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.