Botanical name: Carica papaya
Other names: banane de prairie, Caricae papayae folium, Carica papaya, Carica peltata, Carica posoposa, chirbhita, erandachirbhita, erand karkati, green papaya, mamaerie, Melonenbaumblaetter, melon tree, papaya, yellow papaw, red papaya, papaye, papaye verte, papayer, papita
Uses: Antibacterial, analgesic, anti-cancer, vermifuge, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, digestive aid, antioxidant
Traditionally, paw paw leaves have been used as a heart tonic and to reduce inflammation and pain. Research has also found paw paw leaf beneficial in treating patients with dengue fever. Today paw paw leaf tea is most widely used as a digestive aid, as it contains an enzyme known as papain. This enzyme catalyzes the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats (which also explains its effectiveness as a meat tenderizer). However, the structure of papain itself is altered by digestive juices, so its advisability as an oral remedy is questionable.
The enzyme papain helps to break down protein molecules into their constituent amino acids. Paw paw leaf is used to detoxify the intestines and expel parasites, the tannins in the leaf helping to protect the intestine from re-infestation. Hence it is taken for elephantiasis, or elephantoid growths—large, swollen areas of the body that are symptoms of a rare lymphatic disorder caused by parasitic worms. Papaya also contains a chemical called carpain, which apparently is able to kill certain parasites.
Other uses for papaya (paw paw) include: cancer (studies suggest that consuming papaya is linked to a reduced risk of developing cancer of the gall bladder and colon); diabetes (early research indicates daily intake of fermented papaya for two months can reduce hyperglycemia in diabetics); human papillomavirus (HPV) infection; and gastrointestinal (GI) problems. Evidence for the effectiveness of papaya in these conditions is currently insufficient.
Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take medicinal doses of paw paw by mouth. There is evidence that unprocessed papain may cause birth defects or poison the fetus: and there is insufficient data about the safety of papaya during breast-feeding. It is best to avoid taking it in amounts higher than normal food amounts.
People with latex allergy should avoid consuming paw paw (papaya) due to the possibility of an allergic response.