. The bruised leaves, as a poultice, can be applied to rheumatic areas.

Warning: The milky latex from the stems and unripe fruit may cause dermatitis. The unripe fruit may induce abortion. Some individuals are allergic to papain. Young leaves can be eaten like spinach, but they must be cooked to destroy the alkaloids (carpaine and pseudocarpaine) which, otherwise, act on the heart and respiration like digitalis. The seeds have been shown to affect sperm fertility in rats.

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