What is it?
Papaya is taken by mouth for cancer, diabetes, a viral infection called human papilloma virus (HPV), dengue fever, and other conditions. But there is little scientific evidence to support its use.
Papaya contains a chemical called papain, which is commonly used as a meat tenderizer.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for PAPAYA are as follows:
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Cancer. Population research has found that eating papaya might prevent gallbladder and colorectal cancers in some people.
- A painful disease transmitted by mosquitos (dengue fever). Early research shows that taking papaya leaf extract might help people with dengue fever leave the hospital faster. It also seems to help platelet levels return to normal faster. But it's not clear if papaya leaf helps with other symptoms of dengue fever.
- 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.
How does it work?
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.
Are there safety concerns?
The unripe fruit is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. Unripe papaya fruit contains papaya latex, which contains an enzyme called papain. Taking large amounts of papain by mouth may damage the esophagus.
When applied to the skin: Papaya latex is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin or gums for up to 10 days. Applying unripe papaya fruit to the skin is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Unripe papaya fruit contains papaya latex. This can cause severe irritation and allergic reactions in some people.
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy: Ripe papaya fruit is LIKELY SAFE when eaten in normal food amounts. Unripe papaya fruit is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. There is some evidence that unprocessed papain, one of the chemicals found in unripe papaya fruit, might poison the fetus or cause birth defects.
Breast-feeding: Ripe papaya fruit is LIKELY SAFE when eaten in normal food amounts. There isn't enough reliable information to know if papaya is safe to use as medicine 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.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Amiodarone (Cordarone)
- Taking multiple doses of papaya extract by mouth along with amiodarone (Cordarone, Nexterone, Pacerone) might increase the amount of amiodarone to which the body is exposed. This might increase the effects and adverse effects of amiodarone. However, taking a single dose of papaya extract along with amiodarone does not seem to have an effect.
- Levothyroxine (Synthroid, others)
- Levothyroxine is used for low thyroid function. Eating large amounts of papaya seems to decrease the thyroid. Excessive use of papaya along with levothyroxine might decrease the effects of levothyroxine.
Some brands that contain levothyroxine include Armour Thyroid, Eltroxin, Estre, Euthyrox, Levo-T, Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid, Unithroid, and others.
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
- Papaya that has been fermented might decrease blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking fermented papaya along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
- Warfarin (Coumadin)
- Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. Papaya might increase the effects of warfarin (Coumadin) and increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
- Papaya that has been fermented might lower blood sugar. Using fermented papaya along with other herbs and supplements that have the same effect might cause blood sugar to drop too low in some people. Some of these products include devil's claw, fenugreek, guar gum, Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, and others.
- Papaya contains papain. Using papain (in meat tenderizer, for example) along with papaya might increase your chance of experiencing unwanted side effects of papain.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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