PAPAYA: Uses & Effectiveness

Papaya is a plant. The leaves and fruit are used to make medicine.

Papaya is taken by mouth to prevent cancer, treat diabetes, and prevent recurrence of a viral infection called human papilloma virus (HPV). But there is little scientific evidence to support these uses.

Papaya contains a chemical called papain, which is commonly used as a meat tenderizer.

How does it work?

Papaya contains a chemical called papain. Papain breaks down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. That's why it works as a meat tenderizer. However, papain is changed by digestive juices, so there is some question about whether it could be effective as a medicine when taken by mouth.

Papaya also contains a chemical called carpain. Carpain seems to be able to kill certain parasites, and it might affect the central nervous system.

Papaya also seems to have antibacterial, antifungal, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-stimulating effects.

Uses & Effectiveness

  • Cancer. Population research has found that eating papaya might prevent gallbladder and colorectal cancers in some people.
  • Diabetes. Early research suggests that consuming fermented papaya fruit can reduce blood sugar levels before and after meals in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • A mild form of gum disease (gingivitis). Early research shows that brushing the teeth twice daily with a toothpaste containing papaya leaf extract, with or without the use of a mouthwash containing papaya leaf extract, seems to improve bleeding of the gums.
  • A sexually transmitted infection that can lead to genital warts or cancer (human papillomavirus or HPV). Population research has found that eating papaya fruit at least once per week might reduce the chance of getting a persistent HPV infection compared to never eating papaya fruit.
  • A serious gum infection (periodontitis). Early research shows that applying a gel containing fermented papaya into spaces around teeth called periodontal pockets can reduce gum bleeding, plaque, and gum inflammation in people with serious gum infections.
  • Wound healing. Early research shows that applying a dressing containing papaya fruit to the edges of a reopened surgical wound reduces healing time and length of hospitalization compared to treating the reopened wound with a hydrogen peroxide dressing.
  • Aging skin.
  • Dengue fever.
  • Infection of the intestines by parasites.
  • Stomach and intestine problems.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of papaya for these uses.

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Papaya is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken in amounts commonly found in foods. Papaya is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken as medicine. The latex of papaya is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken in large amounts. Papaya latex contains papain. Taking large amounts of papain by mouth may damage the esophagus.

When applied to the skin: Papaya latex is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Applying papaya latex to the skin can cause severe irritation and allergic reactions in some people.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Papaya is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. Do not take papaya by mouth in medicinal amounts if you are pregnant. There is some evidence that unprocessed papain, one of the chemicals found in papaya, might poison the fetus or cause birth defects. There isn't enough reliable information to know if papaya is safe to use when breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid amounts greater than those normally found in food.

Diabetes: Papaya that has been fermented can lower blood sugar. People with diabetes who are taking medications to lower their blood sugar should pay close attention to their blood sugar as adjustments to medications might be needed.

Low blood sugar: Papaya that has been fermented can lower blood sugar. Taking this form of papaya might make blood sugar too low in people who already have low blood sugar.

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism): There is concern that eating large amounts of papaya might make this condition worse.

Latex allergy: If you are allergic to latex, there is a good chance you are also be allergic to papaya. If you have a latex allergy, avoid eating papaya or taking products that contain papaya.

Papain allergy: Papaya contains papain. If you are allergic to papain, avoid eating papaya or taking products that contain papaya.

Surgery: Papaya that has been fermented can lower blood sugar. In theory, this form of papaya might affect blood sugary during and after surgery. If you are taking papaya, you should stop 2 weeks before surgery.

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