An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.

 

Papaya - Carica papaya (Papaya vulgaris) (Papaya carica) - family: Cariaceae (Pawpaw Family).

This evergreen tropical herb (not a true "tree") may grow to about thirty feet high. It has large deeply lobed and cut dark green leaves. It has yellowish flowers which grow right off of the main stem of the plant. The flowers are followed by large edible oval-to-football-shaped fruits, which are yellow to red-orange on the inside. The fruits contain numerous small round black seeds. Papaya fruits are used as a food in tropical countries and are exported to countries in the temperate zones. The fresh or dried seeds are used as a spice and a flavoring in tropical countries. An enzyme called papain is found in the latex that runs from cuts in unripe fruit. Papain is used as a digestive aid to help dissolve proteins and is used as the base for commercially prepared meat tenderizers. Traditional Native Central American folk use of juice and flesh as a remedy for constipation, heartburn and indigestion. Traditional Native Central American folk use of latex as a remedy for warts and in a poultice for wounds. Traditional Native Central American folk use of latex and seeds to expel intestinal parasites. Modern American folk use as a remedy for inflammatory conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injury (RSI) and tennis elbow. Listed in the United States Pharmacopoeias in 1990. Native to tropical America. Cultivated as an ornamental in nearly frost-free parts of North America, such as coastal Southern California and Southern Florida. Cultivated for fruit in Hawai'i and Puerto Rico. Many cultivars exist.

 

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Web page last updated on 22 May 2003.