Papaya (Carica papaya Linn) is a plant native to the West Indies, Central America and South America. Today, it is grown in tropical and subtropical regions of the world including India. The single-stemmed tree belongs to the family Caricaceae and grows between 16 and 33 feet tall. The leaves are large and the hollow stems are light green to tan in color. The delicious fruit — also called paw-paw or papita — is oval in shape and has many tiny black seeds in the center cavity. Papaya skin turns yellow when ripe and the flesh becomes red-orange, soft and mushy.
Papaya Leaf Health Benefits
Both unripe and ripened papayas are well-known and highly regarded in traditional medicine as well. Papaya is a rich source of iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B, and C. The leaves, seeds, latex, stem and root are used to treat many ailments.
The plant contains many chemical compounds that have medicinal value. The primary compounds are the enzymes chymopapain and papain, which help aid digestion. The amount of enzymes present varies among the papaya leaf, latex and root. Papain is used today in many medicines and supplements as a natural digestive aid. The extract of unripe papaya also contains things like terpenoids, flavonoids and alkaloids. These are natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chemicals that also help boost immunity.
The leaves, in particular, have been used in folk medicine systems for treating inflammation and for boosting immunity. Dengue, malaria, jaundice and sickle cell disease (SCD) are also treated with extracts of papaya leaf in Ayurveda. Modern clinical studies confirm that Papaya leaf health benefits as extract may be an effective treatment for dengue fever.
Another study showed that a crude extract of unripe papaya may be a potential alternative for SCD therapy. The plant's anti-sickling effects may help prevent the formation of sickled cells and "sticky" platelets that results in blood clots in sickle cell patients.
The same mechanisms that make papaya extract effective for dengue and SCD also make it useful for other conditions. Because of its ability to stimulate platelet and red blood cell production, papaya extract is a strong immune stimulator. Both types of cells are now known to be first-line defenders against viral and bacterial infection. Chemotherapy also reduces the body's ability to protect itself from pathogens. Papaya leaf has been shown to naturally and safely increase platelet count in chemotherapy patients.
Papaya Carica is a very versatile and valuable commercial plant. Not only is it a food and cash crop, it’s an important medicinal plant. Papaya leaf health benefits are well established in traditional medicinal systems such as Indian Ayurveda. The West is now beginning to discover the benefits of parts of the plant other than the fruit. Extracts of the leaf are exceptionally beneficial for immune support. To see our immune support supplement that contains high quality papaya leaf extract, click here.